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A student walks above the McComb’s School of Business atrium Tuesday afternoon. The school will host the 2012 Global Venture Labs Investment Competition next May and will receive a $125,000 Wells Fargo grant to support a green category in this startup competition.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

As part of a national effort to support green technology, Wells Fargo has announced that it will grant $125,000 to UT’s Venture Labs to support a green category in a business startup competition to be held on campus
next May.

In the 2012 Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, graduate students and their teams from around the world will present original business plans to panels of investors and judges who select the best new-venture opportunity. The competition is hosted by Venture Labs, a part of the McCombs School of Business that brings together graduate students from different UT schools to take part in startup and entrepreneurial programs.

Ten thousand dollars of the grant will go to the team that wins the clean energy competition, and the rest will be divided between funding for Venture Labs, the competition and the Energy Management and Innovation Center, said Venture Labs post-graduate manager Aaron Lyons.

“Because of Wells Fargo, we can award additional money that hasn’t been there in the past,” Lyons said. “It brings more exposure and credibility to the competition, which is already one of the largest of its kind in the world.”

The competition also benefits Wells Fargo, which invests heavily in clean energy research, Lyons said.

“It a reciprocal relationship,” Lyons said. “Many of the judges in the competition are from Wells Fargo, and the competition helps them network with students and business ventures interested in working in green ways. This grant couldn’t have happened at a better time for clean energy, especially here at the University of Texas where going green has become so important.”

Wells Fargo selected the competition for its grant because its purpose aligns with the company’s core values, said Michael Klein, regional executive of Wells Fargo’s commercial banking office in Austin.

“We have a clean tech practice at Wells Fargo and an investment in the green industry,” Klein said. “Green and clean tech is imbedded in what we do as a firm and we also have it as a focus in terms of our business practices. UT has been a leader in what they do and [the competition] reflects our interest in clean technology.”

The grant reflects well on the McCombs School of Business and the leadership of Dean Gilligan, said managementprofessor John Butler.

“What makes programs great at McCombs are its endowments and grants,” Butler said. “Venture Labs has been a fabulous idea, and it’s the best way to take students in the sciences and technology and introduce them to the real world and network them with professionals. It shows off our creativity and how we make research happen and also manage to bring it to the real world.”

The regional Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition will take place in February, when UT students can compete to qualify to take part in the global competition in May.

Dave Cortez holds a modified American flag in front of the Texas capitol on Saturday afternoon. Cortez was part of the “December

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Occupy Austin protesters marched from the Capitol to the corner of 24th Street and Guadalupe Street on Saturday to express their opposition of banks that received bailout funds and to celebrate the restrictions lifted from protesters on Capitol grounds.

The group of about 75 people, escorted by police, protested in the “December 3rd: Be Heard” march in front of the Chase and Wells Fargo banks on Guadalupe Street and gave their support for the University Federal Credit Union on the wet Saturday afternoon.

Protester Dave Cortez said two people closed their bank accounts on Saturday and approximately $500,200 has been withdrawn from major banks in Austin since the movement began their bank action efforts.

Protester Ihor Gowda said the group was happy to march regardless of the rain because of the new state policy that allows protesters to have 24-hour access to the Capitol grounds.

“We don’t know what made them change their policy,” Gowada said. “It’s kind of mysterious, but I think they are trying to avoid the legal implications of a lawsuit challenging their old three hour policy.”

English graduate student and protester Trevor Hoag said Saturday’s march adjacent to the University increases the visibility of the movement, but he is disappointed with UT’s overall response to the Occupy Austin protests.

“It’s frustrating for me to see thousands of students at other schools protesting with Occupy but not at UT,” Hoag said.

Hoag said Occupy UT will attract more participants when students learn more about the group after they host more events in the future.

“If students know more about what they can do, then they will get more involved,” Hoag said. “It’s not about anyone’s particular ideology, and we invite everyone to participate because these issues affect us all.”

Protester Jamie Tilley said the public reaction to the march was extremely supportive.

“People gave us a lot of peace signs and horn honks,” Tilley said. “In the past we’ve had some negative reactions, but today there was pure support.”

Bryan Gellerup, a protester who closed his Chase bank account during the march, said the clerks were friendly until he told them why he wanted to close his account.

“I said they were an evil corporation,” Gellerup said. “I told them I disagreed with their banking practices, and that’s when they kind of got short with me.”

Gellerup said he was happy to participate in a march so close to the University because it offers increased exposure for Occupy Austin.

“More people will hear about it and see what is happening even if it is raining,” Gellerup said. “We are gaining a lot of attention, which is increasing public support for our issues.”

Economics graduate student Benny Sperisen said he isn’t certain what the movement’s goals are and thinks the march is just a way for people to vent their anger.

“I don’t know if they have produced a set of demands for politicians,” Sperisen said. “I just think this march is an expression of anger about how things are going right now in the country.”

Printed on Monday, December 5th, 2011 as: Occupy Austin marches in opposition to big banks

Holding the American flag, Robert Stephenson takes part in Occupy Austin’s third “March Against Banks” on National Bank Transfer Day Saturday afternoon. Nearly 100 demonstrators marched from City Hall to Wells Fargo at Congress Avenue and East Riverside Drive to protest commercial banks and to support those who closed their bank accounts.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

[Updated at 10:06 p.m., caption edits]

Approximately 100 Occupy Austin protesters gathered at City Hall on Saturday morning and marched to the Wells Fargo branch at Congress Avenue and East Riverside Drive to participate in National Bank Transfer Day.

Dave Cortez, the head of the Occupy Austin bank action committee, said Saturday’s protests resulted in 11 customers closing their accounts and approximately $15,000 withdrawn from the international bank.

As the protesters marched to the Wells Fargo branch across the Congress Avenue Bridge, many chose to walk in the street without an official permit to do so. Cortez said the police told him this was an illegal action and then screened him for outstanding arrest warrants. For the march back to City Hall, police agreed to escort protesters across the bridge in one lane.

Despite the disobedience by some protesters on the bridge, Sgt. Lee Syga of the Austin Police Department said Saturday’s march occurred without any incident.

“It went great,” Syga said. “It was peaceful, and there was nothing really going on.”

The staff of the Wells Fargo branch was unable to comment on the protests.

Former Wells Fargo customer Cameron Field said the process of closing his account went smoothly, and he is now going to open an account with a credit union.

“[Wells Fargo] was very polite, and they knew why we were out there,” Field said. “Now, it feels good to not have my money tied to a bank that made risky investments and got bailed out.”

In an interview with the Daily Texan last week, senior finance lecturer Regina Hughes said the primary difference between credit unions and commercial banks is the ownership.

Hughes said commercial banks, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are for-profit entities owned by shareholders. Credit unions are controlled by their members, who directly make policies for other members and are not necessarily looking to make huge profits. They also do not provide the same variety of services, such as types of investments, offered by major commercial banks. Commercial banks, she said, are corporations that invite people to become customers, but their goals can be different and separate from those customers.

Cortez said he is involved with Occupy Austin’s committee to provide informational tool kits for people who are interested in closing their bank accounts and switching to a local credit union.

“In Austin, we have coordinated the withdrawal of over $430,000 from the major banks,” Cortez said. “It shows that people have some power against the big banks and is a tangible morale booster for the [Occupy movement].”

Current Wells Fargo customer Andrea Street said she is seriously considering closing her account because of the way the major banks treat their customers.

“Wells Fargo is making their customers pay extra fees to cover for the fines the federal government is making them pay for their violations,” Street said. “We are out here to hit them in the pocket where it counts.”

Protester Leslie Perry said she closed her Wells Fargo account in 1994 to join a credit union and is excited to see more people doing so now.

“I am very anxious yet optimistic to see what’s going to come out of all this,” Perry said. “People are finally realizing our whole monetary system is set up to serve the rich.”