|BROWNSVILLE, September 23 - Neighboring communities to the planned SpaceX commercial spacecraft launch facility at Boca Chica hope to benefit just as much as Brownsville and are offering their full support for the project.
SpaceX expects to launch about 12 commercial spacecraft a year from Boca Chica. The spaceport is expected to generate 300 jobs and a roughly $100 million capital investment in the lower Rio Grande Valley region.
“Space X’s decision to locate a launch facility in Cameron County is a great addition to our community,” said Raudel Garza, executive director of Harlingen Economic Development Corporation. Garza said Harlingen has pledged its support for Space X and the aerospace industry in general and cited its decision to commit financial support for Space X’s efforts to create jobs in the region.
“This project and the benefits it will bring go hand in hand with our efforts to enhance the region’s workforce and create an industry cluster which will create high-paying jobs and educational opportunities for our citizens,” Garza said. “We look forward to fostering our relationship with Space X and its suppliers and working with TSTC-Harlingen, UTRGV, and our local schools to bring about a real change in the lives of our community.”
Salomon Torres, executive director of San Benito Economic Development Corporation, echoed Garza’s words.
“Space X is not only a new important employer for the Rio Grande Valley but a new industry involving manufacturing, science, space, high tech, and transportation – all rolled up into one launch and assembly site literally on a few steps from our beach and from our border with Mexico,” Torres said.
“In terms of its significance for our future economic success, I would place Space X up with there with our current water irrigation system in the Valley that made the Valley’s agriculture blossom in the early 20th century or the railroad system that transported product north. Now, product will literally be transported up, up and away. Welcome, Space X, to your new home in Texas.”
Dr. Lisa Garcia, superintendent of Point Isabel ISD, said her school district “enthusiastically supports” Space X as it begins its business endeavors in South Texas. She said Space X presents “unlimited possibilities, both economically and educationally,” for the area and the nearly 3,000 students of PIISD and their families.
“With scheduled rocket launches from nearby Boca Chica Beach, PIISD students will have a front row seat to history with the expansion of commercial space flight. We have great confidence the PIISD school district motto of, ‘Honor Tradition, Lead Innovation,’ will be carried out as potential educational partnerships with Space X and the local university will allow students to explore careers in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering. As the school district prepares the next generation of forward thinkers for jobs that are yet to be invented; Space X will allow our students to not only dream, but to achieve those dreams.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Boca Chica rocket launch facility on Monday, as did Gov. Rick Perry and Congressman Filemon Vela. All three spoke at the event to an audience of distinguished guests and reporters from across the state and nation.
At the event, Perry announced that in collaboration with the UT System, his Texas Emerging Technology Fund would be making an investment of $9 million to create” a powerful research and technology commercialization partnership that will create limitless possibilities for South Texas.” The project is being called STARGATE and will encompass a radio frequency technology park located adjacent to the SpaceX launch site command center. When not being used for launches, SpaceX facilities will be used by student and faculty researchers at STARGATE for training, scientific research and technology development.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn could not attend the groundbreaking but issued this statement: “ Today’s groundbreaking is a proud moment for South Texas and our state as we open a new chapter in what has been a long, historic tradition of leading the nation’s space program. This milestone ensures Texas will remain at the forefront of space exploration and discovery for years to come.”
Here are some of the comments made at the groundbreaking event:
State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville:
“Today’s groundbreaking is historic. It signifies the construction of a new industry and a new future for the Rio Grande Valley. SpaceX’s launch site will soon become an invaluable economic driver for South Texas. With this site comes tens of millions of dollars in capital investment in our community annually, and hundreds of well-paying jobs over the next decade.
“I hope the new launch site will propel a dramatic culture change in our region of the state, encouraging more of our children to pursue careers in engineering and science. Future generation of South Texas residents will look to this site and know that not even the sky is the limit for where their dreams may take them.”
Irv Downing, vice president of economic development and institutional advancement at UT-Brownsville:
“SpaceX has been an impressive company to work with through the entire site selection process. They have looked for ways to engage university faculty, our students and our commercialization programs. Clearly the SpaceX team understands the power of collaboration with the regional community and the University of Texas.”
Jason Hilts, president & CEO of Brownsville Economic Development Corporation:
“The SpaceX deal significantly changed the philosophy of Brownsville leadership, interagency collaboration and partnerships between the public sector, private industry and higher education in the quest of creating economic vitality, and not waiting for it.”
Keith Uhles, chairman of the board at Brownsville Economic Development Council:
“This is the first of many partnerships such as SpaceX which gives us excitement about Brownsville’s horizon and ability to reach new frontiers.”
David Betancourt, Chairman of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation:
“The capital investment of SpaceX in our region and its commitment to our young students solidifies the fact that Brownsville’s human capital will have the tools to work in innovative industries and in turn, they will help the Commercial Space Industry flourish in South Texas.”
Steve Taylor and Mario Muñoz contributed to this story.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series on SpaceX this week.