|EDINBURG, November 24 - A decision by SpaceX about building the world’s first commercial rocket launching site at Boca Chica beach near Brownsville could be just around the corner, says Jason Hilts, president of the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation.
Hilts spoke very positively about the SpaceX project during a panel discussion at the 3rd Annual Border Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted by the UTPA/Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas last Friday at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
“The game changer coming down is SpaceX. We are hopefully a few days from a final announcement from SpaceX,” Hilts said. “This is a huge project, not only for Brownsville, for the Valley, for the state of Texas. It is a huge economic generator. It will create 600 direct jobs, at an average of $80,000 a year. It brings in visitors, new tourism. It brings in the aerospace industry. It brings in the space industry to South Texas. And, it ties our universities together for the math and sciences and for the physics department.”
Hilts was so positive in his remarks about SpaceX coming to Brownsville that the Guardian wanted to double check. He told the Guardian after the panel discussion: “We are hoping for an announcement in the next few days. The environmental study is done. We are waiting for the federal government to give the final ‘yes.’ Everything right now looks very positive.”
Asked what the announcement in the next few days has to do with, Hilts said: “It has to do with the clearing of the environmental, the FAA is saying, okay, things look good, we are going to be able to move forward which will then allow SpaceX to make their final decision. Without that they cannot make a decision. We are hoping for a decision from SpaceX before Christmas.”
Brownsville and Texas are in competition with Florida to land SpaceX’s commercial launch site. SpaceX has bought 24 acres of land next to Boca Chica beach. It has also has leased more than 56.5 acres of land from private property owners. To tip the balance in favor of Brownsville, the Guardian understands SpaceX has been in discussions with cities up and down the Rio Grande Valley, asking for help with funding, in return for SpaceX agreeing to pump money back into the region’s economy.
In his remarks at the 3rd Annual Border Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium, Hilts said SpaceX is looking to build its first ever commercial launch site at Boca Chica Beach. “It will be a great thing for the Valley once this thing starts launching on a monthly basis. UT-Brownsville is building a ground tracking station. The UT System is approving funding for this. This brings our physics department together with SpaceX. It means there are opportunities for entrepreneurs moving forward. It means opportunities for developing suppliers to SpaceX in the region. We are doing a new space business park. It creates more robotics machine opportunities.”
Asked why he appeared so positive about SpaceX coming to Brownsville, Hilts told the Guardian later: “I am positive, the whole community is positive, I think SpaceX is positive. I think the stuff we have seen with the EIS (environmental impact statement) so far suggests there is nothing there that says it is not going to work here. So, we really have to be positive. It is three years of work.”
Earlier in his remarks at the symposium, Hilts stressed the importance of Valley nurturing its human capital. He also said Brownsville is aggressively seeking foreign direct investment. He spoke about 38 potential investors from South America visiting Brownsville last week. “We are aggressively marketing ourselves, our strengths; our geographic location. Of the 38 potential investors, 15 have signed up for incubator innovation center at UTB, and two started to incorporate here. Four more are coming in January and we will have two projects, with 300 jobs per company.”
Asked, later, about the visit of the 38 potential investors, Hilts said: “They came to a seminar in Brownsville about how to do business in Texas. As a result, we have people who are looking for real estate, looking for housing. Companies are signing up with incubator innovation center. It was very productive.”