BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation is in talks with NASA as part of its Expanding Frontiers (ExF) project. 

Brownsville City Commission recently approved awarding a $650,000 grant to BCIC for ExF. 

ExF is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the development of the commercial space ecosystem in Brownsville, Texas, and throughout the United States.” It has been established by the City of Brownsville in partnership with BCIC and Dr. Fredrick Jenet, an astrophysicist, researcher, and educator at UT-Rio Grande Valley.

Josh Mejia

“The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation has officially taken the first step in a new frontier where space and tech meet. Expanding Frontiers has paved an opportunity for our organization to expand on a growing new industry that has initially scratched the surface in our community through SpaceX,” said Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation Executive Director Josh Mejia. 

“The entrepreneurship, education, and industry recruitment opportunities that will come with this project will begin to add to our competitiveness and we are proud to begin our work in tandem with the City of Brownsville.” 

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Mejia said: “It (ExF) is taking a multi-faceted approach but with the experts that we are currently in conversation with, including the folks over at NASA, I think we are just validating the opportunity that we have here in our community and just making it known elsewhere. We want to be at the forefront of that growing trend.”

Mejia gave credit to Dr. Jenet for proposing ExF.

Dr. Fredrick Jenet

“It is the brainchild of Dr. Jenet who works very closely with the Stargate program at UTRGV. He felt it was necessary for the city to start expanding on these space opportunities that are going to be seen with SpaceX,” Mejia said.

“There is a lot of interest, organic interest, in our community revolving around space and technology but we really needed to capitalize or at least develop some sort of catch-all for the city to be an attractive point for that new investment coming in.”

Mejia said ExF can be thought of as a “catalyst mechanism” that develops the “economic development strategy for all that type of new investment coming in.” He said it opens up “opportunities and new space for all the local human capital and any human capital that wants to come in.”

In a news release, the City of Brownsville described Dr. Jenet as an innovator whose research and activities “are creating new models of education and advancing technologies for space exploration and related fields.” Jenet is founder of the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy and the Stargate project at UTRGV.

“The City of Brownsville is poised to become a world leader in commercial space exploration and development,” Jenet said.

In the same news release, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said: “The Brownsville City Commission is thrilled to support Expanding Frontiers to provide an avenue for entrepreneurs, students and veterans in the field of NewSpace. As the home of the SpaceX launch site and home to UTRGV’s STARGATE, Brownsville, Texas, is the future of the space industry in the United States.”

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, BCIC’s Mejia was asked about the potential of ExF. He responded: 

“Being a Brownsville native and seeing things from its history to where we are now, we are the largest city real estate-wise, we are multi-modal, we have many trade avenues we can pursue. However, in terms of economic development for the community, we have to have a common vision as to what that potential looks like and what that potential’s return on investment can look like for the people that are currently living here. In that essence, we need to think a little bit more about the opportunities that will be available five, ten, 15 years from now.”

That said, Brownsville economic development leaders are not going to neglect any low-hanging fruit, the BCIC executive director explained.

“We have to be very cogniscent to be able to weigh both types of opportunities equally so that we address the needs that we have at the moment and prepare ourselves to be the community that we want to be for any future and emerging technologies or industries coming into our community,” Mejia said. 

“So, we don’t want to be working retroactively or reactively. We want to be a couple of steps ahead of the game.”

Editor’s Note: The above feature is the first in a series of three involving the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation. Part Two, which looks at the eBridge project, will be posted later this week.