BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The best part about SpaceX launching Starship from Boca Chica is that the people of Brownsville and Cameron County built most of the rocket. 

This is the view of Helen Ramirez, executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC) and interim city manager for the City of Brownsville.

Ramirez, pictured above, spoke about SpaceX during a recent conference GBIC hosted alongside SelectUSA. The conference was titled, “The Future of Aerospace, Defense & Energy in Brownsville.”

“So here are the big numbers. Seventy one percent of the direct employees (at SpaceX’s Boca Chica rocket launching site) are from Brownsville, are local from Cameron County,” Ramirez said.

“Over 6,000 jobs in the county. That is powerful, that is our largest employer. Boom. And then we have all this direct investment.”

Ramirez then spoke about how the SpaceX rocket is being built.

“If I was to talk about any data point that I am most proud of, 98 percent of the Starship is built with our workforce, the Brownsville, Cameron County workforce. It is not California. It is not Florida. Yes, the raptor engine is built in Hawthorne, but really we build it.”

Ramirez said the Rio Grande Valley has a multi-generational workforce that it needs to keep here because states like Michigan want to hire them. 

“Once you get your certification, say in scaffolding, other states are putting job offers on the table before graduation to go out of state,” Ramirez said. 

“That is the power of having an average age population of 29. We have a young workforce trained, skilled, talented people here that can not only build the most important rocket in the history of the United States and this world, but can ship-build and ship-break, and do many other things. They have a lot of talent.”

Ramirez added: “That is one of the best things we can tell people. The stigma is always, it is built somewhere else and it is not built here. It is built here, here in Brownsville, South Texas.”

SelectUSA is an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It is charged with bringing foreign direct investment into the United States. The Brownsville conference, held at the Brownsville Events Center, was an offshoot of a major conference SelectUSA is hosting this week near Washington, D.C. The Brownsville event drew foreign companies and potential investors from South America, Mexico, Canada, Austin and Florida. 

Ramirez spoke mostly about SpaceX in her remarks to the potential investors. 

“We are here to celebrate one of the most innovative companies in the history of the world. The fact that they are building one of the largest bad-ass rockets here in our backyard in Cameron County and the city of Brownsville is amazing. We are going to be able to witness this inflection in our history. This is real and this is really happening here,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said she sometimes wonders if the local community really understands the transformation that is occurring because of SpaceX. She told the story of a welder that used to fly to Houston to work offshore in the oil and gas industry, leaving his family for multiple months at a time. Now, that welder can work locally for SpaceX, allowing for more quality time with the family.

“We experience a lot of what we call brain drain, right. We have a talent pool of educated youth that end up leaving the region because of the lack of job opportunities,” Ramirez said. Thanks to SpaceX and other companies being lured to the Valley, that is changing, she said. 

Ramirez also spoke about Brownsville’s five modes of transportation: road, rail, sea, air and space. She said she called counterparts in Florida to see if they had ever marketed their community in this way, promoting the fact that they have five modes of transportation. She was told they had not. “How do we integrate it? How do they (the five modes of transportation) all work together?”

Ramirez also spoke about a new master-planned industrial park GBIC is working on. “This is a great place to do anything, an easy place to do business,” she said.

After her speech, Ramirez conducted a Q&A with Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino about SpaceX. Trevino said he expects Starship to launch within the next 90 days. 

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the fifth in a series of six features focusing on a recent Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation/SelectUSA conference titled “The Future of Aerospace, Defense & Energy in Brownsville.” Click here to read Part One. Click here to read Part Two. Click here to read Part Three. Click here to read Part Four. Part Six will be published in our next edition. 


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