BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The people of Cameron County probably do not realize how big an economic impact SpaceX is having on the area.

This is the view of Helen Ramirez, deputy city manager for Brownsville and executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation. 

In a Zoom interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Ramirez said she has a job to do dispelling rumors about the space exploration company. “It call it myth busters,” she said. 

“In 2021, they (SpaceX) had employed 1,600 direct employees. They envision that going up 30 percent. If you take into consideration Cameron County, the amount of jobs and contract labor, we are really talking above over 6,000 jobs within Brownsville and Cameron County. That is our largest employer here.”

As for direct investment, SpaceX has spent over $430 million locally, Ramirez explained. She said that money has gone on operations, payroll, construction, and capital expenditure. 

“So, when a company spends that much money they are really going to think long and hard before changing something,” Ramirez said, in response to speculation that SpaceX might move its operations from Boca Chica to Florida if it does not get environmental clearances from the federal government.

“Geographically, we have a very strong advantage because it (SpaceX) has 40 percent better efficiencies with launches from here than at any other place in the nation. That is a big advantage of being here.”

Local suppliers to SpaceX are also having a big impact on the local economy, Ramirez pointed out.

“We also have seen about $356 million spent by local suppliers in Cameron County and Brownsville. A whopping $650 million in value adds in the production of goods and services in the Cameron County economy,” Ramirez said.

“I don’t think people have realized the magnitude of these numbers. It has always been an enigma but really these are numbers that are solid. They have come from SpaceX.”

Ramirez said she would like to share these numbers with the people of Brownsville and Cameron County.

“I really believe it is important that we provide an environment, a can-do business-friendly environment. That is what Cameron County, Brownsville and the Port of Brownsville is doing. And all of the Rio Grande Valley because it is not just that part (of the Valley). I know they (SpaceX) have suppliers all over the RGV, in Harlingen and McAllen, to support these million dollar numbers. We really need supply chains assistance from all over South Texas.”

In her conversation with the Guardian, Ramirez said she also wanted people to know that SpaceX’s Starship program is largely being built locally.

“One of the things I really want to emphasize: Starship is made in Brownsville, Cameron County, USA. I would say that 95 percent of that Starship and that booster is made here. That really speaks to the workforce that we have in our community. How well they are trained, how much they believe in what they are doing.”

Ramirez noted that the local population is relatively young. “Our average age is 29 in the city of Brownsville.”

Ramirez gets to visit the Boca Chica site every couple of months.  She said she is constantly amazed by the growth happening there. Not least a new 320,000 square foot building. 

“Previously you have seen more of a temporary type of structure. That type of investment… a building of that size is very, very, important. It is a very tall building; to be able to hold their equipment.”

Ramirez encouraged the community to go out and see what SpaceX is building.

“I would say seeing is believing. I encourage the community, take the kids, take the family, really see what is going on. We have had people from Germany, from all over, internationally.”

Ramirez said that unlike other large manufacturers in the aerospace industry, SpaceX is not doing things behind closed doors. 

“It is right there, it is right in front of you. There is nothing hidden. I think that is the beauty of commercial space… they are demonstrating to the public that this is possible. It is right here in our backyard.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a four-part series on the latest economic development scene in Brownsville, Texas. The series is based on an in-depth Zoom interview with Helen Ramirez. 

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