Visitors to the Rio Grande Valley have long described the culture shock experienced at the border communities within as an out of the world experience. It’s a statement that can now be taken literally as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) broke ground Monday, Sept. 22, for its future commercial launch facility on Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville.
It’s a project hailed Valley-wide as a potential boon for local economies and job growth in South Texas communities – with officials from Harlingen- San Benito- Brownsville metropolitan and Laguna Madre areas anticipating positive impacts in their respective cities.
Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, says that the ultimate goal is “to take humanity beyonf Earth – take humanity to Mars and establish a base on Mars.”
“We looked all through the country and looked at all the possibilities, and I really have to say this would be the best place to put it,” said Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla Motors and an early investor in a popular internet transaction company, PayPal.
We appreciate the leadership of Governor Rick Perry and numerous other federal, state, and local leaders who have helped make it possible for SpaceX to build the world’s first commercial launch complex designed for orbital missions,” he said, adding, “With today’s groundbreaking at Boca Chica Beach, we will begin an investment in South Texas that will create hundreds of jobs and over time contribute millions of dollars into the local economy.”
Musk expects SapceX to invest approximately $100 million in the next three to four ears. “But in the long term, if you go out, say 10, 20 years, and” says Musk, adding “it’s probably in the several hundred million dollar-range.” This as SpaceX continues to expand the facility.
Governor Rick Perry, who was also in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony, announced a Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TEFT) grant awarded to the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) for $4.4 million, which the UT System matched for $4.6 million – a combined $9 million to go toward the construction of the STARGATE complex.
This complex is expected to “provide opportunities for continuing education in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields.”
“I noticed a sign behind me that says pavement ends … 1000 feet, but the future of South Texas takes right off behind me,” said Perry, pointing behind him at the mound of dirt representing the initial groundbreaking for the future launch site.
According to a statement from Governor Rick Perry’s office, the State is offering $13 million from Spaceport Trust Fund, which was established to help develop the infrastructure needed to develop a spaceport, to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp.
State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. (District 27) said, “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. We’ve set up South Texas as a future leader in developing bleeding-edge space technology which will influence future commerce for the whole planet.”
Dr. Lisa Garcia, superintendent of the Point Isabel Independent School District, added, “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, Traditional, Lead, Innovation,” will be carried out as potential educational partnerships with SpaceX and the local university will allow students to explore careers in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering. As the school district prepares for the next generation of forward thinkers for jobs that are yet to be invented, SpaceX will allow our students to not only dream, but to achieve those dreams.”
Louis Dartez, Ph.D. student at UTB and University of Texas Arlington combined program, who was a student at Port Isabel when he was in grade school, said, “I think SpaceX is a company of vision and progress… it’s absolutely great that they’ve chosen Brownsville, not just as their future launch site, which can come specifically because of geographic location, but to … come down and embrace programs with the local students and local entities, like the university and local independent school districts.”
“I think the greatest impact it will have on the job market will be indirect,” said Dartez, saying that this will create and help boom an economy based around space exploration for the area.
San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez, who previously expressed her support of SpaceX’s Valley location and the positive impact she believes it’ll have on the Resaca City, stressed that surrounding communities will also benefit from the tourism the launch site will likely attract.
“I think we’ll all benefit, the entire Valley, from the tourist attraction aspect,” Sanchez said, adding, “To the jobs that will be created and the service businesses will be providing to supply SapceX, the proximity will the area stir up conversation and interest in what’s happening here. There will be stories in the paper and in the news, and local students will undoubtedly take field trips out there.”
“All that will stir up the curiosity and interest of the public, and then there are the teachers who will be talking about it in school. Our children will be very interested in learning more as science will become more relevant and real to them.”
If all goes as intended, SpaceX could be launching rockets from Brownsville no earlier than 2016.