With the room packed with state and local politicians and officials, business and real estate representatives, and local residents, the ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Padre Island was filled to capacity Monday evening for the celebration of groundbreaking ceremony for the SpaceX rocket launching facility that is being built on Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville.
It is a huge coup for the state of Texas and the lower Rio Grande Valley in particular, and promises to make the area a destination spot for fanatics everywhere. The overall response was enthusiastic and positive, with local residents expressing their feelings about the impact SpaceX will have on the community.
Liz Money, owner of a retail business Ship Shape on South Padre Island, spelled out her support on her store’s marquee, welcoming SpaceX to the area. “I think it’s going to be a game changer,” Liz said. “It’s going to give a lot of people an opportunity to have a piece of the pie if they’re willing to work hard and play fair.” Deanna Bowman of Troy Giles Real Estate was optimistic about the effect on local real estate. “I think it is definitely going to have a positive impact on the real estate market. People are going to need homes, and SPI is the natural choice.”
Alex Avalos, SPI councilman, echoed Governor Rick Perry’s comments from the morning’s groundbreaking ceremony, where SpaceX founder and visionary Elon Musk was present for the festivities. “The 6 years olds sitting in class today are the ones that are going to see the impact of this.” Avalos’ wife, Island business owner LaVina Meyer of LaVina’s Natural Nail Care, supported the statement, saying, “It feels like this is a hopeful, positive time for our Island.”
Jose Salazar, general manager of La Quinta Inns & Suites on SPI, who was manning the hotel’s information booth during the event, feels the SpaceX development will be positive for tourism. “It’s a good thing for the tourism business- people are going to come out to launches.” Kori Marra, former Harlingen city commissioner now working at Franke, Realtors on SPI, said this was great news for the Island. “We’ve been in a recession since 2008, so it’s fresh blood for SPI.” Local resident Leo DeVigil a retired former fireman from Denver, owns a rental property in Los Fresnos and was eloquent in his feelings on the impact of the arrival of SpaceX to the Rio Grande Valley. “It’s going to stimulate academic and professional careers, with the local universities. There is a need for science, engineering, and math, and this will not only promote educational opportunities but will positively impact locl businesses and property values.”
John Peacock, owner of local business Peacock Plumbing, though supportive of the project, expressed some concerns regarding the environmental impact of the facility on the local water table and wildlife. “I hope the hydrogen gas they expel won’t cause 2-headed pelicans”!” he quipped, also expressing disappointment in the lack of specific information during Monday night’s event. “I was hoping for more than just food; I expected site plans, that’s why I came.”
The presentation featured comments from Sate Representative Rene O. Olivera of Brownsville, SpaceX officials and Fredrick Janet, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at UTB. He is the creator and director of Stargate, a partnership program with SpaceX which will allow UTB and local students – Point Isabel ISD included – the opportunity to interact and participate with the visionary space facility. “This is going to change lives and seriously impact the lives of our students. It will redefine what it means to be from South Texas.”

Pamela Cody