State Fight: SpaceX brings business to Brownsville, Texas

At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, city officials in Brownsville, Texas, anticipated double-digit declines in sales and property tax revenues. To their surprise, residential property values, sales tax collections and hotel tax revenues have continued to climb.

Much of the credit goes to SpaceX. The Hawthorne, California-based rocket builder has been steadily expanding the workforce at its nearby Boca Chica launch site for the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster. SpaceX started ramping up activities at Boca Chica beach in 2016.

“Since then, Brownsville has attracted “the interest of different industries and sectors that we thought would not have an interest in our community,” said Josh Mejia, CEO of Brownsville Community Improvement Corp. “Things like new space technologies, aerospace, tech companies. All of these industries want to be close to the big fish in the pond.”

In addition, people are moving from California and other parts of Texas to establish businesses in Brownsville.

SpaceX’s growing presence “has exponentially increased the entrepreneur activity that we have seen in our community,” Mejia said. “We’re talking about impacts and benefits that we will probably not see until 10-15 years from now.”

Brownsville is welcoming new companies by extending its broadband infrastructure and working with the state to prepare workers to meet the needs of its new businesses. The Brownsville Community Improvement Corp. also is talking with venture capital firms about creating startup accelerator programs and encouraging development of speculative buildings that could house manufacturing or assembly plants.

Still, navigating all these changes in a short time span poses challenges for Brownsville.

“Just like every great thing, there’s always going to be some negativity associated with it,” Mejia said. “So many elements are changing so quickly. They can have a positive result for the community, or a negative result based on how quickly you can pivot to meet the needs of the local economy.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

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