Regional aerospace industry project catches EDC attention

By Shanna Cummings

The Van Horn Economic Development Corporation (EDC) held a quick meeting on September 15 to discuss ongoing projects.

Payment of the Facade Improvement Grant awarded to L&S Supercenter for $3,000 was approved, and the Facade Improvement Grant application from Socorro Sanchez was approved.

The development plan request for a variance from Madewell Construction related to the number of parking spaces required for a Family Dollar or Dollar Tree store has been approved. The final plans for the site will be submitted to the EDC as soon as the regular EDC meeting in October, and then sent to the City Engineering Department for review. A replat of the property involved will go through the City.

The board members discussed an interest in taking advantage of a regional emphasis on the aerospace industry, including a possible grant.

“There are some groups in El Paso that have reached out and they’re looking to put together a project that’s related to the space industry,” EDC president Becky Brewster said. Van Horn could focus on space tourism in connection with Blue Origin or other space-related business, including industrial operations. 

The regional plan is in its nascent stages, Brewster said. She hoped to put together a group including a representative from Blue Origin to identify a project to build a grant application around.

“Right now we’re just putting people together to be able to sit down and start talking about what would work,” Brewster said.

EDC members also discussed increasing availability of Blue Origin and space travel-related merchandise offered in town. Currently, El Capitan Hotel and Boots ‘n Scoops offer Blue Origin and space-themed merchandise. The next Blue Origin launch is scheduled for October 12.

The EDC is still awaiting word on the progress of a grant application submitted in August to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) for funds toward repairing and updating the third water pressure zone. The EDA will begin reviewing applications perhaps later this month, so a final decision for grand recipients will come soon. The water moratorium related to the third pressure zone has halted business development in town for some time.

The application for the Texas Department of Agriculture Downtown Revitalization Grant is also in review. The next step would be a site review. Brewster said a decision on that application may be made before the end of 2021.

A committee within the EDC is working on developing a job description for a possible part-time position dedicated to facilitating EDC projects. The board discussed retaining a part-time EDC specialist who would help train someone from the community who is invested in improving and growing business in Van Horn. Brewster said the EDC has reached a point where it needs to find ways to act on its plans. When presented with the option of receiving a proposal for the retainer, some board members expressed concern about “putting the cart before the horse,” so the board chose to wait.

All members of the EDC board were up for reappointment. The board decided to present themselves en masse at the September 21 City Council meeting to request the board all be reappointed and request staggered terms in accordance to the state’s economic development laws.