EL PASO, TX – Earlier this month, the El Paso County Commissioners Court approved the legal documents that will allow it to form a spaceport development corporation to further synergize the aerospace research, manufacturing and space flight activity that is fast becoming an economic hallmark of West Texas. El Paso County’s airport in Fabens features UTEP’s Aerospace Center research and development platform for the testing of aerospace innovations. Many graduates of UTEP’s programs have continued their work in the industry at Blue Origin, NASA, Lockheed Martin and other aerospace entities.
This corporation, called the West Texas Spaceport Development Corporation, would become Texas’ fifth spaceport and would make the region from El Paso County to Culberson County eligible for grants available through the state’s Spaceport Trust Fund.
“More importantly, the corporation will fuse together West Texas communities such as El Paso and Van Horn, higher education institutions such as UTEP and aerospace companies including Blue Origin to develop regional goals around workforce development and support for business that stokes private investment and creates job opportunities for residents,” said Commissioner Iliana Holguin, Precinct 3.
The West Texas Spaceport Development Corporation will be governed by a board of seven directors to serve two-year terms. It will include representation from El Paso County, the Van Horn Economic Development Corporation, El Paso Chamber, Workforce Solutions Borderplex, the University of Texas at El Paso, and the Rio Grande Council of Governments. The Commissioners Court vote allows El Paso County to submit incorporation documents with the Texas Secretary of State.
El Paso Chamber President and CEO Andrea Hutchins said the corporation will help grow commercial opportunities and signal to aerospace companies that West Texas is ripe for investment.
“The West Texas region took a giant step toward furthering the development of our space assets. The creation of a Space Port Development Corporation will make our region eligible for millions of dollars in support from the State’s Spaceport program,” said Andrea Hutchins. “The Chamber is pleased to support these efforts and will continue to seek funding opportunities from outside of our region to benefit the growth of our economy. As we continue to forge partnerships with our economic development, non-profit and business allies, our community will continue to benefit from cooperative opportunities, such as the decision from the Commissioners Court to incorporate the region’s first Space Port Development Corporation.”
Texas is a leading state for the aerospace industry and El Paso County sits between two important launch sites that have been developed for commercial space flight: Blue Origin’s launch and landing pad just north of Van Horn, Texas as well as Spaceport America, which is about 40 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“The spaceport development corporation will use aerospace to benefit everyone in the region, and we’re grateful for the leadership of El Paso County Commissioners on this exciting initiative,” said Eddie Seyffert, Director of Texas Government Relations, Blue Origin. “As a fellow El Pasoan and West Texan, I’m proud to see El Paso’s manufacturing and technical capabilities re-invigorated towards the space sector. As a Blue Origin team member, it’s rewarding to contribute to commercial human spaceflight from right here at home.”
The Texas Legislature in 1999 enacted legislation that allows local communities including a county, or a combination of counties, to create a spaceport development corporation. A spaceport development corporation can promote or develop new or expanded business enterprises, educational training or job training related to its activities.
The spaceport and its activity would complement the development of a regional aerospace and defense manufacturing district in El Paso that is being developed with help from the recently awarded $40 million EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge Grant and local matching funds provided by El Paso County and the City of El Paso.