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Billionaire Musk chooses south Texas for SpaceX launchpad

Billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. plans to build the world’s first commercial launchpad near Brownsville in south Texas, Gov. Rick Perry’s office said.

The state is providing $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund to bring an estimated 300 jobs to the launch site, which will inject about $85 million of capital investment into the economy, according to a news release. The state is offering another $13 million from the SpacePort Trust Fund to support the development of infrastructure. Local officials are awarding about $5 million of incentives.

“Texas has been on the forefront of our nation’s space exploration efforts for decades, so it is fitting that SpaceX has chosen our state as they expand the frontiers of commercial space flight,” Perry said in the statement.

Hawthorne-based SpaceX, founded by Musk in 2002, designs, builds and launches rockets and has the goal of enabling life on other planets. The company persuaded local governments near Brownsville, the nation’s poorest metropolitan area, to compete with alternative sites in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

Musk money

More than three years of discussions among Texas officials and SpaceX representative led to the decision announced Monday. In Texas, SpaceX hired lobbyists and flew a key lawmaker to its offices and gave out about $12,000 in campaign contributions. At one point Musk appeared before a committee of the legislature to discuss the company’s plans.

“We appreciate the support of Governor Perry and numerous other federal, state and local officials who have partnered with us to make this vision a reality,” Musk said in the statement released by Perry’s office. “In addition to creating hundreds of high tech jobs for the Texas workforce, this site will inspire students, expand the supplier base and attract tourists to the south Texas area.”

In the region near the proposed launch site, at Boca Chica Beach in the state’s southernmost tip, two of five residents live in poverty. Leaders of the border town are seeking to make it as well known for space travel as Houston, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The Brownsville Economic Development Council is providing the $5 million to lure the launchpad, said Gilberto Salinas, executive vice president. Some other local tax breaks also are in the works, Salinas said.

“For us this is just the beginning,” Salinas said. “We will be working to make this situation perfect until the first rocket gets launched.”

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