By Ricardo Cavazos • Valley Business Report

The city of Brownsville for decades had a motto that was simple and got to the point about the city’s allure.

“On The Border By The Sea,” was the saying often attached to city marketing and official communication.

As of a few months ago, Brownsville’s signature saying was altered to reflect recent developments.

“On The Border By The Sea – And Beyond!” is the new slogan.

Brownsville has fallen for SpaceX in a major way – and you can see it everywhere in the city.

A billboard entering the city proclaims Brownsville as America’s emerging space city. A striking mural of SpaceX founder Elon Musk splashes across a building downtown on Adams Street. An art gallery across the street from the old fire station on Adams featured several photos of the rockets on the SpaceX site a half hour away at Boca Chica Beach.

“We want people to think beyond what they feel is possible and to expand their expectations,” said Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez, expressing the general giddiness of city officials when it comes to talking about SpaceX. “We consider ourselves the new space city in Texas.”

Growing Ambitions

It’s all beyond the first wave of excitement in 2014. Back then, attention-grabbing billionaire Musk announced he had chosen Boca Chica as the site for his commercial spaceport.

Starry, starry night at the SpaceX site on Boca Chica Beach. (photo Carlos Nunez @cnunezimages)

It would be a place to work on technology that could someday propel man to Mars. By 2020, SpaceX had dramatically revised its plans for Boca Chica. It would now become a spaceship yard for building and testing rockets. Towers began to rise above the surf and sand of Boca Chica. An orbital launchpad being built will be the tallest building in the Brownsville area.

Ambitions and excitement grew even more recently when NASA announced it had chosen SpaceX Starship at Boca Chica to develop the lunar landing system for the Artemis Program. The project aims to get humans back on the moon. The notion that the next people to step on the moon could do so from a spacecraft developed at Boca Chica has only intensified space fever in Brownsville.

“Get ready,” Mendez said at a recent space forum in Brownsville, describing what SpaceX leaders told him when they learned of NASA’s announcement. “They told me they were already planning to bring a couple of thousand people here, but now that they have this contract, they are going to accelerate their operations even more.”

Creating Starbase

There’s already over one thousand people working at the SpaceX site, city officials said. They’re confident many more will come. Musk has talked of “creating the city of Starbase, Texas,” at Boca Chica.

The historic Brownsville fire station in a window reflection that features a SpaceX rocket at Boca Chica Beach.

There are engineers and technicians, to be sure. Economic development officials in Brownsville emphasize there are also electricians and welders actively working at SpaceX. Additionally, small businesses like food vendors feed workers at the site. An early 2014 economic analysis projected that 500 jobs at SpaceX would generate $85 million of economic activity for Brownsville. A creation of $51 million in annual salaries will also happen by 2024.

With the rapid development of the space site, it’s safe to guess those projections have only grown. Mendez predicted that “in the next couple of years you’ll see new space-related companies opening here” to be in close proximity to SpaceX.

There’s a certain entertainment value to the space venture. People drive to the Boca Chica area to see launches. Rockets are supposed to climb thousands of feet into the skies with the goal of returning to landing pads. Some of these test runs have been spectacular failures, but it has hardly dampened local spirits of what SpaceX could bring to the border by the sea.

“To be able to look out the window and see rockets in the air has been an amazing experience,” the mayor said at the conference, where his excitement was matched by other speakers. What has been seen so far, they generally agreed, is only the beginning of Brownsville’s possibilities in its new space age.