Officials involved in discussions with SpaceX said it's premature to put a dollar sign on the incentives package that would be offered to the company to persuade it to build a rocket-launching facility near Brownsville.
"We are still working with the local community to aggressively pursue SpaceX and (are) very much interested in trying to get them to come to Texas," Lucy Nashed, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday.
This was in response to statements from Cameron County Pct. 4 Commissioner Dan Sanchez that the Brownsville Economic Development Council and the state have fallen behind Florida in incentives offered Elon Musk's SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Sanchez said at Thursday's Commissioners Court meeting that the BEDC and the state are offering SpaceX $3 million each for a total of $6 million in efforts to attract the business to Cameron County. He said Florida is offering $10 million.
"We're behind in the race," Sanchez said at the meeting.
Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have long been reported as candidates for the SpaceX project.
SpaceX spokeswoman Katherine Nelson on Thursday stated the following: "SpaceX is continuing to look at all possibilities for a private launch facility, including sites in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. We are still in the early stages of the review process."
She said SpaceX "appreciates the efforts of, and support from, Texas local, county, regional and state elected officials and organizations."
According to some local reports, a site in Georgia is also in the mix now.
As for Brownsville, Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos said the county would be working with and assisting its partners -- the state, BEDC, the Texas Department of Transportation and others -- in addressing SpaceX infrastructure needs in addition to financial incentives.
"There is more to an incentives package," he said. "Our package could well exceed the amount in cash that is being talked about. We are prepared to do whatever we need to do to make it happen."
He continued: "I tend to agree that the overall dollars may not be the deciding factor, but in terms of logistics, geography and location, we have the best overall package."
From the governor's office, Nashed said that negotiations are conducted "on so many fronts (other) than just cash amounts. We are still negotiating and still hopeful that they will pick Texas."
BEDC Board Chairman David Hughston said he understands that negotiations are ongoing.
"Any speculation on my part regarding the ultimate financial/in-kind package offered by the state of Texas and BEDC/Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. would be inappropriate at this time," he said.
"I will say, however, that all indications are that state officials, including Gov. Perry, are extremely supportive of the project and would love to see the launch site in South Texas. Obviously, we want it here very much."
Hughston said the community has known for some time that Florida and Puerto Rico have been vying for the SpaceX facility.
"Now, it appears Georgia is also in the mix. While I have heard all sorts of numbers bandied about, I have no idea what they are actually offering as financial incentives. One thing I do know is that we are committed to working with SpaceX and responding to their needs to the best of our ability," Hughston said.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Sofia C. Benavides, whose precinct covers the proposed launch site near Boca Chica Beach, said after Thursday's county meeting that her understanding also is that negotiations continue.
Benavides, as Sanchez, maintained and voiced concern that the funds being offered by BEDC and the state are linked to job creation. "SpaceX has to come here first, create the jobs, and then the money goes to them," Benavides said.
She continues to be optimistic about the project. "Our people here need it," she said.
There have been reports that Puerto Rico has offered more money in incentives than Florida.
Space Florida, an independent special district of the state of Florida that arranges financial incentives, did not respond to a request for comment. The government of Puerto Rico's Secretary of Commerce Jose Perez-Riera could not be located.
The launch site that SpaceX is considering in Cameron County is off State Highway 4, about a quarter-mile from Boca Chica Beach, and about 3 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The site is about 5 miles south of Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
BEDC has been leading the negotiations and efforts with SpaceX. SpaceX apparently contacted the state, and the governor's office contacted BEDC. Cascos said Thursday that he entirely understands this as BEDC had the mechanism in place and ability to provide cash incentives.
'... the last to know'
Sanchez, who advocated Thursday to hike property taxes by 1 cent for seed money to develop an economic development program, said after the meeting that if the county had had an economic development program in place, SpaceX would have approached the county instead of BEDC.
"We were the last to know," Sanchez said at the meeting.
Sanchez said it was hard to invite someone to dinner "when you're not putting anything on the table."
Cascos told Sanchez at the meeting that the county can only continue to hope that an attractive incentive package is presented to SpaceX.
Sanchez noted that SpaceX hasn't asked for anything, and that the firm is happy with the support from the community.
Sanchez said he was "just saying what is out there."
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