BY STEVE CLARK
The Brownsville City Commission on Nov. 10 approved $250,000 in incentives for Spaced Ventures — a new digital platform providing public access to investment in space-related start-up companies — to open a location in Brownsville and hire local talent.
The deal was code-named Project Zeta until the city’s announcement. Deputy City manager Helen Ramirez said it’s essentially about job creation, reducing brain drain and helping fuel creation of a commercial space cluster in Cameron County.
“A Brownsville location to us was very important,” she said, adding that Spaced Ventures will use some of the incentive money to finalize development of its platform software. “They’ve already done beta testing, and they want to conclude that I would say within the next six months.”
Ramirez said the city did its due diligence on the company, itself a start-up, and talked to some of the companies to which Spaced Ventures has offered its services. The business model basically sets up crowd-sourcing for vetted, space-related commercial ventures in early stages of development.
The public will be able to invest in those companies, whose access to capital is often more difficult,” Ramirez said. “It’ll give people the ability to also diversify their own investment portfolio.”
Having Spaced Ventures in Brownsville will complement what’s happening space-wise in the rest of the state — particularly Houston, she said.
“I would say the word is spreading that Brownsville is open for business in terms of commercial space,” Ramirez said.
SpaceX is a major anchor, but it’s not a cluster unless other space companies are going about the innovation of innovation locally, she said.
“Right now the niche could be space, but what if it spins into something else? Technology changes every day,” Ramirez said.
The incentive is “like feeding our own economy” since the goal is to create high-paying jobs that will keep the city’s best and brightest at home, she said.
“I think that the city is being proactive in its approach to economic development, and… new space is an economic development strategy for the city,” Ramirez said. “So I think what we’re doing is demonstrating the importance it deserves.”
Aaron Burnett, founder and CEO of Spaced Ventures, said in a statement Brownsville is a “unique city that is actively supporting early-stage space companies by leveraging it’s talent, experience and location.”
“Our plan is to hire a team of analysts and data scientists in the Brownsville area to further develop our platform,” he said. “We look forward to building a new space economy together.”