Despite the rainy start due to the cold front, a sizeable crowd of more than 80 well-wishers gathered by the Starbase sign outside of SpaceX Starbase Saturday for an event to thank SpaceX for their support of local businesses and Rio Grande Valley schools.
Holding two 20 foot banners in SpaceX’s colors of black and white printed with “Thank You Elon” and “Welcome SpaceX Team” the group posed for a photo to show their thanks to the company and its founder Elon Musk.
Event organizer Zeke Silva, owner of The Roast House, said he was compelled to put the event together by a strong sense of gratitude for their help to his business during the pandemic and the community as a whole in recent months.
Early in the pandemic as businesses were forced to try to adapt to contactless forms of providing services, Silva’s business of selling roasted and prepared coffee struggled to adapt quickly enough to keep his doors open.
SpaceX, as they did with many other local businesses during this time, offered him a vendor contract to provide coffee daily, from roasted beans to hot coffee and cold brew for their workers out at the Boca Chica Beach site. Due to the limitations of his storefront at the time, SpaceX was his only customer until they could reopen to the public.
“During the pandemic they were 100%. We weren’t set up for e-commerce. We weren’t set up for curbside and we don’t have a drive-thru so we couldn’t do anything like that,” he said.
This support for local small businesses like Silva’s has been just one part of the economic development SpaceX has engendered in the community. As Chief Executive Officer of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, Josh Mejia relates that several businesses like Silva’s were able to make it through the financial hardship of the pandemic due to that support, while others have expanded under SpaceX’s patronage in addition to more straightforward forms of impact such as job creation in the community.
“There’s been a lot of direct as well as indirect economic impact through SpaceX and Elon Musk’s Foundation as well,” Mejia said.
In addition to the business community, another group came out to make their support known, that of local educators and students. Port Isabel Independent School District, the Rio Hondo Independent School District, IDEA Riverview, IDEA Frontier, IDEA San Benito and IDEA Brownsville wanted to show their appreciation for the opportunities the company has provided for their students and the recent donations by the Musk Foundation to Valley schools.
Roger Ellis, Superintendent of Rio Hondo ISD, came to the event not only in gratitude for the donations the Musk Foundation has made to his school, which has helped buy computer labs and added to the school’s Special Education and Agriculture departments, but also to the tangible future the company represents for STEM students.
“The students can see visibly what the future is. They can come down here and do that and it’s given them other opportunities and opened their eyes that there are other things in the Valley aside from what they are used to,” he said.
While Silva didn’t end up posing with the others in the final group photo, he’s hoping that the group’s message, in addition to his own, came across to SpaceX employees and Musk.
“We can’t go say ‘thank you’ to Elon Musk ourselves, but hopefully as a group through that same message he will understand that he is welcome and we want him to stay in our community,” he said.
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