The Expanding Frontiers “New Space Entrepreneurs in Residence Apprenticeship” program has been granted $299,643 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, one of seven organizations around the country to be chosen for EDA’s first STEM Talent Challenge.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. The news was announced Wednesday by the office of U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela. Expanding Frontiers was launched in 2019 as an incubator for the commercial space economy in the Brownsville area and has already launched start-up companies in the industry.

The apprenticeship program has provided opportunities, especially in STEM fields, to students in communities that would typically be left out, according to Expanding Frontiers founder Rick Jenet, a former University of Texas Rio Grande Valley associate professor of physics and astronomy. He expressed gratitude for the EDA’s support and the help on the part of Vela and his staff for making the grant possible.

“This federal award recognizes and supports all the innovative efforts of the Expanding Frontiers team as we create new models of entrepreneurship tailored for our region and in the context of the trillion-dollar space economy,” Jenet said. “We want to acknowledge all the support from the city of Brownsville and (Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation), which had played a pivotal role in the development of Expanding Frontiers from the very beginning.”

He said the EDA funds will enable Expanding Frontiers to scale up its programs and advance its goals of making Brownsville a hub for “space and energy entrepreneurship” and in the process create new opportunities for students, veterans and entrepreneurs in Brownsville and South Texas.

In October Expanding Frontiers received a $50,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant for its Rockets & Rigs program, which brings together the energy and commercial sectors to identify shared problems and launches start-ups to deal with those problems.

Vela commended Jenet and Expanding Frontiers for working closely with the city, BCIC and the Brownsville Independent School District “to create this outstanding opportunity for our community.”

“I look forward to seeing the lasting impact this program will have on South Texas, and will continue to work to provide exciting opportunities and experiences like this one for the students and entrepreneurs of the 34th District of Texas,” Vela said.