A coalition led by the City of El Paso and The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has been awarded $40 million to develop regional advanced manufacturing infrastructure to support the aerospace and defense industries.
The award is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 Billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
From the award, $25 million will fund the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing District, an industrial park to be built on 250 acres of land provided by the City adjacent to El Paso International Airport.
The grant also provides $15 million to UTEP for the creation of an Aerospace and Defense Innovation Network for Manufacturers to support small and medium-sized manufacturers and advanced manufacturing startups in West Texas.
“This award will supercharge our efforts to make El Paso a national leader in advanced manufacturing,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson. “This sort of award only happens when you have a region working together, so we are very grateful for our partnership with the City of El Paso and the rest of the coalition who developed this grant proposal.”
“The City of El Paso is excited to begin this transformative economic development jobs program. Being at the forefront of technological advancements in manufacturing will make us globally competitive while keeping our talent in El Paso by creating high-paying jobs,” said City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “We have been developing this program through our partnership with UTEP as well as our local, state, and in particular our federal partners led by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.”
The West Texas Aerospace and Defense Coalition includes UTEP, the City of El Paso, the County of El Paso, the El Paso Chamber, Workforce Solutions Borderplex and the Rio Grande Council of Governments.
More than $80 million has been committed to this Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing initiative. In addition to the EDA grant, the City will contribute nearly $42 million in cash and in-kind contributions, the County of El Paso will contribute $1.875 million, The University of Texas System Regents will contribute $1 million, and UTEP will seek a $5 million appropriation from the Texas State Legislature.
“This opportunity translates to a variety of advantages for the City of El Paso, especially from an economic perspective. We’re talking about thousands of job opportunities that will be added to the thousands the City has already created,” said Sam Rodriguez, City of El Paso Chief Operations Officer. “It will also help in growing existing businesses related to the industry, local businesses, and increasing our overall quality of life. It truly is a momentous occasion for our region and everyone who will benefit from it.”
The coalition proposal to the EDA was led by Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., associate vice president and founding director of the UTEP Aerospace Center, and Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., executive director and founder of UTEP’s W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation. The Innovation Network will facilitate access for manufacturers to applied research from both the Aerospace Center and the Keck Center.
“Leveraging the research preeminence, expertise and talent pipeline of the Aerospace and Keck centers, we will work with small and medium manufacturers and startups to make them more competitive and to earn new customers in aerospace and defense markets,” Choudhuri said. “Our nation can’t remain competitive if we don’t expand prosperity to every community, to every ZIP code and every demographic. West Texas has the talent, the research capabilities and a strong and nimble manufacturing base that will be the foundation of our success.”
The Advanced Manufacturing District will be purpose-built with the physical, digital and cyberinfrastructure needed for small and medium manufacturers and startups to compete for aerospace and defense business.