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Congresswoman Escobar Announces Coalition Led by UTEP’s Aerospace Center Has Been Awarded $40 million as a Winner for the Department of Commerce’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) proudly announced the West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Coalition, led by the University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) renowned Aerospace Center, has been awarded $40 million as a winner of the Department of Commerce’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge

Managed by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and funded by the American Rescue Plan, the Build Back Better Regional Challenge was developed to help regional economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic and address economic disparities and inequality in communities across the nation. 

Projects funded as part of this $40 million award include the creation of the El Paso Makes Advanced Manufacturing District, where firms can co-locate with research and innovation assets while also benefiting from the physical and cybersecurity infrastructure required to participate in the A&D market. Additional funding will expand access to a suite of services for local manufacturers and workers to create reliable on-ramps into A&D supply chains. This funding will also be used to establish the West Texas Advanced Technology Corridor. Rural communities from El Paso to Culberson County will have an opportunity to be part of an exciting expansion of space exploration and have their traditionally underserved residents connected to high-paying, high-tech jobs that would not require relocation to bigger cities. 

“This funding is an exciting and transformative investment in El Paso’s future and a reshaping of our economic landscape going forward,” said Congresswoman Escobar.  “I’m absolutely thrilled for UTEP and the rest of the West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Coalition and I know this investment will expedite our community’s goal to be an Aerospace and Defense manufacturing leader. I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of this program, even before my time in Congress. I’ve been honored to facilitate conversations at every level of government, including with Secretary of Commerce Raimondo, and to uplift UTEP’s work and funding requests through my position on the House Armed Services Committee. As the only federal elected official in the region to vote for the American Rescue Plan, I'm proud of this legislation, which invests in El Paso, our talented UTEP faculty and students, our innovative manufacturers, and our talented workforce within the rapidly growing aerospace industry. I’m grateful to the dedicated leadership of UTEP, especially Dr. Ahsan Choudhuri and President Heather Wilson, grateful to the coalition for its commitment, and I’m proud of the community unity we’re demonstrating to quickly transform El Paso into a formidable player in the national security realm.”

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge provides bold investments in local economies to create good-paying jobs, catalyze emerging industries, and prepare our workforce for the future,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Coalition will strengthen a critical technology and innovation sector that will ensure U.S. global competitiveness for decades to come.” 

The West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Coalition is one of 21 winners – chosen from an original applicant pool of 529 – that will receive awards between $25 and $65 million to implement an average of six projects that together will enable each region's economic transformation and competitiveness. 

“This investment by the EDA allows our West Texas region with a population that is 82% Latino and 24% rural to capture our fair share of American prosperity,” said Dr. Ahsan Choudhuri, Associate Vice President, Director, Aerospace Center and principal investigator of this proposal. “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.”

“This is incredible news and demonstrates the power of a creative, collaborative and completely unified approach among all community leaders in economic development efforts for this community,” said Mayor Oscar Leeser. “This grant will be transformational for El Paso and completely revitalize our economic landscape going forward.  Thank you to Congresswoman Escobar and all our partners who worked so hard on this successful effort. I am thrilled and exhilarated for El Paso’s future.” 

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge Grant, the talent flowing from UTEP and the support that is forming around cutting-edge innovation for the aerospace and defense industry will transform our region’s economy,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego said. “Six years ago, El Paso County partnered with UTEP to create a research and development platform at our Fabens Airport that is now a thriving focal point for aerospace innovation. Winning the Build Back Better Regional Challenge means we can accelerate the growth of this industry that creates game-changing skillsets and good-paying jobs. It means that the people of El Paso can pursue dreams as big and as wondrous as the universe that we are helping to explore.”

“Congresswoman Escobar has championed funding for the single most transformative economic development initiative in our City’s history,” said City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “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.” 

Learn more about the Build Back Better Regional Challenge here.  

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