Aerospace firm eyes Cove, Coryell County

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press 

Coryell County officials passed a resolution on Monday that gives the thumbs-up to offering economic incentives to a company that’s considering the construction of rocket manufacturing facility in Coryell County. 
The company is Austin-based Firefly Aerospace, which has its research and development facility near Briggs, approximately 20 miles southwest of Copperas Cove. Firefly designs and builds rockets for the small-to-medium satellite market.
Coryell County judge John Firth, who has been among those having discussions with Firefly reps, said if the company constructs a manufacturing center in the county, it would be a great opportunity for all involved. 
Firth said a huge benefit to the company, should they build and open a facility in the area, is that nearby Fort Hood generates thousands of hardworking military personnel each year as they leave the service, and they have a combination of traits and skills that would be helpful to support such a manufacturing facility, not to mention the nearby schools of higher education, like Central Texas College, which could provide tailored training based on the company’s needs. 
In a conversation with the Leader-Press on Wednesday, Firth specifically discussed The Narrows Business & Technology Park in Copperas Cove as a possible location for the facility. The Narrows reportedly is being looked at as a possible site as well as sites in two other states. 
If a facility is constructed in The Narrows, it could ultimately create nearly 200 jobs with an average $70,000 per year salary as a boost to the local economy and job market. 
Given the proximity of The Narrows to I-14 and the employment pool of Fort Hood soldiers and local veterans, such a facility could be a win-win for the Copperas Cove and Coryell County economies, as well as the greater Fort Hood area offering a low cost of living and high quality of life for the company’s potential employees. 
According to the Coryell County resolution approved on Monday, Coryell County could offer Firefly Aerospace a 381 tax abatement, along with future tax incentives. Those details would need to be hammered out, should the company go forward with setting up shop in Coryell County.
The incentives would also be contingent upon Firefly’s decision to construct a manufacturing facility in Coryell County, according to the resolution.
Firth likened the 381 agreement to the one the county entered into for the Five Hills Shopping Center, which was opened in 2013 and just north of The Narrows. 
Other possible economic advantages for the aerospace firm include the Federal government program that supports Opportunity Zones, Firth said. 
Created in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones are designed to drive long-term capital into low-income communities across the nation, using tax incentives to encourage private investment into designated census tracts through privately- or publicly-managed investment funds.
There are four such tracts in Coryell County, with The Narrows in close proximity to at least one of those tracts. 
Although Firth was quite open in discussing the possible opportunity with the aerospace firm, Copperas Cove officials have their discussions behind closed doors regarding the details of any economic development incentive offers with any company. 
For the past several Copperas Cove city council meetings, the council has held executive sessions to discuss possible economic incentive offers regarding a project called “Project Glow.” 
During its Nov. 20 meeting, the Copperas Cove city council held another executive session and emerged to approve an incentive offer to be submitted for “Project Glow.” The same goes for the board of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation. Most recently, during its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, the Copperas Cove EDC board also approved that same incentive offer to be submitted. 
The EDC board also discussed another project in closed session on Wednesday, “Project Etch”, which had gone cold but is now an active prospect once again. 
The EDC leadership and its board have also been mum regarding the identity of the company tied to Project Glow, but the EDC has been preparing The Narrows for future development by authorizing the recent clearing and grubbing of more than 60 acres of The Narrows property which is shovel-ready. 

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