McGregor: SpaceX ‘cemented’ in Central Texas with rocket facility announcement, mayor says

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 1:08 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - McGregor leaders are ‘over the moon’ after learning the city will officially be home to another SpaceX facility.

“I think the benefit extends beyond McGregor, I think it extends to the greater McLennan County area,” said Jimmy Hering, Mayor of McGregor. “It’s good for all of us.”

Hering says they heard rumblings about the new Raptor rocket engine factory six months ago, so it wasn’t a total surprise, but they didn’t know anything official until Saturday when Elon Musk tweeted it out.

“We are breaking ground soon on a second Raptor factory at SpaceX Texas test site,” Musk said in the tweet, “It will be the highest output & most advanced rocket engine factory in the world.”

”At that point you figure, well, if Elon says it, then it’s a go,” said Hering. “There were lots of things behind the scenes that we were all aware of, just not an official announcement.”

Hering says it’s going to bring hundreds of jobs--and good ones--to the area.

“They’re going to bring in several hundred people, the jobs are going to pay well, when you talk about manufacturing rocket motors...that’s not something that just occurs every day,” said Hering. “I think the positive impact it will have on us will last for a long time, no question, for the city of McGregor it’s going to throw off property taxes, I think it will assist in our sales tax, and ultimately what we desire is to build a better community for our citizens.”

He also says it cements SpaceX’s status in McLennan County.

”You always hear about, ‘well they’re going to South Texas, are they going to pick up?’, we in McGregor never believed those rumors, but you still hear them,” said Hering. “When they now bring manufacturing to McGregor, I think that is a clear indication that they plan to be here, that we’re part of their home.”

Hering says he’s not sure why they didn’t chose to build the new facility in South Texas, however, he believes McGregor makes more sense logistically.

“You can manufacture and test all in the same place, just a few hundred yards away, so I think the logistics was a huge advantage we had,” said Hering.

However, there’s always the question of the cost to make it “their home”, what will the city and county need to provide?

”Infrastructure, I think that will certainly come up, but I think we’ve done a really good job of preparing for that, we had the water lines in place, sewer lines in place, streets for the most part are already out there, and with SpaceX having been there now for the better part of 20 years, we’ve made most of the arrangements to accommodate them,” said Hering. “There will probably be economic incentives that they ask for from the city or the county, and those are details of the deal that are still going to have to be worked out.”

As for the noise, Hering says SpaceX is working on it.

“It will be noticeable to all of us in that we want notice it as much,” said Hering. “Prior to a year ago, the noise was not anywhere near what it’s been over the past year and that’s because they went from testing the Merlin engines to the Raptor engines.”

Soon, they’re going to start testing the Raptor engines in a vertical position, instead of a horizontal one, he says.

“It’s almost complete, they’re going to dig into the ground, fill it full of concrete, create other buffers, cover it with water, and it’s going to make a huge difference in the sound,” said Hering. “They’re working on it because they care, obviously it’s good for them too, they have their own reasons to test those engines in a different position, but part of it is being mindful of the needs of McGregor and beyond.”

He says SpaceX cares about the community and the people in it, and he’s proof.

“They’ve been so good to McGregor, but also to me personally,” said Hering. “In the Summer of 2017, when they put that sticker of the Rhett Revolution (on a rocket) and sent it up to space, that was a great moment for my wife and I.”

Hering’s son Rhett, 15, who was killed in an ATV accident in 2015, always wanted to make it to outer space.

“Rhett said that was one of the things he always wanted to do, he wanted to go to space,” said Hering. “He didn’t get to do it as an adult, but we got him there in a different fashion.”

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