HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. board yesterday approved $150,000 for space company United Launch Alliance for meeting employment goals as part of its deal with the city.
Raudel Garza, chief executive officer of the HEDC, said following a closed-door session ULA had met its requirements under a 2015 agreement.
“They have more than exceeded the status quo which is 120 jobs, and they have 148 jobs out there as of the end of 2016,” Garza said.
“So they maintained those jobs and so that qualified them basically for the $150,000 disbursement.”
ULA is one of the key tenants at Valley International Airport and meeting the employment goals is a positive development following company-wide layoffs of 110 employees in June. Some of those job losses reportedly were at the Harlingen facility, but the specific number of workers laid off here was never disclosed.
At the time, the layoffs indicated ULA was feeling the pressure of competition in the rocket launch industry, with upstarts SpaceX and Blue Origin competing for rocket payloads, often at a much lower price.
Last year CEO Tory Bruno said the company would shed 374 jobs in 2016 and let go another 400 to 500 staffers this year. ULA employs around 3,000 people in all.
“We’re waiting on information from them related to new jobs that have been created over the past year to see whether or not they qualify for a new job-creation grant above the $150,000,” Garza said.
“It depends on whether or not they actually created qualifying positions.”
“They may have created jobs but they may not necessarily qualify all of them, so we’ll have to investigate that,” he added.
ULA, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is developing a new rocket launch vehicle called the Vulcan Centaur which it hopes will be just as reliable as its Delta IV and Atlas V rockets and more economical to operate. It is undergoing testing with the U.S. Air Force and the company hopes to have it operational by 2019.
“The new rocket will offer greater performance than our current fleet of rockets at less than half the historical prices for our customers,” Bruno said last September.
“ULA is going through some changes in the industry, obviously,” Garza said. “They’re bringing out a new rocket and that new rocket is going to have an impact on what we do here in Harlingen.
“Not necessarily in a positive way, sometimes,” he said. “It depends on what they do.”
The board tabled a disbursement for call center Qualfon at the meeting in order to seek more information about their job-creation efforts in 2016. Garza said the board is trying to determine if the new hires at Qualfon were new jobs or were just replacing existing jobs.