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Mike Copeland: Aerospace spotlight; BU entrepreneurship; Cafe Homestead dinner; Amazon potential

Mike Copeland: Aerospace spotlight; BU entrepreneurship; Cafe Homestead dinner; Amazon potential

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Kudos to the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce for its “Aerospace Issue,” a recent publication examining the area’s dynamic aviation industry.

Profiles of L3Harris, Freeflight Systems and Blackhawk were informative, as was Kris Collins’ detailed examination of the three Waco-area airports — Waco Regional, TSTC and McGregor Executive — and the economic ripples they create. Collins’ day job, by the way, is recruiting industry as the senior vice president for economic development at the Waco chamber.

Jessica Attas, vice president of public policy at the chamber, reminds us McLennan County has its own Spaceport Development Corp., for which the chamber provides staffing. Its ultimate goal is launching a spacecraft by assisting with research, testing, training and infrastructure improvements.

This is not a mission reeking of pie in the sky. Remember, the county is home to a SpaceX rocket-testing facility employing several hundred. Waco and McLennan County in early summer pledged $2 million to assist SpaceX with $10 million in upgrades. Work includes installing noise-squelching systems.

According to the magazine issue, the community is home to more than 40 aerospace and aviation-related companies. The local Greater Waco Aviation Alliance has awarded almost $200,000 in scholarships to high school and college students, with priority given to those from military families.

Small Business Administration visit

An appointee of President Donald Trump, Justin Crossie, will lead a Small Business Administration delegation to Waco on Tuesday. He and the administration’s Dallas-Fort Worth district director, Herbert Austin, will meet with Waco City Manager Bradley Ford, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce President Matt Meadors, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber President Alfred Solano and Cen-Tex African American Chamber Vice President Rachel Pate.

Their roundtable discussion will start at 11 a.m. at the Greater Waco Chamber offices downtown, Small Business Administration spokesperson Ahmad Goree said.

Before the meeting, Crossie and Austin will visit RAM Aircraft at Waco Regional Airport. The company, which sells aviation fuel and performs engine services, received a $940,000 loan from Community Bank & Trust as part of the Small Business Administration-administered Paycheck Protection Program, Goree said.

The pandemic-related assistance allowed RAM to keep its 85 employees, he said. According to a press release, 271 Waco small businesses were approved for Paycheck Protection Program loans between $150,000 and $10 million, saving 16,514 jobs.

Baylor $1.5M grant

Baylor University will receive a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce “to support entrepreneurship, acceleration of company growth, and increased access to risk capital,” according to a press release.

Baylor is among 52 organizations nationally to share $35 million awarded through the Commerce Department’s “Build to Scale” program.

Grantees were selected from a pool of more than 600 applications and represent “exemplary innovation and entrepreneurship from rural and urban areas across America,” Economic Development Administration chief Dana Gartzke said in the press release. The Economic Development Administration falls under the authority of the Commerce Department.

Recipients will leverage $44 million in matching funds from other sources.

Cafe Homestead

Cafe Homestead has opened for dinner, general manager Andrew Taylor said.

The restaurant is at 608 Dry Creek Road, between Gholson Road and the Brazos River, anchoring the village known as Homestead Heritage.

“We’ve held bi-monthly dinner events for a number of years now, and since COVID-19 we’ve had many people request that we do another one,” Taylor said by email. “However, instead of doing a dinner event, we’ve decided to begin serving dinner on a regular basis Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. … The cuisine is what we’re known for already: elevated farm-fresh American food.”

Minority business aid

A fund to assist small minority-owned businesses is picking up steam, with Baylor University and TFNB Your Bank for Life donating $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, according to the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce.

A check-presentation ceremony recently was held at TFNB Your Bank for Life’s new downtown location. Representing the chamber at the event was Rachel Pate, who serves as vice president of economic development.

The chamber considers TFNB a “prominent partner” in championing opportunities for businesses, residents and neighborhoods of color, Pate said in a press release. TFNB, McGregor based with Greater Waco locations, has announced it will open a branch on Elm Avenue.

The chamber and the Center of Business Excellence hope to raise $100,000 to assist minority-owned businesses locally. TFNB is administering the fund, and has pledged to match donations up to $10,000. Gifts are tax deductible and earmarked to provide grants and microloans up to $2,500.

Local ‘State of the Nation’

The public is welcome to join a virtual “2020 State of the Nation” broadcast Monday. Participants in the event sponsored by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce include noted economist Ray Perryman, Neil Bradley with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores.

Access the live program at noon by visiting wacochamber.com.

Amazon potential

Rumors, speculation and building permits continue to swirl that suggest Amazon could occupy an almost 1 million-square-foot building planned on 93 acres at 2000 Exchange Parkway. Prevailing wisdom suggests it would serve as a fulfillment or distribution center for Amazon.

In that vein, Bloomberg recently published a story suggesting Amazon will build 1,000 to 1,500 smaller delivery hubs around the country. They “will bring products closer to customers, making shopping online about as fast as a quick run to the store,” said the news story. “It will also help the world’s largest e-commerce company take on resurgent Walmart Inc.”

According to Bloomberg, the hubs would cover 200,000 square feet, making them much smaller than the typical Amazon fulfillment center.


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