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Elon Musk announces big 'Starbase, Texas' donation, sparking speculation that the Austin area may be next
(Bob Daemmrich)

Multihyphenated and self-appointed "Technoking of Tesla" Elon Musk is adding philanthropist to his resume.

The Tesla CEO and recent Texas transplant tweeted Tuesday that he will be donating $20 million to school districts in Cameron County, where he is attempting to incorporate the new city of Starbase, and $10 million to the city of Brownsville, where his aerospace company SpaceX has a launch facility. The announcement begs the question: Will the Austin area be the next recipient of his generosity?


Outside of the Rio Grande Valley, Musk's other company Tesla is building a $1.1 billion Gigafactory in southeast Travis County that is due to open by the end of the year. He announced the project last summer, after a competitive selection process that saw Del Valle ISD and Travis County offer the company tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates for building the factory in their jurisdictions.

In addition to announcing the donations, Musk urged people to consider moving to the Brownsville area because of SpaceX's hiring needs in a series of tweets Monday. His donation plan seems to be in service of making the region more attractive to the engineers, technicians and builders his company desires.

Although the Austin metro may be more of an established destination than Brownsville, especially among those taking part in the so-called Texodus from California, cities like Del Valle could be the next donee.

The enigmatic entrepreneur has faced criticism for seeking tax incentives from government entities, including vulnerable school districts. Nearly 85% of DVISD's student population is economically disadvantaged, according to the latest district snapshot provided by the Texas Education Agency. Brownsville ISD, one of 10 school districts in Cameron County, has a similar profile: 88.5% of its students are economically disadvantaged.

Musk recently surpassed Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, as the wealthiest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. His net worth is estimated to be $188.5 billion, of which his $30 million donation would be around 0.00016% of his worth.

Such donations could possibly improve his reputation in addition to supporting his business goals in Brownsville. If it works there, Musk may be incentivized to do the same in the Austin area, where Tesla is just one of his companies that has recently established a presence in the metro.

SpaceX will break ground on a new "state-of-the-art manufacturing facility" in Austin related to its broadband Starlink project, according to the company's latest job postings.

Starlkink is a forthcoming high-speed, low latency broadband internet system enabled by a "constellation of low Earth orbit satellites" and well suited for populations with little or not connectivity, such as rural areas, according to the SpaceX website.

The Austin factory will manufacture consumer products, such as Starlink dishes, Wi-Fi routers and mounting hardware. It remains unclear where in Austin the factory will be located.

In addition, the Boring Company, a tunneling venture, and Neuralink, Musk's "Fitbit in your skull" startup, have also recently expanded to the capital city.

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