EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Assistant Commerce Secretary for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo visited El Paso Monday to celebrate the $40 million American Rescue Plan grant that the West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Coalition was awarded to strengthen America’s aerospace and defense manufacturing capabilities.

One of the coalition members is the University of Texas at El Paso which was one of 21 schools throughout the county to receive funding for this endeavor. This will allow the university to build better opportunities for students in engineering here in the Borderland where previously they would leave the state for high paying positions, officials said.

“Students want to stay in the region if they can, and by partnering with the local community we can increase opportunities here for not only companies to hire our students but also for students to go out and start companies here, to build companies here that can create wealth here,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said.

Castillo was given a tour of the area used for the grant and she expressed how El Paso can soon be at the center of the West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Coalition.

“Because the West Texas Coalition was one of the winners, it is on the path to be that epicenter for aerospace and defense manufacturing and industry that is not only very needed but an industry that is incorporating a lot technology and innovation,” she said.

For students like Amanda Borgaro, this will create a new set of opportunities in El Paso. She is excited to see what is to come and the generations of people who want to be in engineering.

“I’m excited to see the growth. I’ve grown up here seeing engineering students go to UTEP and graduate, then leave. I’m excited to get to teach a younger generation and see them stay and familiar faces and just a growing community.”

Officials also say this will also grow local manufacturing companies on a larger scale — ones like TNT Towing, which will be able to provide jobs for students and allow them to stay here in the Borderland.

“My company will grow and I will be able to hire on a lot more people especially that this is the whole purpose of keeping UTEP students in town and bringing them on board that together we can make that impact,” said Tommy Rios, with TNT Towing.

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