KEDC chief talks new role, opportunities

From the Kerrville Daily Times, November 2018


Gil Salinas said he could talk for hours about economic development.

“I’m an economic development nerd,” he said. “I really found my match in my career and what I enjoy doing, and that is fostering and creating opportunities. We’re not giving people jobs or businesses money, we’re creating opportunities across all aspects.”

Salinas, who lives in Brownsville, will be moving to Kerrville to take a job as the chief operating officer for the Kerrville Economic Development Corporation.

He has more than 12 years of experience in economic development.

“In the first half of my economic development career, the focus was on larger companies coming into the region, then I started moving on smaller homegrown projects, then I worked with Space X in the aerospace sector,” he said.

His job focused on economic development in 20 miles of the Brownsville area, including the Mexico/U.S. border and South Padre Island.

With Space X, Salinas worked with Elon Musk on the development of a ground tracking station for space vehicles.

The $20 million project supports a private rocket launch site and also provides incubator space for entrepreneurs.

“The only thing I knew about it was what I saw in Star Wars. So I had to learn the ins and outs of it, meeting with Elon himself several times in negotiations of a deal,” he said.

But that’s the nature of the beast, Salinas said.

“In economic development, you have to be open to adapting and nimble, and learning all these different projects,” he said.

In 2011, Salinas was appointed by Gov. Gregg Abbot to the Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee.

The move to Kerrville is the next step in his career, Salinas said.

“My oldest son is in UT Austin and second son is looking at colleges and will end up in central Texas, so we knew we were going to move,” he said.

About six months ago, Salinas and his wife decided to move to central Texas, and Kerrville came up as an option.

“It seemed like a small market, but the more I did research, I realized that Kerrville’s area is a lot bigger than on paper. Its assets rival cities of 100,000. And that attracted me — tools and assets in place to really work on a special project.”

The city’s proximity to San Antonio and Austin makes it ripe for new development, Salinas said.

“It’s a strategic position to capture that industry or companies looking to move, but don’t want to be in the big city,” he said.

And the city’s new leadership also could make way for new opportunities, Salinas said.

“There’s brand new leadership across the board, and when that happens, it’s an opportunity to start with a new team,” he said.

Salinas will start this month.

“Those in economic development have to understand all three sides — home-grown products and be well versed in government and private sector, and convene all those three and manage discussions,” he said. “At the top of the pyramid is that project you’re going after.”