Burnet County Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle (center) snips the ribbon on a new rocket component manufacturing facility at Firefly Aerospace in Briggs. Beierle is flanked by Firefly Government Relations Specialist Alec Bohlman (far left), Firefly Director of Government Relations Stephen McCall, Firefly co-founder Eric Salwan, Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd, Firefly Chief Operating Officer Dan Fermon, Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long, U.S. House of Representatives 31st District Chief of Staff August Alvarado, Burnet County Chief Deputy Alan Trevino, Yokogawa Space business strategist Hunter Lahasky, Yokogawa sales Director Kevin Blum, and Firefly Vice President of Production Justin Siebert. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
Burnet County Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle snipped the ribbon on a new 12,500-square-foot rocket component manufacturing facility in northeast Burnet County on May 18. The latest addition to Firefly Aerospace will make larger, more advanced rocket parts for the company’s space vehicles.
Firefly, which is headquartered in Cedar Park, has a 200-acre factory and testing facility just outside of Briggs with over 200 employees. The spacecraft manufacturing company works on a massive scale, fulfilling contracts with the U.S. Space Force, NASA, and Northrop Grumman.
The new Briggs addition has 40-foot ceilings to accommodate the enormous proportions of the components being manufactured and the necessary equipment to build them.
“The equipment needed to machine those components literally wouldn’t fit in our existing building,” said Firefly Chief Operating Officer Dan Fermon.
Firefly officials invited Commissioner Beierle, Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd, and Chief Deputy Alan Trevino on a recent tour of the facility to learn about its projects, plans, and impact. Also in attendance were Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long, U.S. House of Representatives 31st District Deputy Chief of Staff August Alvarado, and representatives from the international manufacturing firm Yokogawa.
Beierle was asked to cut the ribbon in honor of his quick action during an ice storm in February. The site nearly lost power while important testing for its Space Force contract was underway. Beierle contacted the factory’s power supplier, Oncore, and had electricity to the site stabilized so testing could be completed.
Fermon said the commissioner’s assistance during the storm was crucial.
“With the power loss that we went through here, (Beierle’s) ability to help with the power authorities was vital,” the chief operating officer told DailyTrib.com. “We had a lot of activity that was critical for the current Space Force mission that we have going on. He played a huge role in our ability to do that with speed.”
The Briggs site is the primary testing location for Firefly’s equipment. Currently, four test sites are in operation at the location with a fifth on the way. While rockets aren’t actually launched in Briggs — that takes place in California — the engines go through testing exercises, which require them to be fired — loudly.
As a result, Beierle has had to straddle a fine line between representing his constituents in Briggs and the testing site.
“I want to help bridge the gap and make sure there’s communication on both sides,” he said. “They raise a lot of concerns with the constituents.”
Some of those concerns have been alleviated, Beierle said. The facility stopped testing after dark when residents complained about the noise. Fears over water conservation were also addressed. Firefly’s monthly water usage is about nine times the amount of one household, according to Fermon. Water is recycled rather than dumped, and the facility is working on a rainwater-harvesting program.
“They’re open to ideas, and they’re open to conversations,” Beierle said. “It seems like they’re rooting here, they’re investing here, and they’re developing an industry that Burnet County can be proud of.”