KGUN 9News


Pima Supes appeal to keep space balloon deal afloat

Goldwater Institute won ruling against incentives
Posted at 6:51 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 20:51:53-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's a company that gives Pima County a stake in space tourism and commercial space flight.
Now Pima County Government is ready to fight a court ruling that could kill the incentives to keep World View Enterprises here.
World View is best known for its plan to use balloons to fly tourists to the edge of space but it uses updated balloon technology to fly payloads for science and the military too.  But a lawsuit ruling hinges on whether the County's offer is legitimate economic development or so generous it's an illegal gift.
Besides taking tourists to the edge of space---for $75,000 a ride, Worldview uses other balloon technology to keep military hardware and scientific instruments over specific spots for months at a time.
Looking at a projected $25 Million payroll for Worldview, the county built the company a large processing building and launch pad and offered the company lease incentives.
The company is to pay $675 thousand per year to start, rising to $1.6 million towards the end of a 20 year lease with the option to own the building at year 20.
The County says state law calls that legitimate economic development.
The conservative Goldwater Institute says other law calls that a deal is so sweet it's an illegal gift.  A judge sided with the Institute.
World View has actually been in the new building south of Tucson International since late December, so more than a month and a half now.  If this court ruling stands, Pima County could be forced to appraise the building and land and put it out for bids, put that lease out for bids at market rate.
Tuesday, County Supervisors voted three to two to appeal.  Supervisor Ally Miller always opposed the incentives as an illegal gift.  New supervisor Steve Christy wants to resolve the dispute without more time in court.  
Ted Maxwell, the President of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council says he's not taking a side on appealing or not but thinks the County can help Worldview stay even if the County does not win in court.
"We need to continue to take the opportunity to reach out to companies, including companies like Worldview and say we're here to support you and there are ways to go about doing that."> 
Meanwhile World View says it's just working on growing its business and is not even part of the lawsuit.