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Pima Supervisors approve spaceport incentives

Posted at 7:41 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 21:41:24-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tucson is a tourism center.  But Tuesday Pima County Supervisors made a move to help Tucson become a space tourism center.
County leaders approved a deal to spend about 15 million dollars on a piece of land for a Tucson company that's preparing to use sophisticated balloons to carry tourists to the edge of space.  
The company will lease the land in a deal the county administrator says should make a profit for taxpayers in the long run. 
Instead of a short, roaring ride on a rocket.  Worldview will float tourists to the edge of the space in a comfortable, pressurized gondola.
They can stay up several hours, then a pilot will use a steerable parachute to bring them to Earth.
The price per person: $75,000 but Worldview Enterprises says about half its business will be flying missions for NASA or the Defense Department.
Jane Poynter of Worldview says, “Some of those might be to provide communication for troops in areas where they currently don't have them which is of course incredibly important for their safety and coordinated efforts."
The company plans some projects with Raytheon.  The agreement calls for Pima County to sell about 15 million dollars in bonds to buy land near Raytheon.  Worldview would build balloons and launch them there.
Supervisors and business boosters hope World View would be the first of many businesses for a tech business park around Raytheon.
Worldview wants to be operating from the site in about ten months.  
Supervisor Ally Miller voted no after questioning the rush to push through the plan.
She said, "Noon on Friday, folks, I was given the information to vote on this. Not even five days and it appears, I'd like to know, who knew about this for nine months, six to nine months."
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says county staff worked in secrecy for competitive reasons.  
Taber McCallum of Worldview says existing spaceports in Florida and New Mexico were bidding on Worldview's business but because the company's founders view Tucson as home they were happy to bring the business here.
McCallum says World View has private investors and could have been financed by them alone but he feels it's important for a community like Tucson to show the world it's willing to invest in businesses that look towards the future.
Target date for the first tourist flight---the end of next year.