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  • Supervisors OK incentives for unique space technology company

    Jan 19, 2016 | Read More News
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    world viewThe Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Jan. 19 to approve an incentives agreement with World View, a commercial balloon spaceflight company, for it to build its world headquarters and first launchpad south of Tucson International Airport in the Sonoran Corridor.

    The innovative Tucson-based company uses high-altitude balloons to launch communications, research and scientific equipment to the stratosphere and even into orbit. It also will be a competitor in the burgeoning space tourism market in which an eight-person sealed capsule will float to the edge of space and provide views of the world only astronauts have seen. However, these space tourists will travel to the edge of space in a much gentler and safer fashion than the violence and inherent danger associated with more conventional rocket launches.

    The company is expected to employ more than 400 employees in the next five years, with average annual salaries greater than $55,000. Phoenix-based Applied Economics Inc. conducted an economic impact study of World View’s proposed operation and the study estimates the company will have a $3.5 billion impact on the local economy over the next 20 years. 
    Other financial impacts stated in the Applied Economics Inc. study include: Indirectly supporting 400 new jobs, with an estimated annual income of $13.5 million; and creating 100 new construction jobs and 50 indirect jobs that would have a one-time impact of $19.5 million.

    "Today’s vote by the Board of Supervisors and World View’s decision to stay and grow their company here is just the beginning for the Sonoran Corridor. And this is just the beginning for thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the Corridor,” said Board Chair Sharon Bronson.

    “Jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what this is all about. They’re why we’ve spent four years planning the Sonoran Corridor and they’re why we are continuing to develop it. It’s not just lines on a map. It’s real and it will transform our local economy and spur growth and prosperity for many, many years to come," she said.

    World View had offers from two of the country’s biggest players in the space industry – New Mexico and Florida. Both states made World View expansive and lucrative offers to entice them away from Tucson. To retain the company, Pima County worked with Sun Corridor Inc., the Arizona Commerce Authority and the city of Tucson to craft an incentive package that was able to compete with New Mexico and Florida.

    The board agreed to:
    • A 20-year lease-purchase agreement for the development of the company’s manufacturing and administrative headquarters in the county’s new Aerospace, Defense and Technology Business and Research Park in the Sonoran Corridor
    • Issue Certificates of Participation not to exceed $15 million for the construction of the company’s headquarters
    • Construct SpacePort Tucson (launchpad) and hire World View as the spaceport’s operator at no cost to the county. 
    • Apply for a grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Aeronautic Division to supplement the funding of the spaceport’s construction
    • And hire Swaim Associates and Barker Morrissey Contracting as the project architect and construction-manager-at-risk, respectively.

    “This is how public-private partnerships are supposed to work,” Bronson said. “World View is getting the help it needs to get off the ground, literally, and Pima County is getting the private investment necessary to bring high-wage jobs to our valley." 

    The World View decision continues a string of successes for the Sonoran Corridor and the county’s Economic Development Plan.

    The plan, first adopted by the board in 2012 and revised significantly in 2015, focuses heavily on developing the Sonoran Corridor as a regional economic catalyst. 

    The Corridor is a 50-square-mile area surrounding the Tucson International Airport that includes some of Pima County’s largest employers, among them Raytheon Missile Systems, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson International Airport, the Port of Tucson, and the University of Arizona Tech Park.

    The area has a unique nexus of rail, highway and air transportation infrastructure that is desirable for a host of industries. The County purchased several hundred acres south of Raytheon in 2012 to protect Raytheon from residential encroachment. That land is now being master planned as the county’s Aerospace, Defense and Technology Business and Research Park for uses compatible with Raytheon’s research and manufacturing operations and to create new jobs in the Sonoran Corridor. World View will be the park’s first tenant. 

    In addition to the World View decision, developments in the Corridor over the past six months include:
    • Its designation by the U.S. Congress as a priority federal highway transportation corridor, a vital prerequisite for consideration of future federal funding of an auxiliary highway connecting Interstates 10 and 19. 
    • Completion of the relocation of Hughes Access Road, now called the Aerospace Parkway
    • Joint planning with Pima Association of Governments, Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration for an environmental Impact study to analyze alternative route options for the auxiliary highway.
    • An historic agreement (made possible by the road relocation) signed last month between Pima County, the city of Tucson, Tucson Airport Authority and Raytheon to establish buffer zones south of Raytheon that not only give Raytheon the safety arcs it needs for its current operations, but also provides space for potential future expansion of the missile manufacturing plant. 
    • The road relocation and the buffer zone agreement have also opened the door for the expansion of Tucson International Airport, specifically the expansion and extension of its second runway.
    “When you have a good plan, good things happen. Today is proof Pima County has an excellent Economic Development Plan,” said District 2 Supervisor Ramón Valadez. “Decisions like the one World View made to reach for the stars from right here in Tucson do not just happen overnight. It takes a vision, it takes a plan, and it takes leadership over many years to lay the groundwork for days like today."

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