By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
After six months of work, Pima County has been chosen as the site for a new $15M, 135KSF corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility, with a 700’ launch pad, for space exploration leader World View Enterprises.
World View is a pioneer in the field of suborbital space flight and uses proprietary high altitude balloon technology to launch, guide and safely recover users and equipment. Balloons rise to more than 100,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.
Their approach is touted as safer and less expensive than rocket-based exploration methods, minimizing risk to travelers and research equipment. The company has negotiated contracts with NASA and Northrop Grumman and anticipates demand for commercial applications for communications, surveillance and space tourism, among other outlets.
Dubbed, ‘Project Curvature,’ Pima and the State of Arizona developed a proposal to keep World View in the Tucson area and develop the new space. The proposal was in competition with the Florida Space Coast and New Mexico’s Space Port America.
The county, Tucson, Sun Corridor, Inc. (formerly Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities) and the Arizona Commerce Authority collaborated on an economic development package for the proposal, which World View accepted in December in a notice to the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
Under the plan, the county proposed to construct a 120KSF steel frame light manufacturing facility with a 15KSF mezzanine for office and support operations on 12 acres. In addition, a 700’ launch pad will be developed on 16 acres. The development will be located in the Pima County Aerospace and Defense corridor on the east side of the Nogales Highway along Aerospace Parkway.
The estimated $15M cost for the facility’s construction and equipment will be financed by the county and repaid by World View through annual lease/rent payments over 20 years. The company also has a purchase option. The launch pad will remain a public asset, with World View as priority user.
As part of the planning process, Phoenix-based Applied Economics was contracted to perform an economic and revenue analysis on the project. Under their findings, approximately 160 jobs should be directly or indirectly created as part of the construction process, generating personal income in excess of $6.8M.
World View operations are projected to create new 448 jobs over the next five years, with an average annual income of around $55K. The analysis projects the total 20 year economic impact of World View’s operations to be $3.5B, which would have revenue impacts of $10.7M to Pima County, $5.6M to Tucson and $16.4M to other local governments.
Under the terms of the proposal the facility and launch pad should be completed for move in by November of this year.
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