On May 25th the Wall Street Journal published an article by Goldwater Institute board chairman Eric Crown that was highly critical of Pima County’s economic investment with WorldView. I, along with Holualoa Companies CEO Michael Kasser, sent the paper a letter to the editor in response, but it was not published.
We feel that it is very important that Pima County residents hear both sides of this story.
Chair Bronson, Holualoa CEO respond to Wall Street Journal column
May 31, 2016
The Wall Street Journal published a guest column May 25 by Goldwater Institute board chairman Eric Crown that was critical of the county’s agreement with World View, a local space technology firm. Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson and Holualoa Companies CEO Michael Kasser sent the paper a letter to the editor in response, but it was not published. The column has had wide distribution locally online and on social media. To provide another side to the story, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has requested the letter be published on the county website and on social media.
By Sharon Bronson, Chair Pima County Board of Supervisors
and Michael Kasser, CEO of Holualoa Companies
As Chair of the Pima County, Arizona Board of Supervisors and as an active member of the local and state business community, we would like your readers to learn the rest of the story that Goldwater Institute Chairman Eric Crown omitted from his May 25 guest column “When Taxpayers Carry All the Risk.”
World View is a much more robust company than Mr. Crown let on. Private space travel is only a fraction of World View’s business model. It also is a leader in commercial high-altitude flight and routinely carries commercial and scientific payloads to near-space for organizations such as NASA.
The company has introduced an innovative new technology platform that has long been sought after in the space community – the ability for long-duration persistent flight over specific areas of interest (think geo-stationary satellites that operate in the stratosphere via high-altitude balloon, rather than in orbit via rocket delivery) that will significantly increase access to space while reducing the cost.
Pima County’s Economic Development team vetted the company and verified that it was ready to take off, figuratively as well as literally.
Pima County faced the real prospect of World View taking its innovative company and hundreds of high-paying jobs to another state. Both New Mexico and Florida were offering lucrative proposals. Pima County had a choice; wave goodbye to World View as it packed up and moved out of Michael Kassertown, or work with the company to craft an agreement that was fair to its needs and to county taxpayers.
The county bet on World View. The risk, which concerns Mr. Crown, is real, but we believe it to be minimal. This is no fly-by-night company. This company’s leadership team includes a vaunted team of scientists, engineers and astronauts. Chief Scientist and co-founder Alan Stern, one of the team leaders of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, was just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Besides former astronaut Mark Kelly, former astronaut Ron Garan is also part of company leadership.
This agreement gives Pima County and the State of Arizona a foothold in the fast growing multi-billion dollar space market; and we expect the company’s high profile will pull in other similar high-wage space-related companies and build on the jobs World View will be adding to our economy. An independent economic impact analysis of the World View agreement estimated the company would have a nearly $3 billion economic impact over the term of the agreement. As we see it, investing $20 million to potentially get $3 billion is a pretty good return on investment. Moreover, over the 20 years of the agreement, World View will pay taxpayers $4 million more than what it will cost the county to construct the facilities World View needs.
As for the legality of the agreement, we fully expect the court to rule in our favor. If state law was as cut and dry as Mr. Crown implied, then one would have expected the Goldwater Institute, which he leads, to have filed multiple lawsuits against the state of Arizona after it handed out more than $300 million in incentives, much of it cash, to companies large and small over the past four years.
Today, we are in a global economy where competition rules the day and partnerships are the norm. Successful partnerships between the private sector and government must be encouraged to give this nation, state and region the best opportunity for success. Economic sector isolationism as encouraged by Mr. Crown will only lead to failure and economic loss.