Plans to build a manufacturing and office center for a local startup company can begin in earnest now that the Pima County Board of Supervisors gave final approval Tuesday.
Over the objection of Supervisor Ally Miller, the board approved a financing plan for World View, a local company that manufactures helium-filled balloons and capsules that carry people and scientific payloads into low orbit.
The board approved the $15 million Certificates of Participation, or COPs, financing plan with little discussion, having debated an initial lease contract extensively in January.
“We need to do this responsibly, and I think this is responsible,” Supervisor Sharon Bronson said.
The financing plan bundles the $15 million in COPs with others to pay for a sewer project and a refinancing of existing debt from the county’s purchase of the Bank of America Building downtown.
This type of governmental debt financing doesn’t require voter approval, the way a general obligation bond would.
County officials said additional taxes will not be required to pay off the debt.
The county plans to build a 120,000-square-foot facility and launch pad on a county-owned parcel on the newly completed Aerospace Parkway south of Tucson International Airport, which World View would lease for a term of 20 years. Lease payments over that time would total more than $23 million.
World View has agreed to certain performance benchmarks as well, with plans to expand to 400 workers and pay 150 percent of the median salary for the region.
The company has said it secured numerous contracts for its services with NASA, research universities and private sector companies. In addition, World View charges individuals $75,000 each for rides on its aircraft.
Accelerate contract also approved
The Board of Supervisors also approved a one-year contract extension for Accelerate Diagnostics, which leases office and laboratory space in the county health complex near Kino Sports Complex on Ajo Way.
Accelerate leases an entire floor of the county’s health building and pays monthly payments totaling nearly $75,000.
As part of an agreement to bring the company here in 2013, the county agreed to build out more than $1 million of laboratory space and provide below-market value lease rates.
The rent has since been increased to market value and the company has paid for expanded laboratory space.
Miller questioned whether the company should still be considered a startup and eligible for county support.
“When you have done an IPO (initial public offering) and have raised $106 million, I would say it’s time to move out of the taxpayers’ space,” Miller said.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the company could extend its lease until 2019, after which the county would no longer consider the company a startup.
By that time, Huckelberry said, the $2 million the county invested in improvements to the facility and other incentives would have been more than paid off, with Accelerate paying more than $3.1 million in lease payments.
In addition, the company will have grown from 10 to 200 employees with average salaries of nearly $80,000 annually.
The lease extension received unanimous approval.