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Tucson biz leaders blast Goldwater suit over World View

The heads of a number of local business groups are calling on a rightwing lobbying group, the Goldwater Institute, to drop a lawsuit against Pima County over support for World View, the high-altitude technology company. They include the leaders of the Metro Chamber, Sun Corridor, SALC and Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The letter asking the Phoenix-based libertarian group to "reconsider and immediately withdraw its lawsuit" was sent last month.

Pima County has agreed to build a $15 million office and manufacturing facility near Tucson International Airport and Raytheon Missile Systems for World View. The company will pay rent on the plant for two decades, with the county eventually slated to be repaid more than the construction costs and interest, officials have said.

The startup that plans to offer top-dollar balloon rides to the stratosphere as a marquee attraction for what will at base be an operation carrying scientific instruments and communications gear to high altitudes.

"We believe that sound public-private partnerships are critical tools in fostering a strong climate for economic growth and new job creation throughout Arizona. A lawsuit stemming from Pima County’s project with World View Enterprises, Inc. not only could result in Southern Arizona forfeiting a hard fought economic victory but also unnecessarily would call into question our state’s capacity to grow its innovation economy," the letter said.

More from the letter, which was signed by Ron Shoopman of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Mike Varney of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, Steven Zylstra of the Arizona Technology Council, Gonzalo de la Melena of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Joe Snell of Sun Corridor and Michael Keith of the Downtown Tucson Partnership:

The Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit already has negatively impacted Tucson and Southern Arizona. If the suit proceeds, it will further hurt the city, region and entire state at a time when our economy is showing signs of improvement. Winning World View’s nationally competitive site selection process was a major economic feat. By allowing the lawsuit to continue, World View investors will sustain unwarranted uncertainty and future investment will be dampened, which would be catastrophic for Arizona.

Goldwater Institute representative didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

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Last month, the group sued Pima County in an attempt to reverse the deal.

Citing "unlawful expenditures," Goldwater alleged the deal to build a facility and lease it to World View for 20 years violates the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution by extending the county's credit to a private company without a public purpose.

County officials fired back at the suggestion of a suit before it was filed, detailing their stance that the deal is legal, and mocking Goldwater for focusing on the "space-tourism" aspect of World View's operations while not mentioning the expected economic impact of their plans.

The suit maintains that World View plans a "an unproven, for-profit luxury adventure-tourism business" that will be facilitated by the county deal. It was filed by Goldwater on behalf of real estate developer Rich Rogers, 5-Star Pest Control owner Shelby Magnuson-Hawkins (although Goldwater repeatedly misspelled her name), and accountant David Preston.

"No reasonable person would argue that the stratosphere will, in the near future, replace Disneyland as a vacation destination for middle-class families. But providing affordable recreational opportunities for county residents, though a legitimate public purpose, is obviously not the public purpose the county is seeking to further in
its transaction with World View," wrote Regina Nassen, a deputy county attorney, in an April 5 letter to Goldwater's attorney.

"The Board approved the transaction with World View as an economic development initiative," she wrote.

"... It is extremely unlikely that a court would find the Goldwater Institute's claims meritorious should a legal action be brought. We therefore urge you to reconsider your proposed course of action, which would simply waste taxpayer dollars by forcing the county to defend a lawsuit," Nassen wrote.

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A rendering of a World View balloon.