PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA– Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul E. Tang Feb. 22 ruled Pima County complied with the Arizona Constitution’s “Gift Clause” law when it provided economic incentives to World View in 2016 to retain the company in Pima County. World View is a high-altitude balloon technology company headquartered south of the Tucson International Airport.
The ruling is the last remaining portion of a lawsuit first filed in April 2016 by the conservative Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute. The institute claimed in its suit that, in addition to violating the state’s gift clause, the County had also failed to follow state procurement rules, and failed to follow state law governing leases of public property. The County has prevailed in each part of the case, either in Superior Court or at the Court of Appeals. Goldwater appeals to the state Supreme Court, where a former Goldwater chief counsel is a member, have twice been rebuffed.
“I hope this is the end and the Goldwater Institute doesn’t further waste more of its donors’ money on this specious, politically motivated lawsuit,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson. “We were very careful to comply with the law when drafting this agreement with World View, as court ruling after court ruling after court ruling has proven.”
“While Goldwater has played games in court, World View has continued to grow and expand, bringing more than 130 good-paying jobs to the County and helping solidify Pima County as one of the nation’s key centers of aerospace technology, innovation and manufacturing,” Bronson said.
Pima County entered into an economic development agreement with World View in January 2016. New Mexico and Florida both offered World View incentives, which was ready to transition from the development phase to manufacturing and service delivery.
The company had pending contracts and needed a manufacturing facility as soon as possible. New Mexico and Florida were offering ready-made facilities; however, the Tucson region had no facilities available that would meet the company’s needs. The region’s business community asked Pima County to explore options to retain this growing company and the potentially hundreds of high-paying jobs.
Pima County agreed to the unique incentive package, building a headquarters and manufacturing facility that met World View’s needs, then leasing the building to World View over 20 years, with the lease rates increasing over time until equaling market rate. World View in turn had agreed to remain in Pima County and provide up to 400 high-paying jobs by the end of the term, with the first 100 jobs filled within the first four years of the deal. So far, World View is in compliance with the incentive package.
The building and nearby launchpad cost roughly $15 million to build. At the end of the 20-year term, World View will have paid the County nearly $25 million in leasing fees, more than compensating County taxpayers for their investment.
Judge Tang, in an exhaustive 25-page ruling, reviewed the agreement in great detail and concluded the County met the standard for the Gift Clause as defined by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2010 in a case known as Turken v. Gordon.
World View Lawsuit Timeline:
- January 2016: Board of Supervisors approve economic incentive agreement for World View
- April 2016: Goldwater Institute sues Pima County
- April 2017: Superior Court enters judgment in favor of Goldwater on the lease-statute issue
- December 2017: Arizona Court of Appeals reverses trial court, ruling in favor of County on the lease-statute issue
- August 2018: AZ Supreme Court denies Goldwater’s petition for review of the ruling on the lease-statute issue
- September 2018: Superior Court enters judgment in favor of County on procurement issues
- October 2019: Court of Appeals rules that Goldwater’s claim regarding the procurement issues was moot
- April 2020: AZ Supreme Court denies Goldwater’s petition for review of the procurement issue
- January 2021: Superior Court enters judgment in favor of County on Gift Clause issue