World View crashes?


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Capitalism in space: The hi-tech high-altitude balloon company World View has failed to meet its commitments in its local development deal and has changed leadership.

Pima County’s supervisors approved a ballsy deal with World View amid fanfare, criticism and a ginned-up lawsuit the county won. The county would build World View a headquarters and a launch pad for the balloons. The company would pay rent on the facilities and repay the county for its end, plus a guarantee of escalating its local workforce to 100 by the end of 2018, 200 by 2022 and 400 by 2032.

Three years on, there’s been a catastrophic explosion and a leadership change as World View’s promise of “Jobs!” Jobs! Jobs!” has turned into “eh … jobs …” The company has a staff of 87. That’s 13 fewer than what was promised in the contract. Because World View refused to make public its internal growth projections, the county approved the deal after its own study predicted the company would hire pushing 400 workers by now.

The company had started out casting itself as a tourist operation, offering people multi-hour high-altitude flights for far less than the suborbital rocket companies. In 2017 the company quietly shifted its marketing, touting its balloon technology instead as a way to do high altitude research and reconnaissance. Soon thereafter they had an explosion during a test flight.

Since then they have apparently done little. With the recent corporate restructuring I wonder at the company’s future.

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2 comments

  • Edward

    Robert,
    Maybe World View is in trouble, but this article makes me doubt the author’s objectivity.

    From the article: “Satisfying shareholders suddenly meant driving up daily share price more than long-term profit sharing.” I have been hearing this my entire life, not just since World View received some incentives. This is starting to ring hollow, because even the companies working for “daily share price” seem to do just fine. Apparently capitalism is able to overcome this supposed flaw.

    Other statements that he makes show me that he has not pondered Bastiat’s essay “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” He points out that there are 83 jobs in that county that would have gone to Florida, but implies that the deals like the one between the county and World View “has cost families with kids in college upwards of $10,000 per year.” Do not the property taxes from housing the 83 families make up for World View’s deal with the county? All the author seems to see is the cost of the deal and none of the benefits of it. If World View fails, then that would certainly cost the college families from the loss of the property taxes from the housing that would no longer be needed in the (in that case) not-quite-so-growing county and from the losses of the support businesses for those families.

    Rising college costs are directly tied to the push for lower taxes required to play the economic development game.” Rising college costs have nothing to do with lower taxes but have been identified as a result of the easy loans that allow colleges to charge more. People will pay more, because they can obtain the money to afford it and believe that larger college-driven salaries will make up for the higher price of an education.

    This article is less of a warning that World View has some startup difficulties and more of a demand for higher taxes and less government friendliness toward business. The greatest argument that the author makes that World View may fail is that it is not hiring as many people as the county predicted, which is twice the number as the company predicted. Just because the company is working more to its own schedule than to the county’s is not a serious sign of failure.

  • pzatchok

    You would have thought that World View would have started out as a scientific venture and then added the tourist business as things worked out instead of the other way around.

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