The following is a true spaceport story.
Midland, Texas’ Development Authority thought that investing in a spaceport would be a great idea. An up-and-coming space company named XCOR wanted to relocate from California. It would only take millions of Economic Development dollars and a spaceport license from the FAA.
The plan would bring space tourism to their city and prosperity for all. XCOR and the politicians easily sold it to trusting citizens.
Andrew Nelson was XCOR’s Chief Operating Officer. XCOR was building a 2-seat rocket-plane that would soon whisk tourists to the edge of space for only $75,000 a ride. They claimed hundreds of had already bought tickets.
But XCOR really didn’t have a rocket-plane. They were trying but were not yet in the experimental flight stage. However, Nelson continued selling tickets and talking to governments worldwide that dreamed of being in the space business.
XCOR’s deal with an eager Midland took a mere $10 million investment by the taxpayers. Nelson signed the contract for XCOR promising to create $12 million in annual salaries with a minimum pay of $9.00 per hour. The same deal benefited XCOR with a $1 a year, 10-year lease.
Last year XCOR stopped work on the Lynx and laid-off half their workers. Finally, on June 30, 2017, XCOR fired the rest. XCOR says it will try to stay alive by using contract employees to maintain intellectual property.
The outcome is that Midland taxpayers invested $10 million in XCOR’s adventure even though XCOR had never launched a rocket to space. Taxpayers have paid for a spaceport with no active space tenant, no revenues and no prospects. The space tourists remain grounded.
Mr. Nelson left XCOR two years ago and a month later Camden County named him as Spaceport Camden’s self-professed “space subject matter expert.” So far, Camden’s Commissioners have paid him about $400,000 for his expert spaceport advice. Is Camden going to benefit from Nelson’s advice just like Midland did?
Think this story is the exception? Ask the taxpayers near Spaceport America or Kodiak Spaceport or Oklahoma Spaceport about their starving, jobless spaceports. Would they like their money back?