Aerospace Company Deserts Oklahoma Leaving Questions
By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The aerospace company that promised Oklahoma 'the moon' and so much more, has left the state, leaving lawmakers with more questions than answers.
Rocketplane Global has vacated its company headquarters near the Will Rogers Airport.
Oklahoma State Representative David Dank has been a longtime critic of Rocketplane. He said he was furious to learn that the company that promised so much to the state had packed up and left town.
"We were told they left in February," said State Representative David Dank. "Just packed up and left overnight. The last we heard, the guy in charge was working out of his garage in Wisconsin. They have no presence here in Oklahoma and I think that's an absolute sin against the taxpayers."
In 2003 Rocketplane was granted an $18 million tax credit from the state. The first launch was scheduled for 2006 but was eventually pushed back to 2010. Following years of financial troubles and turbulence with the staff, plans to go to the final frontier from Oklahoma were a flop.
"Hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars have been flushed down the toilet because of these tax credits that have been given indiscriminately," Dank said.
Rep. Dank created a task force this year to crack down on companies that receive tax credits by the state to ensure this situation never happens again.
A representative from the state's Space Industry Development Authority said the group still has hopes of getting a permanent tenant for its spaceport in Burns Flat. Former state Senator Gilmer Capps said Boeing and NASA have already expressed interest in the facility.
"What most everybody forgets is Oklahoma is blessed to have that place. We still have hopes to be a main player in commercial space industry,"said Capps.
NEWS 9 has also learned that Rocketplane officials have been in touch with lawmakers in Hawaii and have expressed interest in working with the state on a plan for space tourism.
"Those lawmakers in Hawaii need to make sure the company can live up to its promises" said Dank.
Attempts to contact Rocketplane were unsuccessful.
Oklahoma State Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley released a statement to NEWS 9 regarding the news of Rocketplane's departure and the future of tax breaks for other companies:
"As the lead economic development entity in the state, it is our mission to increase the quantity and the quality of jobs in Oklahoma. Incentives and tax breaks play a critical role in helping us to compete with other states for new jobs and help existing Oklahoma companies to expand. For instance, Commerce oversees and manages the application process for the state's Quality Jobs program. Since its inception in 1993, the Quality Jobs program has contributed to the creation of more than 400,000 jobs with a payroll of more than $13.5 billion, while only paying out $600 million in payments to the companies creating the jobs Further, the Quality Jobs program is performance-based, which means it will only pay cash back to the employer for the new jobs that are created."