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Local high tech balloon company says political ads are smearing its reputation

Tucson company caught in the middle of a political battle
Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 7:12 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - World View, a high tech balloon company on Tucson’s south side, says it is being smeared by political ads being run in the US Senate race between Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican Martha McSally.

It has issued a cease and desist order demanding local television and radio stations stop running the ad.

The advertisement by the National Republican Senatorial Committee on behalf of the McSally campaign, ties Kelly to the company in a negative light.

The company says the ad is false and defamatory and stations “must cease airing this advertisement”.

Kelly was one of the original consultants with the company but severed his ties in 2019 although he is a stockholder, according to his campaign.

Ryan Hartman, World View CEO, says, “It’s just politics. It’s unfortunate. I can’t wait for this election cycle to be over so this stuff can be behind us.”

But for World View it’s just another in a long string of setbacks, which have threatened the company’s future.

When it was founded in 2015, the Pima County Board of Supervisors built the manufacturing plant which houses World View for $15 million.

The company promised space travel in a balloon, something which had never been offered before, but it also brought a dose of derision about the company’s future.

That brought howls of protests from Ward 1 Supervisor Ally Miller who thought it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Goldwater Institute filed suit against the county alleging it violated the state’s “gift clause”.

The case was taken to the Arizona State Supreme Court where the county prevailed after four years of litigation. World View continued its operations.

It dodged its first bullet.

In the meantime, the company hired a new CEO and the focus shifted from space travel to a analytics and data gathering company.

It’s clients included the Defense Department, NASA and oil and gas companies.

In 2018, one of the companies stratolite balloons exploded on the launch pad, which resulted in a half million dollars damage to the building and a raft of bad publicity. But the company soldiered on dodging a second bullet.

The company grew to 120 employees, fulfilling its contractual obligations to the county and had big plans for growth in 2020.

But in March came threat number three – the coronavirus pandemic.

The company furloughed 30 of its workers, halted its balloon launches and began to manufacture PPE for the county and other clients.

It is now launching balloons again and bringing back employees.

Now comes bullet number four: The political season and the ads which say it’s a failed company and is closed.

“No we’re not out of business, we’re continuing to do our work,” Hartman said. “We’re excited about our future.”

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