Lawmakers Furious as Rocketplane Says Goodbye Oklahoma, Hello Wisconsin


In a move that has left Oklahoma lawmakers furious, space tourism company Rocketplane has pulled out of Oklahoma City and relocated most of its remaining operations to Wisconsin due to lack of investment and high costs.

The Oklahoman reports:

The company closed its Oklahoma City headquarters at Will Rogers World Airport several months ago and relinquished its hangar at the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat, Rocketplane President and Chief Executive George French said Wednesday.

An $18 million tax credit in 2003, at least $10 million in equity, other investments and efforts to raise capital by selling tickets to the moon barely have been enough to keep the company afloat.

“We’ve stayed alive, but it’s not easy,” French said.

Relocating most of the company’s employees and operations to Wisconsin was necessary because they could no longer afford the office in Oklahoma City, he said. A few key employees remain in the state, he said.

The sudden move has left some state lawmakers furious, KOTV reports:

“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.

Chuck Lauer, Rocketplane’s vice president of business development, was at NASA Ames last week for the NewSpace 2009 conference. He expressed optimism that the company had found a new source of funding that would enable it to fly suborbital flights out of three U.S. locations and one overseas spaceport. Lauer would not go on the record about details of the investment deal.