I had a chance to talk to Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt earlier this afternoon about XCOR Aerospace’s decision to move some of its operations to Midland, Tex. At the time of the interview, Witt was still trying to find out the full details of the plan, which will involve XCOR keeping at least part of its operations in Mojave on a long-term basis. We talked about the XCOR news and Witt’s efforts to get a limited liability law passed by the state of California.
Q. News came out today that XCOR will be moving its R&D facility out to Midland, Texas. How are you feeling about that right now?
WITT: “I’m still receiving input on that. I was told one thing and I’m told now just a few minutes ago that my initial report was not correct. And so, I’ve had to retract all my statements to the AV Press this morning. Anything I say at this point I’m kind of afraid to because I don’t know what is actually [happening]….
“I’ve read the press reports from yesterday and I’ve had two communications with [XCOR Chief Operating Officer] Andrew [Nelson] today, and he said they still require long term a facility in Mojave. So I’m not sure what all this means. And I have no idea what they intend to do in this facility or that.
“But I think all along, we’ve known that XCOR has been under considerable pressure to relocate all or portions of their operation to very attractive sites around the nation. So, I applaud Midland at taking XCOR, they’re a great company. I’m sure there’s a number of locations around the country that wish they had done whatever it took to get XCOR. I don’t think in anybody’s mind we expected to keep them all. The whole intent has been that if we’re successful these operations will be conducted in many locations around the world.
“So, if this is an expansion effort, we look forward to supporting them however we can. If this is a relocation, I hope we can retain them as long as we can.”
Q. How does this move affect your efforts at the state level in terms of your ability to get things through the Legislature would you say?
WITT: “Well, I don’t know. I don’t have anythings signed by the governor yet and I’ve been working on it for 10 years. There’s a lot of states that are way ahead of California and we have all the business. Obviously, other states want it more than us or we would have been more successful at getting this legislation passed. While I applaud the Assembly and the Senate Judiciary for moving it to the full Senate for a vote and hopefully to the governor, they can’t do it fast enough for me. And it’s taken a lot of work by [XCOR CEO] Jeff [Greason] and me and many others over 10 years to get to this point.”
Q: Are you worried about other companies following what XCOR’s doing and relocation?
WITT: Like I said, I don’t know what the terms of the relocation are. That’s really not a fair question until I know what the facts are.
“Am I concerned about other companies relocating? Well, I’ve lost two two companies in the last two years, both aerospace companies, and I think that is always a hazard the more successful we become in Mojave, the more of a target we will become to other economic development corporations who see what we have. It’s a validation that we’re doing something right in one regard, on the other side it’s….you can’t take anything for granted. You have to keep working harder tomorrow to keep what you have.”