Virgin Galactic last week signed a 20-year lease agreement that calls for the tourist spaceflight provider to establish its headquarters in New Mexico and base its operations at the state-owned Spaceport America.

Infrastructure work at the spaceport site in south-central New Mexico will be financed with $100 million of state oil and gas severance tax bonds and $51 million of sales tax revenue bonds to be issued by a spaceport district formed by Sierra and Doña Ana counties.

Road work is under way, with facility construction set to begin early this year.

The lease agreement with an anchor tenant was the final requirement set by the state Legislature to release additional funding for Spaceport America.

The Legislature allocated $100 million of severance tax bond proceeds to the project in 2006, but lawmakers stipulated that bonds for the spaceport could not be sold until a long-term lease with a major tenant had been achieved and an operating license had been issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The lease agreement was signed the day after the FAA issued the launch license.

The two counties in the spaceport district began collecting the 0.25% sales tax to support the bonds on Jan. 1.

Doña Ana County voters narrowly approved the tax in April 2007 and Sierra County voters approved it in April 2008. Voters in Otero County rejected the tax in November 2008.

New Mexico’s severance tax bonds are rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s.

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