Lompoc staff questions Space Center proposal
Elon Musk and Eva Blaisdell. One of those names is associated with a pioneering space program and launching rockets from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The other is not.
What’s interesting, however, is the lesser known of the two is the one with an ambitious plan to develop a $300 million space-themed entertainment park in Lompoc.
Not much is known about Blaisdell other than that she is a self-described Polish-American entrepreneur who also claims to be a longtime investor in Silicon Valley startups. Blaisdell says she has over 30 years of experience as a Silicon Valley executive, high-tech entrepreneur and fundraiser for technology and media ventures.
The Business Times could not completely confirm these claims other than the fact that she is the founder of AngelMobile, a digital content provider that had its incorporation papers suspended by the Franchise Tax Board for failure to pay its taxes. She also once worked for Compaq Computer Co. in Poland.
Blaisdell, acting as the founder of the California Space Center Consortium, was recently granted exclusive rights to negotiate a deal that could result in its control of 82-acres of city-owned land near Allan Hancock College’s satellite campus in Lompoc.
The agreement gives Blaisdell 12 months to work out deal terms with the city.
Her project includes conceptual plans for a rocket launch viewing pavilion and amphitheater, space museum and education center, space camp, convention hall, theater, hotel, restaurants and research park among other amenities. According to Blaisdell, the project would provide an estimated 3,000 full-time jobs for the city and create $3 billion in economic activity over a 10-year period.
The proposal Blaisdell submitted to the city includes letters of interest from companies including Sony, IMAX, Bechtel Engineering, construction firm Korte Co. and the University of Southern California.
However, the details in the proposal weren’t enough for city staff to support. Key components of the proposal including relevant experience, financial resources and development partners were significantly lacking, according to a city staff report.
Teresa Gallavan, Lompoc’s economic development director and assistant city administrator said it’s an ambitious project and will take a lot of financing and experience to pull off. It’s also going to require a substantial amount of equity, she said.
Gallavan initially suggested the council reject the plan to enter a negotiating agreement. At the initial meeting, Patrick Wiemiller, city administrator, also urged the council against entering into an agreement with the consortium.
Gallavan told the Business times she originally met Blaisdell about a year ago. At the time Blaisdell was in the area looking to purchase a wine property when she met with former Mayor John Linn and others and learned about project.
In a series of emails to the Business Times, Blaisdell said she has “attracted key corporations to create the consortium” and is risking “mega funds”.
“I can share with you possibly some documents to look at,” she said in an email. “Bechtel and [other named] consortium members have [non disclosure agreements]. Korte is spending two days this week in Lompoc … IMAX as well … USC is engaged. Sony and I are signing a new deal.”
In the email, Blaisdell said she has just returned from Paris and Poland with “significant revenue deals” but preferred not to have an article appear in local press.
The Business Times wasn’t able to confirm many of these details, however an inquiry to Bechtel was returned stating the company had no business relationship with Blaisdell. Korte Co. did confirm that company president Todd Korte was planning to visit Lompoc.
Musk, also an immigrant, has developed a launch pad for his SpaceX vehicles at Vandenberg, helping to spur the city’s interest in space tourism and entrepreneurship.
In addition to gathering the partners to develop the space center, Blaisdell is also filming a television series that is documenting her efforts to deliver the project.
There are currently four episodes posted at www.californiacosmopolis.com. She recently was in Europe on a tour promoting the Space Center effort.
Two previous attempts to get a project off the ground have failed.
The Business Times previously reported that the now-defunct California Space Authority spent years and more than $1 million trying to launch the space center. The project hit a roadblock when officials there learned that it would need to go through Santa Barbara County’s development process rather than the federal process. In 2011, the Space Authority was dissolved by its board — mostly major aerospace contractors — after taking in nearly $16 million in public funds with little to show for its efforts.
Over the course of a year, Environmental Education Group, also known as EEG, aggressively sought to guide a $220 million development that would include a space museum and business park at the site. The group has asked the city of Lompoc to donate the 114 acres to EEG so it could use it as collateral in talks with financiers and developers.
At the time EEG’s leader, Alan Tratner, faced a $21,000 default judgment in federal court in Los Angeles and presented himself to Lompoc city officials as the president of a nonprofit that turned out to have been dissolved and as president of an affiliated foundation whose tax exempt status had been revoked by the IRS.
After reviewing the Environmental Education Group proposal, Lompoc decided not to proceed. With Blaisdell, the city staff is taking a cautious approach.
“We are starting to move forward,” Blaisdell said in a phone interview. “We are excited about launching this project in the city of Lompoc.”