ATLANTA -- The Spaceport Florida Authority has chosen Lehman Brothers to lead-manage its first municipal debt sale, the authority's chief financial officer said yesterday.
The issue, $25 million of taxable revenue bonds to build a space museum, will have four other firms as co-managers, according to the official, Projects Director Albert Thomas.
The firms are William R. Hough & Co., based in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Smith Mitchell Investment Group Inc., Seattle; Gardnyr, Michael Capital Inc., Orlando, Fla.; and Ward and Associates, Atlanta.
Thomas said the underwriters were chosen from a pool of 13 eligible candidates.
"We decided to move forward in selecting an underwriting team that could do this quickly as final details fall into place," he said. Thomas added that the authority hopes to issue the bonds by early 1993, once it receives a use permit from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Bond proceeds will be used to build the museum, which commemorates manned flights to the moon. The Apollo-Saturn V Museum, to be initially owned by the authority, will be located at Spaceport USA, the visitors' center at the Kennedy Space Center near Titusville, Fla.
NASA, which manages Spaceport USA, will operate the museum and take over ownership after the bonds are paid off, Thomas said. The space administration hopes to begin construction by the end of 1993, with the facility opening for business by September 1995, according to James Ball, NASA's business manager at the visitor center.
Ball said he expects NASA to complete its internal review of the project soon and to issue the use permit within the next several months.
"NASA is a federal agency and has to go through all the proper steps [in issuing the use permit], but we are trying to expedite the process so we can take advantage of the current low level of interest rates," he said. "We are very pleased to have the opportunity to do our financing through the Spaceport Authority."
Thomas said the authority decided to sell the bonds on a taxable basis because it did not want to have to operate the museum, a prerequisite for gaining tax-exempt status for the borrowing.
The Spaceport Authority, established by the Florida Legislature in 1989, has up to now been stymied in its efforts to sell municipal bonds of any sort.
In October 1990, the authority approved $50 million of debt to fund a launch control facility at Cape Canaveral Air Station for General Dynamics Corp. The bonds were never issued because the Air Force fretted over a private company building on its land, and General Dynamics, itself beset by management changes, lost interest in the project.
Since then, the authority has deferred its original goal of building a series of bond-financed launch facilities, opting instead to pursue less expensive space-related projects such as the museum.
Last September, $15.5 million of bonds were authorized to fund development of a space vehicle construction plant near launch pads at the Kennedy Space Flight Center for the Eastern American Teak Corp. of Brevard County.
Thomas said the authority was continuing to develop the project, but in a revised form. He declined to provide further details.
He said the authority has also considered selling $25 million in bonds to fund a liquid hydrogen facility in Santa Rosa County for Allentown, Pa.-based Air Products and Chemicals Inc. However, the financing is not currently moving forward, he said, because Air Products has other funds it can use for the facility.