A TSA worker screens passengers at the Casper/Natrona County International Airport. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Advance Casper will be welcoming NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Collins Aerospace this week for a conference that will give local manufacturers a sense of opportunities to feed into the aerospace and defense industry.

The May 5–6 Aerospace and Defense Industry Conference at the Clarion Inn will also highlight reasons why companies should consider expanding into the Casper area, Justin Farley, president and CEO of Advance Casper, said Monday.

“We’ve got so many assets that are underutilized,” Farley said.

One of the advantages the Casper area offers is the existence of an active Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) where merchandise is not subject to U.S. duty or excise tax. There is also a lot of available property around the airport that could appeal to companies looking to expand, Farley added.

Another reason to consider Casper is the presence of four federally designated “opportunity zones”, geographic areas that allow investors to defer capital gains on businesses that set up in them. Opportunity zones factor into the Scottsdale Mint’s plans to convert the former Casper Star-Tribune building into its major manufacturing site as well as a new cryptocurrency business that will be handled by a hedge fund called Stakewire Asset Management.

The mint’s decision to come to Casper is a “complete game changer,” Farley said, adding that the hedge fund will operate under the first qualified opportunity zone fund in the area.

“They are going to manage millions, if not billions, of dollars out of that facility,” he said. “It is just mind blowing.”

Additionally, companies and workers in the Casper area have skills that could support aerospace and defense supply chains.

“Most of our companies are extraordinarily skilled in manufacturing, but it has always been toward energy,” Farley said.

The second day of the Aerospace and Defense Industry Conference will feature Wyoming companies that are already supporting the aerospace and defense industry in order to give other local and regional companies a sense of what opportunities exist. Moser Energy Systems, L&H Manufacturing, Kennon Products, Exploration Institute and Visionary Broadband are part of the conference’s “Wyoming Industry Panel.”

Major industry players will also deliver presentations during the conference, such as NASA discussing its Artemis missions to return humans to the Moon. Colonel Catherine Barrington, commander of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, will also speak during the conference about current projects at the base and support it needs from the private sector. One of the major projects at the base is the replacement of aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, “a multi-billion dollar project that will benefit the entire state’s economy,” Governor Mark Gordon said in 2020.

Gordon will speak about economic expansion at the Casper conference on Thursday. Sen. Cynthia Lummis will speak Friday. Lummis’s office has been instrumental in helping organize the Aerospace and Defense Industry Conference, Farley said.

Advance Casper held an Aerospace and Defense Industry Conference in 2019, but COVID-19 put a pause on conferences in 2020 and 2021. The 2022 conference will look to pick back up where things left off in 2019, Morryah McCurdy, vice president of business development at Advance Casper, said Monday.

The first day of the conference will focus more on what aerospace and defense industry companies are working on and on what their needs are, while the second day will be more about giving local companies resources to connect with major industry players, according to McCurdy.

The agenda for the conference is as follows, according to Advance Casper: