The former Casper Star-Tribune building will be a manufacturing plant for the gold and silver company Scottsdale Mint.
There, precious metals will be crushed into products like blocks, bars, coins and collectibles, founder and CEO Josh Phair announced Thursday.
Phair said the new facility could bring 50 to 100 jobs to Casper.
The building, located near First Street just north of the North Platte River, will be the company’s third location, joining two others in its hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona.
“For now, we will keep some operations in Scottsdale, but that will be our main long-term one,” Phair said Thursday, at a quarterly meeting for Advance Casper, an economic development group.
The nearly 50,000 square foot building housed the Star-Tribune’s printing press, circulation office, publicity department, and press room. At the height of the building, more than 100 employees worked there.
The building was listed for sale in 2019 and was purchased by Scottsdale Mint in July 2021 for $1.65 million, property records show. The Star-Tribune, meanwhile, moved to downtown Casper.
At Thursday’s meeting, a large billboard showed concept art for the upcoming renovation of the old newspaper building.
Gone are the 80s brown stripes and the camera-like faceplate. It had polished greyish-white paint, the Scottsdale Mint lion logo on either side of the entrance doors, and rows of international flags flanking Star Lane.
Apart from the cosmetics, there is the task of rearranging the infrastructure of the building – carrying all the necessary strike equipment, upgrading the power system, etc. Scottsdale Mint plans to add up to 18,000 square feet to the floor plan, Phair said.
The whole transformation could take more than two years, Phair said, noting global building material shortages and shipping delays.
So what attracted the Private Mint to 170 Star Lane?
Looser industry regulations, Phair said, have put Wyoming on the map. He began looking for commercial space in Casper last January.
Eventually he came across a “big concrete building that no one wanted, because it had no windows”.
It was particularly attractive, he explained, because it is located in areas of economic opportunity and foreign trade.
The federal government created Opportunity Zones with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They are intended to attract outside business to low-income areas by allowing investors to defer, and possibly reduce or eliminate, capital gains taxes.
The White House last month launched a new website specifically for Opportunity Zones. Truth be told, the website isn’t designed in a very user-friendly style, but it does offer some tools, both for community leaders hoping to attract investors and for investors looking for communities to invest in.
Foreign Trade Zones – also known as Free Trade Zones – are areas where businesses are not subject to U.S. customs duties. This can help them save money on import taxes, for example.
Much has been said about how to attract more economic development to the Casper area. Local officials have been working for years to figure out how to build a hotel and conference center in the town. Economic development experts hope to entice aerospace and defense companies to locate here. And earlier this month, U.S. Senator John Barasso and Rep. Liz Cheney were in town to discuss how to take advantage of tax-incentive opportunity zones in the city.
Phair pointed to Wyoming’s cryptocurrency policy as another big draw.
Over the past few years, Wyoming has passed a series of laws that have relaxed cryptocurrency regulations, protected it from taxes, and explained how crypto should be treated under business law.
Scottsdale Mint is not a crypto company, but Phair said he was warm to the industry.
Its qualified opportunity fund – which allows it to take advantage of the economic opportunity zone – includes cryptocurrency assets.
The Mint also allows customers to purchase products using crypto, he said.