The Casper-Natrona County International Airport upped its international chops with the opening of its new U.S. Customs Office this week.

"This new facility is a real improvement for the Natrona County International Airport," Customs Officer Dale Leatham said Tuesday.

"I now have one office instead of two offices, a processing area for everybody that comes in internationally all over the world," Leatham said. "It's given me more flexibility, more security on the inspections."

A 43-year veteran of the job, he meets a lot of interesting people, gets to help a lot of people with importing and exporting, dealing with issues in the state's minerals industries, registering firearms, and immigration problems among other matters, he said. "I'm the only one in the state."

Tuesday, Gov. Matt Mead and other local, state and federal officials spoke at the formal opening of the Customs Office.

Canada, Mead said, is Wyoming's top trading partner and the airport's International Trade Zone No. 157 and Customs Office enhances that relationship.

For example, if an oil rig needs a part manufactured in Canada, it can order that part, have it shipped to the airport and cleared at the Customs Office for use on the rig the next day, he said. Otherwise, that part may languish in a customs office in another state for days, he said.

The importance to commerce isn't the only benefit of the new office.

The need for a new Customs Office was long overdue, airport manager Glenn Januska said.

One of his goals when he arrived 12 years ago was to improve the customs facility, which clears up to 500 international flights a year, Januska said.

"We (didn't) have a facility that meets the U.S. Customs and Border protection requirements in terms of facilities," he said.

The office, formerly upstairs in the terminal and then at the Atlantic Aviation office north of the terminal, did not have a clear view of the aircraft from the office, did not have a segregated access for passengers and plane crews to enter the office, did not have a waiting room, did not have proper security with an interview room nor a search room, nor a jail cell among other necessities, Januska said.

U.S. Customs Officer Dale Leatham points to the sparse furnishings of the jail cell at the new Customs Office at the Casper-Natrona County International Airport. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

So six years ago, Januska began the process of moving the federal bureaucracy and securing $675,000 from the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission of the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department Customs and Border Protection of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The second part was design, approval of the design, finding a location and construction. The new Customs Office is located in the area of the former Hangar restaurant at the terminal.

"We went from basically a 250-square-foot office that did not have the visibility, did not have the ability to take passengers directly into the space," Januska said. "We went from that to a 2,500-square-foot-facility."