Tampa International Airport is ranked one of the best in the country when it comes to travelers experience, and it’s about to get even better with another expansion product in the works.
A new office building is about to go vertical and the future plans include a neighboring hotel. Both structures would be attached to the airport through the SkyConnect Train.
“We’re going to build a nine-story office building that’s going to be attached to the train, we’re going to take three stories of that office space and we’re going to lease out four stories. Can you imagine the convenience of having an office connected to a train that takes you to a plane? You could leave your office and never move your car this is going to the best in the country certainly in Tampa,” said Joe Lopano, the president and CEO of Tampa International Airport.
Lopano took over in 2012 and quickly pulled the airport out of the red and sent travelers numbers in and out of TIA skyrocketing.
“The team has worked very hard over the last four years to bring this project to life. It’s a billion-dollar project and we brought it in 1 percent of budget and pretty much on time. That’s unheard of and that’s because our board gave us the we’ll do it. Our team stood behind the vision and got it done and it’s very gratifying for me to see it now,” said Lopano.
Lopano came up with the idea to invite local vendors to serve travelers like the famous Columbia Restaurant Cafe, Ducky’s Sports Lounge, Cigar City, Buddy Brew, Four Green Fields and Goody Goody.
“We have improved our bottom line from 15 million to 50 million, and that allows us to reinvest in the airport and make more investment to make more repairs and make it better.” said Lopano.
The airports rapid expansion is possible according to Lopano because of the TIA’s governance structures.
“That allows for us to move quickly. We have five board members. Two are appointed politicians and three are appointed by the governor. They work very quickly with us, and they believed in the vision. They encouraged us to move quickly, and encouraged us to bring it in on time, and on budget, without that leadership it becomes very bureaucratic with a lot of red tape and it will slow you down and ruin the project. My board gave me the ability to move quickly and we did,” said Lopano.
Lopano also points to the fact that Tampa Internationals original design made it easy to expand into an aerotropolis, also known as an airport city.
“I like to say we are the center of gravity, and as we grow so does the city grow, so does the community grow, and it’s our job really our enabling act says; it’s our job to create economic prosperity through commerce and tourism and we try to do that,” said Lopano.
Lopano went on to explain that expanding the airport was made easier because of it’s original design.
“We’re the first airport in the world that had automated people movers at the airport. It wasn’t Singapore, Shanghai, it was good ol’ Tampa We just kept that forward thinking. We’ve always held high standards, we will not let our standards go down, we are way ahead of everybody else and it’s because we believe in the legacy of greatness that we’ve been given,” said Lopano
Lopano himself doesn’t rule from an ivory tower, he is often seen moving through the airport greeting people along the way.
“We are really like one big family out here, everyone from TSA to the baggage handler to the janitor. I know everybody and they know me and I say hello to them as soon as I see them. We’re all in this together, we’re all trying to deliver great customer service.” said Lopano.
Tampa International delivers on customer service, ranking near the top for best airports in the country.