TAMPA — Here's a sign of Tampa International Airport's improving bottom line: The airport plans to start hiring after years of cutting back its workforce.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board voted on Thursday to approve a $183 million budget that will fund 13 new jobs.
A projected improvement in revenue from parking, concessions and airline fees helped the budget grow by 4 percent, or $6.3 million, from the current fiscal year. The airport plans to pay $49 million in salary and benefits, $3.5 million more than in the 2012 fiscal year budget, which ends Sept. 30.
It's not a lot of new jobs, but it's a positive sign for an airport that has shed 63 jobs since 2009. The airport currently has 573 paid positions.
Airport CEO Joe Lopano said it was time for Tampa International to start growing again.
"I kept the head count steady at 573 because I wanted to see where we were going, where we were competitive, where we had success before I did anything with the staff," Lopano said.
The staffing level has been at 573 positions since 2011 and this year the airport decided not to add any positions. But Lopano said it's time to add three positions in marketing and three in human resources, two positions each in construction, information technology and police dispatch, and one in procurement.
"This year is for us to grow," he said. "We're hiring these people to help us maintain and sustain for the future."
Lopano said the airport "wanted to see if the cuts were too deep and if we needed more help." The answer: an unequivocal yes.
"During the last year we started doing more marketing, we did a lot with analytics," Lopano said, "but we didn't add any head count. We still held at 573, and the way we did that was I robbed certain departments. So this year, where I took, I have to put back.
"We're backfilling areas where people are screaming 'Hey, we need help!' "
The airport cut too deeply into the number of radio dispatchers for the Tampa International Airport Police Department, Lopano said.
He also wants to add positions to human resources to implement a new "accountability" culture at the airport. The construction jobs will be needed to manage future capital improvements that are expected to be a part of the airport's new master plan set to be completed in January.
Some of the new jobs will help bring in revenue, Lopano said, like bolstering the marketing department and adding new information technology jobs that will be needed to maintain the new digital video screens that will allow the airport to sell more advertising.
"We've increased our revenue and held our costs in check," Lopano said. "Now we have an opportunity to see where can we grow further — and we'll have new people to help us."