Make us your home page

Dallas executive Joe Lopano named new director of Tampa International Airport

Joe Lopano, point man for attracting new airline flights to Dallas-Forth Worth, has been selected for the top job at Tampa International Airport.

Lopano, 55, emerged from a field of four finalists to replace Louis Miller, who after nearly 14 years as executive director abruptly resigned earlier this year amid friction with airport board members.

The board picked Lopano, executive vice president of marketing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), in a 4-1 vote Wednesday afternoon. Mayor Pam Iorio chose Lester Robinson, 58, former CEO at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. She then asked to make Lopano's selection unanimous.

His track record for bringing new carriers to Dallas — including daily flights to Amsterdam and London's huge Heathrow Airport since 2007 — impressed board members.

Excluding Canada, TIA's only routes outside the continental United States connect Tampa to London's Gatwick Airport; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Cayman Island.

"He has a scientific approach to air service development,'' said board member Steven Burton, managing partner of Broad and Cassell's Tampa law office and a Republican fundraiser. "A few key flights internationally can mean hundreds of millions of dollars to a community.''

Airport officials reached Lopano with the news in New York City. He and Jeff Fegan, DFW's chief executive, were meeting with rating agencies about a bond issue for airport terminal renovations.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity and look forward to coming to terms on a contract,'' Lopano said. "The airport has a fantastic foundation to build on. There are great opportunities for the airport and the community.''

Lopano is looking for a salary close to the $253,294 a year Miller earned before leaving, board chairman Al Austin said. Lopano told the airport's headhunter his Dallas job paid $250,000, plus an annual bonus and a car.

Most board members weren't inclined to match the amount Miller earned after nearly 14 years. Besides, they noted, Miller took the top job at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International — the world's busiest airport — for $220,000 annually.

"We're a very desirable airport,'' Iorio said. He wants the position and should accept "a reasonable professional salary with all the prestige it offers.''

Lopano and the airport also will need to negotiate a starting date. Austin hoped to have him on board before Thanksgiving.

He received glowing references from commercial aviation heavyweights, including the chief executive at AirTran Airways, which Southwest Airlines agreed to buy Monday.

"Joe is a super individual,'' wrote Robert Fornaro in an e-mail to the airport's search firm. "Smart and on the ball. Tampa is a very important airport for AirTran and post deal even more important. Joe would do a superb job balancing the interests of the community and the airport operators.''

Kevin Cox, his former boss at DFW, called him "one of the most energetic and analytical people I have ever encountered. He brings the perfect balance ... to deal with the softer side in terms of marketing and political relationships, and the financial numbers side.''

He has one hole in his resume: no CEO-level experience. Lopano supervises a couple hundred DFW employees in his job overseeing marketing and airport terminals. Tampa International employs just under 600.

"Being able to direct how people work together and working with a board, he's not had to jump through those hoops,'' said David Stamey, who runs an airport consulting firm in Dallas and considers Lopano a friend.

He also inherits a board split over airport priorities.

New international airline flights top the agenda for two board members — Burton and Dr. Joseph Diaco. Both chafed when Miller talked about how competition from bigger airports in Orlando and Miami limited Tampa's chances for more service.

At one point Wednesday, Diaco noted that Lopano didn't complain during his interview about Walt Disney World limiting what Tampa International could achieve.

But Austin and Iorio identified declining passenger traffic — and the drop in airport revenues that result — as TIA's biggest concern. Giving airlines incentives for new flights would be a mistake until travel picks up, Austin said. "We have a disagreement over this,'' he said.

But they all liked Lapano's confident, can-do attitude and marketing experience both at airports and airlines including Continental and Lufthansa.

"What you see is what you get,'' said reporter Benet Wilson, who has covered airports for Aviation Week magazine. "You don't always see that with airport executive.''

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

Fast Facts

Joseph Lopano

Joseph Lopano, 55, executive vice president of marketing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Was in charge of bringing new airline service to the airport.

Previously worked for Lufthansa Airlines and Continental Airlines.

Only finalist for the Tampa International Airport position not to run an airport.

Also the only finalist who has sat on the airline side in negotiations over new airline routes.

Dallas executive Joe Lopano named new director of Tampa International Airport 09/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls


    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
  2. Austin software company acquires second Tampa business


    Austin, Tex.-based Asure Software acquired Tampa's Compass HRM Inc. late last week for $6 million. Compass focuses on HR and payroll.

    [Company photo]
  3. Hackers hide cyberattacks in social media posts


    SAN FRANCISCO — It took only one attempt for Russian hackers to make their way into the computer of a Pentagon official. But the attack didn't come through an email or a file buried within a seemingly innocuous document.

    Jay Kaplan and Mark Kuhr, former NSA employees and co-founders of Synack, a cybersecurity company, in their office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2013. While last year's hacking of senior Democratic Party officials raised awareness of the damage caused if just a handful of employees click on the wrong emails, few people realize that a message on Twitter or Facebook could give an attacker similar access to their system. 
[New York Times file photo]
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]