Make us your home page

Tampa Bay leaders building relationships in Panama

TAMPA — The term "game changer" is a cliche. But to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, it also perfectly describes the new Copa Airlines route connecting Tampa Bay to Latin America.

The flights started in December, giving the bay area its first connection to a major Latin American hub, Panama City. From there, the rest of Central and South America is just one connecting flight away.

"That was a game changer for us," Buckhorn said. "I know that is used frequently and oftentimes overused, but it fits this situation."

Buckhorn recently returned from his third trip to Panama in as many years with a coalition of more than 40 Tampa Bay leaders in economic development, business and education. On Thursday, they discussed their trip and how they expect the ties they're building in Panama to soon flower.

"This trip was all about building relationships," said Rick Homans, the CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

The delegation included Buckhorn, Homans, Tampa International Airport chief executive Joe Lopano, Tampa Port Authority CEO Paul Anderson and SunTrust Bank CEO Allen Brinkman.

They all flew on the new Copa route. In the past, traveling from Tampa to Panama City required a trip to Orlando or Miami first. The entire trip could take a whole day.

But the new route — Copa planes land and take off from Tampa International four days a week — has reduced that trip to a matter of hours. The passenger numbers show the route has been successful, officials said, though they did not disclose those figures.

"The Copa flights are a barometer of the level of success and activity," Homans said. "As that increases to daily flights, which we're confident it will at some point, that will be a major tipping point in our relationship.

"It will make doing business so much easier. That's what businesses want, that accessibility and connectivity."

Homans said some time this year he will lead a trade mission to Panama, taking along Tampa Bay companies so they can make business connections there.

Meanwhile, Buckhorn's work is not done. He has visited Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Switzerland and now Panama for the third time. This weekend he'll head to India to promote the "Bollywood Oscars" awards weekend in Tampa coming up April 24-26.

"We're going to continue to spread the gospel of Tampa, Fla.," the mayor said, "as long as we're breathing."

Tampa Bay leaders building relationships in Panama 02/13/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 10:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall


    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages


    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel


    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.