RIVERVIEW — When the chief executive of an international airport oversees a $953 million expansion, it tends to change his perspective.
"I used to work in marketing and now I'm getting excited about on-grade slab," said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, garnering a room full of laughs at Tuesday's Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce monthly membership luncheon.
Lopano spoke about the continued growth of the airport and detailed the expansion taking place.
The first phase aims to decongest airport traffic, which means reorganizing roads, curbsides and the main terminal by adding a 1.4-mile people mover, building a 2.6 million-square-foot rental car center and expanding the main terminal. It began in 2013 and will continue until 2018.
The second phase, which will run through 2023, will shift the focus on hotel and service building replacement. The final phase will add an international terminal and further expansion of the main terminal. Completion is expected by 2028.
The chamber shared Lopano's obvious excitement for the plan and the business the growth would bring to the area.
Lopano, who took over at TIA in 2011, already has initiated tremendous growth in airport revenue. It declined during 2010 due to the recession, the housing crisis and oil spills washing onto Florida shores. He called it a "perfect triple storm" which resulted in a 14 percent drop in passengers.
But now that the economy has recovered, Lopano proudly said TIA continues to enjoy an uptick in passengers.
"We were having about 200,000 passengers a year and now we're growing with about half a million passengers a year," said Lopano. "We've seen some significant growth and you all have probably seen some of that growth here."
Lopano added: "It's a privilege to serve as your CEO at your airport."
Contact Kelsey Sunderland at firstname.lastname@example.org.