There are big doings in the air and on the ground at Tampa International Airport. And they all promise new dollars to the local economy.
In mid-December, the first direct flight to Tampa from Panama City touched down at TIA, followed by the first nonstop flight to Panama City. The hope by officials is that a new corridor for travel and trade will develop, one that will also strengthen ties with Latin America. Moreover, the move marks further progress in the airport’s efforts to attract international airlines. The Copa flights came after more than two years of discussions. Aside from those routes, TIA has relatively new flights to Cuba and Switzerland. TTIA offers other nonstop flights to Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Perhaps bigger news is TIA’s roughly $1 billion plan for expansion. The first phase, to be completed by 2017, is initially focused on moving rental-car traffic out of the main terminal, which would extend the life of the airport’s roads and parking garages and create new space for commercial development—with the idea of a hotel, shops and restaurants, say airport officials. Austin Commercial, a Texas firm, will oversee the design and construction of a new consolidated rental facility and automated people mover.
With the company committed to hiring area workers and firms, phase one is expected to create some 8,000 jobs, which come with an estimated $320 million economic impact on the community over the next four years, cite airport officials.