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Chamber installs new officers

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By Pat Faherty

CITRUS HILLS — The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce kicked off the new year with the installation of officers and an inside look at Tampa International Airport.

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At its monthly luncheon Friday, Circuit Court Judge Patricia Thomas swore in the 2013 officers. John Murphy is the new chairman of the board of directors, Don Taylor is chairman-elect and Rob Wardlow is treasurer.

Murphy is director of circulation for Citrus County Chronicle. He took the reins from outgoing chairman Bill Winkel of Winkel Construction, who handed over the gavel.

Prior to the ceremony, guest speaker Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport, brought the audience up to date on airport revenues, the master plan, passenger loads and efforts to increase international travel.

He said passenger volume has been down since 2007 (19 million) and was at 16.6 million for 2012. 

“Our object is to stabilize growth and grow revenue,” Lopano said. “We want to grow revenue with fewer passengers.”

He explained they want to keep costs low for airlines, making Tampa more attractive. It currently costs $4.99 per enplanement (cost per passenger) at Tampa, compared to $18 in Miami.

“We keep ourselves focused on costs,” he said. As a result, he said, Tampa has been able to attract two new flights to Puerto Rico and in-state service to Gainesville, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach by Silver Airlines.

But Lopano was most excited about the new nonstop service from Tampa to Zurich. “Our population, including Citrus County, is greater than Orlando,” Lopano said. “We saw the market interest and now have a flight to Zurich.” 

Tampa also has new service to Cuba, which he is said is doing very well. They now hope to add flights to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Frankfurt, Germany; Panama City, Panama; Bogota, Colombia; and island destinations. They want to fill in gaps in domestic service with nonstop flights to the West Coast.

He said the terminal has been undergoing improvements and it can be expanded without building a new one.

“We can take the airport from 57 to 75 gates without replacing the terminal,” he said.

He outlined future plans for remote parking, service facilities and related jobs, improved processing for international passengers, and thanked Citrus County for its support.

Chamber members were also informed by store manager Tom Cooper the new Walmart, at  county roads 491 and 486 in Lecanto, will open Jan. 23.

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.