The Leadership Tampa Alumni members who attended LT Transportation Day 2.0 on Aug. 24 at Tampa International Airport may not have realized it, but they congregated near Tampa Bay’s population epicenter.
TIA marketing director Kari Goetz, who coordinated the fun-filled and informative day, said the epicenter for Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco sits just outside the airport’s Delta terminal.
Goetz took it upon herself to offer a different experience for participants, in part because TIA operates under an unwritten mantra.
“That’s one of the rules we have at Tampa International,” Goetz explained. “You can’t say, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.’”
We spoke to Goetz about what she set out to accomplish, the joy she gets from working for TIA CEO Joe Lopano and how she sustains her entrance in the theater.
Tell us what you were hoping LTA members would take away from Transportation 2.0.
With the exception of LT ’18, no other LT program had ridden SkyConnect. Every other class either got a hard hat tour, or people remember the baggage sorting facility. If you’re from the Tampa Bay area, you’re probably not renting a car. If you’re not renting a car, you may not be taking SkyConnect, you may not see the rental car facility. We built it for our visitors, so there’s this huge gem that locals don’t experience. That was why I got excited when the Chamber came and asked, “Do you want to host a LT 2.0 on transportation?” I said, “Yes,” because I want people to realize what this facility is because they’re probably not using it. That was our goal, let people see what $1 billion did for the economy, for the community. Also, if you build it they will come. Look at the transportation infrastructure that we invested in and look at how it’s already starting to have an impact.
Can you elaborate on that?
We have a commercial curb that we built as part of the rental car facility with the hope that eventually we might get some bus service. We didn’t know how. We didn’t know when. We’ve had to put in temporary signage for local buses because it came so much faster than we anticipated. We built the curb and opened in February. By June, we had on the hour service from HART starting all the way in Wesley Chapel and coming down the I-275 corridor. We also now have nonstop service from the Ulmerton station in Pinellas across to the airport. Those are 12-15 buses a day we didn’t have before. That was also a story we wanted to communicate.
So, the rental car center decreases the traffic leading up to the terminal?
There was a day in 2016 that shall live in infamy at Tampa International Airport. We call it “Carmageddon.” We had a situation on the parkway that absolutely gridlocked the parkway. When we saw it and ran the numbers, we realized that the Carmageddon we experienced is what we’re going to experience more often in five to ten years if we didn’t do anything about our current roadway traffic with rental cars and the shuttle buses we were using back and forth from the economy parking.
While people could pick up their rental cars across from baggage claim, that’s not where they lived, right?
The rental cars didn’t sleep across from baggage claim. Rental cars slept way out on north property. There was a little under a mile and a half transit that those cars used to do on the parkway. They got their baths on the north property. They got their oil changes on the north property. All inventory was accounted for on the north property. Those cars were having to get transported that distance constantly from the north property, and as people were returning those cars, they were being driven over to north property in chunks. The rental car center has taken 4 million cars off the roadway annually. It’s huge.
At the Transportation Day, we got a chance to hear from Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. What’s it like working for Joe?
It’s like changing a tire, but the car is going 75 miles an hour. I actually empathize with the stories of the Imagineers who worked at Disney, because Walt would have these incredible ideas and the Imagineers would say, “How are we going to do that?” It’s the same here, but I’ve learned this amazing technique, and it’s, “Yes, if …” You say yes to all of his ideas, if he can handle what it’s going to take to get there (laughs). You know what, there are a lot of times he’s willing to absorb the if. As he said, we will always find the money if it’s the right thing to do. If it’s the right thing to do for the community, if it’s the right thing to do for future generations, we will find a way to get that done. He’s not afraid of the if. He’ll go to the yes, and he’ll work through the if. That’s a pretty exciting place to be because we get to figure out how the “if” works.
So, Joe Lopano is a doer. He says instead of, “No we can’t,” we need to say, “Watch this.”
He’s a change agent. He believes in revolutionary change, not evolutionary change. There are two mindsets: evolutionary change or revolutionary change. It’ll happen over time or it’ll happen because we’ll make it happen. He makes it happen.
The day also featured a panel discussion with Tyler Hudson from All For Transportation, Brightline Vice President Bob O’Malley and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez. How enlightening was the panel discussion for you, because you’re pretty plugged into transportation?
I learned a little bit. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of All For Transportation, but some of that future proofing we learned about — the idea of 56 percent of the funds being out in the county — I kind of knew that but I feel like I got my talking points reinforced and now I know how to go out and speak about it. “Why are you voting for it?” I think the short answer before was we need better transportation and I work for the airport. Now I feel like I have some stronger talking points about how it’s going to affect and improve the lives of everybody in Hillsborough County.
There appears to be more specificity in the All For Transportation proposal than some may realize.
I agree. Now I have a better way of defending and clarifying what it’s actually going to be doing. It was also great to hear from Bob from Brightline. That’s a super exciting opportunity. I’m watching that closely because it would be such a game changer for all of us.
I remember you once portrayed a dog in the stage production of Sylvia. Do you still get the itch to engage in theatrical productions?
I do about one show a year. At Jobsite, I was nonstop. I was in every show or directing a show, but I got married and I had a kid and I started working here and I travel all the time, but October is a quiet month for me and that’s usually when I try to get a project in. On Oct. 1, I go into rehearsals for Stageworks. I am directing a show that opens in November called The Revolutionists. It’s the French Revolution through the eyes of four women. It’s a playwright, Marie Antoinette, the woman who killed Marat and a woman who represents the Haitian spy network. It’s going to be a good show.