By Marty Clear
Chris Minner was four years old when his grandfather was the airport director in Bakersfield, California. Most kids had toy planes but Minner got to fly on the real thing almost every day. “I knew every plane," Minner said.
After earning a degree in economics and management information systems at California State University in Bakersfield, he took a job at the Oakland airport, returning to the aviation world he'd experienced as a child.
His professors encouraged him to pursue the position simply to learn the ropes of applying for a professional job. The intention was not to jump start a new career as a manager of marketing research and analysis.
"They wanted me to have the experience of doing an interview," Minner said. "But I got the job." During his eight years at the Oakland International Airport, passenger traffic increased from nine million to 15 million.
"I'd had a lot of success there and then the phone rang," Minner, 36, said. "Mr. Lopano called from Dallas-Fort Worth with an offer." Current CEO of Tampa International Airport, Joe Lopano, invited him to be part of the Dallas team as the assistant vice president of marketing, responsible for air service development and airline related business.
Last March, Minner joined Tampa International Airport as vice president of marketing.
Before taking the job, he and his wife Andie planned a weekend trip to Tampa Bay. "We stayed at the Don Cesar in St. Petersburg Beach," Minner said. "We rented a convertible and drove all over."
They visited several areas in Tampa Bay including Honeymoon Island, Ybor City and St. Petersburg.
"It was an intense weekend," Minner said. "But by the end, Andie had fallen in love with the community." Chris, Andie, and their two children, Michael age six and Ernie age 2 live in the Carillon area of St. Petersburg. Andie is a schoolteacher.
At work, Minner balances creative ideas with research and facts to market the airport to the community and airlines. "If you're marketing to an airline, you've got to be able to dig deep," Minner said. "You have to be able to create an emotional connection, but that has to be backed up with solid facts to make a convincing argument to bring new flights to the airport."
Telling the story of Tampa Bay is a key component of his job. "What makes an airport special is the connection with the people who use it," Minner said. "It is your job to tell the story of the region."