(March 23, 2016) Raymond Cullins sat down in a chair on the west side of the Main Terminal at Tampa International Airport shortly before his shift started and looked up at the steel above his head and behind him.
He knew just how it got there: His very own family.
Cullins remembers driving his dad and uncles to and from TPA in the late 1960s and early 1970s to construct the original facility. All ironworkers, they helped build everything from the Main Terminal’s trusses to the guideways.
“I used to drive them to work in the mornings so that I could have a car to drive to high school,” he said. “I would come back in the afternoons and pick them up.”
Cullins, a steel erection foreman, is now working on TPA’s historic expansion and building on the legacy his relatives helped create. He works for Morrow Steel, which is a sub to Skanska.
“It’s nice – it brings back a lot of memories,” he said one recent evening before his shift started. “It’s an honor to be part of it.”
Cullins’ history with the Airport goes back even further. Before this current building went up, he remembers coming out as a child on Sundays. His parents would buy him an ice cream and they would all watch the planes take off and land.
“The Airport has been part of my life all my life,” he said.
Cullins got his start in ironworking in 1971 – the same year TPA’s state-of-the-art terminal opened to the public. Fresh out of King High School in Tampa, he began as an apprentice. He put in his time and then became a steel connector – a physically-demanding position he held for more than a decade.
“Iron work is a skill no different from driving a race car,” he said.
Cullins’ has worked a variety of interesting jobs. One of the most difficult: The famous Epcot Theme Park ball, he said.
After years of connecting, he transitioned into supervision. He’s been doing it ever since.
He’s a proud member of Ironworkers Local 397.