Chase Stockon: Chief executive, Panther International LLC, Clearwater.
Q. Since starting up Panther here nine years ago, you've worked on the boards of the Tampa Performing Arts Center and the Florida Aquarium. Why don't more executives from tech companies get involved in local civic projects?
It probably has to do with the speed at which tech businesses work. The technology changes monthly. If you step out of it for four or five days, a lot flies by. Philanthropy takes a lot of time. There's also the transient nature of my business. If we put out an ad, we get calls from San Francisco, Seattle - they come from all over. It's not like a bank president, who leaves that bank and goes next door.
Q. How does getting involved help someone in business, particularly someone new to a community?
Everything is people-based. You know me because I'm out in the community. If you hear someone say they're upset because their computers keep going down, you might send them to me. The more active you are, the more of those things occur. I've lived in a lot of places where you never really dent the community. I got right into Leadership Tampa . . . and it really gets you immersed. You know how you meet a neighbor and he introduces you to another neighbor. If you get out in the community and meet 50 people - think of it.
Q. How bad was Panther hurt in the recession and are you seeing any definitive signs that the economy is perking up?
Because much of our work is government, we didn't take the hit that most people did. But on the corporate side, we took huge hits. We had been doing 400 projects a year, a lot of e-commerce projects where we'd be in and out that same week. That business dipped 40 or 50 percent. It's been a steady increase in the last four months. It's back to before the (recession) or pacing back to it.