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Engineered success

Frigid weather drove Frank Glavan to Florida, where he works to build up his business and his community.

By JOSH ZIMMER
Published February 13, 2004

CITRUS PARK - Back in the 1980s, Frank Glavan was a promising young engineer in Columbus, Ohio.

The Midwestern winters were becoming a bad joke, though. He and his wife decided they needed a change of scenery.

When his in-laws complained California was too far away, they headed for Florida.

Glavan took a job with a Tampa company that worked with the space program. The company wanted his growing expertise in advanced hydraulics.

New life. Warm, sunny skies. Mission accomplished.

"I really started getting sick of the cold weather," he said.

Now 40, Glavan eventually stopped working for others and started Citrus Park Computers. Situated in a couple of one-story white buildings off Ehrlich Road, the company is a hotbed of entrepreneurial energy in a community where most of the jobs are generated by chain stores and the Hillsborough County School District.

Owning a thriving business with more than 20 employees would be enough for most people. But Glavan somehow devoted thousands of hours to the Citrus Park Village Plan, the community's development blueprint for the future.

For three years, the father of two has chaired the Village Plan's steering committee. The leadership role has earned him both admiration and derision. It also has given Glavan a new level of prominence within the community.

Richard Wolfe, a plan supporter, praises Glavan as a responsible, level-headed chairman who tried to bridge the gaps between supporters and opponents.

"He deserves a lot of credit," Wolfe said. "Frank is the one who put in the most (hours). He was the compromise builder."

But longtime resident Linda Gadbaw accuses Glavan of paving the way for overdevelopment. She points out that some of the plan's most vocal supporters own property in Citrus Park. "For sale" signs have popped up all over town.

"He's a negative figure," Gadbaw said. "The people who wanted good things for the community basically were kicked to the curb."

Glavan, whose style is more working man than flash, admits the plan isn't perfect. But he's confident a majority of the people agree with it.

Detractors such as Gadbaw don't bother him. Glavan, who lives in Fawn Ridge and is an active member of Keystone United Methodist Church, has no intention of leaving the community.

No one can question his work ethic.

He grew up poor in Euclid, Ohio, a suburban city east of Cleveland. While his father worked for various railroads, his mother divided her time between odd jobs and taking care of Glavan and his four sisters.

If he wanted anything for himself, he had to earn it by shoveling snow and doing other odd jobs.

"My dad worked very hard," Glavan said. "He just didn't make a lot."

To finance his mechanical engineering degree at Columbus State University, he joined the National Guard, which offered free tuition in exchange for one weekend of service a month. For living expenses, he worked as an assistant manager for a Burger King in Columbus.

It was a grueling schedule, even by Glavan's standards. But life had its happy side. After graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, Carolyn. Thanks to her job as assistant director of dormitories at Ohio State University, they lived for free in one of the football stadium's furnished apartments.

In the National Guard, Glavan developed a specialty in hydraulics that made him a valued troubleshooter on large howitzer guns. After almost getting sent to the Persian Gulf War, he moved with his wife to Tampa.

Glavan worked on large jet engine cooling systems. He was growing tired of toiling long hours for other people, however. He began thinking about a second career.

By necessity, he had learned a lot about computers in his engineering career, from hardware to software. He decided to focus on servicing businesses.

In 1996, Glavan set up shop in his house.

"I had to play accountant, bookkeeper, collection agency, salesman," he said, recalling the 16-hour days. "I had to wear all the hats."

The original idea for a full-service computer company that could build the hardware, create the software and keep the systems running worked. Business kept growing until he outgrew the home office and established the current site in 2000.

Glavan insists he is no expert in computers. As technology continues to change at a blinding speed, he leaves the manual labor to his techies. He concentrates on the big picture.

In 2002, the Tampa Bay Business Journal honored him with its "40 under 40" award, given to the area's most promising young businesspeople.

"At best," he said modestly, "I would say I have a very good working knowledge of how it all comes together."

Even a workaholic like Glavan had trouble juggling two sets of clients: those who paid him and those who demanded his constant attention on the community plan.

Presently, he is looking to open other locations in Brandon and New Tampa. As for the plan, it still needs final approval from a zoning hearing master and the County Commission.

Life is full of jobs that need to be done. Chairing the steering committee was no different.

"I tried to be as neutral and diplomatic as I could," he said. As for the criticism, "It's like water rolling off a duck's back."

- Josh Zimmer covers University North, Keystone and Odessa and Citrus Park. He can be reached at 269-5314 or zimmer@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 12:51:07]

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