Feting business hall of famers with Florida roots
Wake up and good morning. Wow. Quite the gathering last night of 900 or so business stalwarts, many who flew in for this event: the black-tie, formal U.S. Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony of Junior Achievement held at the Tampa Marriott Waterside.
The hall of fame was established in 1975 to recognize individuals, 240 "laureates" and counting, who have made big contributions to free enterprise and society. Like who? You might recognize these names for starters: Warren Buffett, August Busch III, Liz Claiborne, Trammell Crow, John Deere, Walt Disney, Peter Drucker, Henry Ford (and Henry Ford II), Roberto Goizueta, Andrew Grove, Wayne Huizenga and Steve Jobs among many others.
Last night's inductees were pretty cool because they had great stories and lessons about perseverance and courage. They also had strong Florida connections. Most important, Tampa area teenagers (and younger) participated on the stage in skits to introduce the inductees, reminding a packed room that Junior Achievement is about introducing young people to the potential of business.
In order of induction Thursday night, the eight people added to the U.S. Business Hall of Fame are:
* Ed Whitacre, chairman emeritus of AT&T, who came out of Texas Tech as an industrial engineer and rebuilt SBC, one of the regional Bell operating companies, into what is now AT&T. He thanked his parents for teaching him to do things right the first time.
* A posthumous induction of George W. Jenkins (1907-1996), the founder of Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets. His award was accepted by his son, Howard Jenkins, who from the podium appealed for free markets to endure.
* Steve Case, co-founder of America Online Inc., whose "You've Got Mail" introduced millions of people to the potential of the Internet. Case, among other businesses, also is CEO of Revolution LLC, based here in the Tampa Bay area.
* Tampa's own Outback Steakhouse founding trio of (from left to right) Tim Gannon, Bob Basham and Chris Sullivan, whose entrepreneurial zeal and brand building make them standouts in our regional business history.
Kudos to Steve Case, who praised all inductees but singled out Siebert for her history-making step of becoming the first woman member of the New York Stock Exchange. Looking a bit frail, she came to the podium with some handwritten notes and told us about moving from Cleveland to New York City as a young woman seeking a Wall Street jobs.
She was rebuffed for lacking a college degree until she simply told one firm she did have a diploma and was hired at $65 a week. Her rise in the financial world was inspiring. I knew "Mickie" Siebert back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when she took time off from Wall Street to serve as New York's superintendent of banking and quickly became a progressive regulator. Her current passion is spreading financial literacy programs into more and more public schools as a lifetime consumer protection skill.
Congratulations to them all, and to the Tampa Bay (and Florida) business community for such an impressive turnout, show of support and patience with Tampa's traffic from the neighboring Elton John/Billy Joel concert!
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist