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Venture

Robert Trigaux

Tampa Port strike looms as Dec. 29 contract deadline nears without new longshoremen deal

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Container cargo, shown above at the Port of Tampa's terminal facilities, could come to a standstill if there is a strike.

Wake up and good morning. A strike is looming at the Port of Tampa, one of 15 East Coast ports facing stalled talks between shipping companies and dock workers little more than a week before a contract expires Dec. 29. The International Longshoremen's Association represents 14,5000 workers at those 15 ports.

Some companies dependent on shipping in and out of ports may be vulnerable to financial damage and in some cases could face bankruptcy if the strike materializes and lasts. 

The cruise ship business will not be affected. Nor will perishable cargo with a limited shelf life. The other ports in Florida that could be hit by strikes are Miami, Jacksonville and Port Everglades. Read more in this AP story.

paulandersontampaportceo.jpgThe contract dispute and potential strike come at a key time at the Tampa port. Paul Anderson (photo, right) was officially named CEO of the Tampa Port Authority with the port board approving his $350,000 annual salary in a three-year deal. Read the details in this Tampa Bay Times story.

No rest for the new guy. Time to earn his keep. …

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Busch Gardens owner will spin off theme parks in early 2013 initial public offering

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Will investors in a SeaWorld theme parks IPO next year that includes Busch Gardens experience similar feelings as the riders of SheiKra in Tampa? Photo: Melissa Lyttle, Tampa Bay Times.

Wake up and good morning. Tampa's Busch Gardens boasts some neck-snappin' rollercoasters like the recent Cheetah Hunt. But the best ride may be crazy swings of the entertainment park's own ownership. Once again, it is about to change.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc., which owns ten parks including Busch Gardens plus SeaWorld Parks, Sesame Place and others, is going public in early 2013. Currently, Blackstone Group owns SeaWorld Parks but Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have been hired (says Reuters and this Bloomberg story) to handle an initial public offering next year with the goal of raising at least $500 million.

Blackstone bought the SeaWorld parks from beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev not long after InBev bought St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch. Curiously, Blackstone also owns Merlin Entertainments Group, which in turn owns LegoLand. …

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Jeff Lyash opts to leave senior job as Duke Energy management shake-up continues

This posting was updated to clarify Jeff Lyash's position at Duke Energy and correct a reference to other departures in Duke management. Lyash is Duke’s executive vice president of energy supply. Other than Jeff Lyash's resignation, no other Duke executives are leaving the company. A settlement reached by Duke with North Carolina regulators last week ended an investigation of the Duke-Progress Energy merger. It dictated replacement of two Duke executives: chief legal officer Marc Manly and Keith Trent, executive vice president of regulated utilities. They are not leaving the company but were assigned other responsibilities and titles. Finally, Duke says Vinny Dolan, who succeeded Jeff Lyash as president of Progress Energy Florida, chose to retire from the company at the end of this year.  

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In happier and less chaotic days in St. Petersburg, Jeff Lyash ran Progress Energy Florida while pushing for more nuclear power in the state. Those days for Lyash are over but Florida's nuclear future remains vague. (Photo: Cherie Diez, Tampa Bay Times).

Wake up and good morning. The Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger is the seasonal gift that keeps on giving. …

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A look at Tampa's economic development news -- holiday style

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So the Christmas season is a bit different here in Florida, right? (Photo: Tampa Bay Times' Scott Keeler.)

***

Top economic developers and business leaders gathered Friday for an update from the Tampa/Hillsborough EDC on prospects for the area economy and potential business expansions in the pipeline. What follows is a poetic summary of what happened, with apologies to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. 

***

'Twas the weeks before Christmas when across Tampa’s way,

New business opportunities were starting to play.

Incentives were hung on the region with care,

In hopes that new jobs would soon be there.

*

Economic developers were busy, promising more,

While visions of higher wages knocked on our door.

Rick Homans, Tampa/Hillsborough’s new EDC guy,

Promised 2,000 new jobs in just the blink of an eye.

*

He’s made up his list, he’s checking it twice,

New companies are expanding – right here would be nice.

Makers of nanotech, and bins for nuclear waste,

Financial services and electronics all suit our broad taste.

*

These firms are for real, top prospects to woo,

The trick is other states are vying for them, too.

How much do we sweeten the competitive pot?

Before it’s too much, when we decide: ‘Let’s not.’

* …

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Advisers flooded by year-end scramble by people waking up to possible tax changes in 2013

edwardkorenhollandandknighttaxes.jpgWake up and good morning. The end-of-year, pre-fiscal-cliff chaos among those folks belatedly waking up to the likely coming uptick in taxes has lawyers and financial advisers turning away last-minute calls of panic.

Consider attorney Edward Koren, (photo, left), a Holland & Knight partner in Tampa, who says three people he does not know called him last week. "I turned them all down," Koren told Bloomberg News in this story. "I have to tolerate a failure to act by ongoing clients but not by someone who calls out of the blue." Translation: Creating legal trusts and understanding complex financial/legal situations of unknown people are not something you typically do in the middle of a busy December with a year-end deadline looming.

Estate taxes is one area that could be sharply hit by changes in 2013, suggests Tom Breiter of Breiter Capital Management in this recent Bradenton Herald piece. Should investors be selling more stocks and taking gains while capital gains are likely -- but not yet guaranteed to be -- lower than they will be next year? WUSF News explores reaction here from Florida accountants on this matter. …

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Progress Energy, Duke Energy sure know how to make investigations of their bungling disappear

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The Crystal River nuclear power plant was broken years ago but Progress Energy's off the hook to explain how and why it broke it in now-canceled public hearings in Florida. Duke Energy, now Progress Energy's parent, just made a North Carolina investigation of its botched merger with Progress go away. (Photo: Progress Energy.) Read on! 

Wake up and good morning. Ever notice how big utilities are so good at convincing weak-kneed regulators from ever actually completing any investigation of wrongdoing of power companies?

Progress Energy was good at it. Duke Energy, its new owner, may be even better. Admittedly, I am appalled.

Progress Energy pulled a coup in January of this year. In exchange for refunding its customers in Florida $288 million they paid in extra charges after the utility botched its do-it-yourself repair on the Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant in Citrus County, Florida regulators agreed to drop planned public hearings on why a routine fix-it job at the nuke plant ended up costing $2.5 billion. …

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Which 25 banks are weakest in Florida, who's strongest in Tampa Bay market?

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Is this what strong banks really tell weak banks they are trying to buy behind closed doors?

Wake up and good morning. Here are the 25 "zero star" or lowest rated banks for financial health based in Florida. These banks are rated by Bauer Financial, which uses data the banks themselves supply the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to rank each financial institution from zero star (lowest, often a precursor of failure or forced sale by regulators to another bank) to 5-star (strongest).

A few observations.

* There are no zero star banks (for now) in the entire Tampa Bay area in this latest statewide batch that is based on Sept. 30 quarterly numbers, the most recent available. Heritage Bank in Lutz was the last zero star bank and it has since been closed by regulators and its assets sold to an Arkansas-based bank. Read more here.

* The vast majority of zero star banks listed below are in north Florida, especially on the Panhandle. Are bank regulators giving that area a special break because of the BP oil spill's hit to the local economy? Jacksonville and Tallahassee also have several lowest rated banks yet to be resolved. …

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Firm investing 'long term' in distressed housing markets like Tampa Bay plans to go public

davidmillerceoiposilverbayrealty.jpgWake up and good morning. A real estate investment firm is buying up lots of undervalued homes in Florida and other states hardest hit by the housing bubble and lumping them in a new firm called Silver Bay Realty Trust Corp. that it plans to take public.

Silver Bay's CEO is David Miller (photo, right), a one-time Goldman Sachs manager and former U.S. Treasury official who helped supervise the federal financial bailout program known as TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

A hefty chunk of this housing portfolio is composed of homes in the Tampa Bay area that the investment group has purchased and is now renting or preparing to rent. A regulatory filing by Silver Bay, based in Minnesota, and its REIT (real estate investment trust) parent, Two Harbors Investment, with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Silver Bay will own and manage more than 3,000 single family homes in its portfolio. And more than 600 of those homes are in the Tampa Bay area purchased for a total of $79.2 million at an average price of just under $126,000. On average, those area homes are 19 years old, are 1,733 square feet in size, with the bulk of them being rented for an average of $1,261. …

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Visual horsepower: Check out Tampa Bay Times photos from Tampa Bay auto show that opens today

Take your pick. Two McLarens are on display. I'm partial to the green one, an MP4-12C. On the second floor of the convention center.

Wake up and good morning. Today (Dec.. 7) kicks of the start of the three-day Tampa Bay International Auto Show at Tampa's downtown convention center. Tampa Bay Times photographer Brendan Fitterer and I had the pleasure of roaming the convention center on Thursday as all sorts of vehicles were driven in and set up for Friday's opening. Here is my Tampa Bay Times preview column today on the 10 favorite finds I found at the show as it was being assembled. But this posting is mostly dedicated to the great shots of Brendan Fitterer (who confesses to being a car guy) because, when it comes to new vehicles, a picture is often worth more than a thousand words. Enjoy.

Here's Timothy Cuscaden Jr. putting a plate on a Chevrolet Traverse, a crossover. Chevrolet's got a big spread on the second floor of the convention center. Look for the 2014 (yes, 2014) Impala on the rotating stand, and take a peek at the Chevy Spark (see below).

 …

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Florida 'job czars' can't hold their own jobs: Who's in charge here?

huntingdeutschexfldeochief.jpgWake up and good morning. Does anybody else think Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a vetting problem when picking senior staff for state government positions? Looking at the track record of folks named to head the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity -- allegedly one of the key positions to help generate jobs in Florida -- you have to wonder if Scott's picking the right people who (1) have staying power, (2) understand state government is not simply another private executive position and (3) do not skeletons in their closet that will get them in trouble when exposed by the press.

And at the end of the day, is this recent track record of naming such people to government posts a reflection of weak leadership by the governor himself. Surrounding yourself with business folks who sign up to run a state department only stumble out the door soon thereafter is hardly a way to set the Florida economy back on its feet.

Who's picking these guys, anyway? …

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As Tampa, Hillsborough woo Orlando firm and its 600 jobs, it is bought by company in India

Wake up and good morning. A potential curve ball was tossed this week into the efforts by Tampa economic developers to woo up to 600 jobs from an Orlando area company called Digital Risk, a provider of mortgage debt analysis for financial institutions.

Digital Risk, based in Maitland, was bought by an Indian company called MphasiS, a Bangalore subsidiary of HP (as Hewlett Packard now calls itself). The deal is worth about $200 million in an all-cash deal that will close in early 2013. Read more on the deal here. And here's Digital Risk's press release on its sale.

Digital Risk recently hit the radar of the Tampa Bay business community when I reported in this Nov. 10 Tampa Bay Times column that Tampa and Hillsborough County were courting Digital Risk to bring up to 600 jobs paying an average $50,000 to the area. At the time, company spokeswoman Brandie Young said the company was looking to open a facility in the general downtown area of Tampa. Tampa and Hillsborough officials considered splitting $900,000 in incentives over four to eight years to Digital Risk. Read more here. …

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Columbia Restaurant at TIA makes quick impression for good eating among global airport eateries

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The Columbia Restaurant on Concourse E at Tampa International Airport. Photo: Daniel Wallace, Tampa Bay Times.

Wake up and good morning. Kudos to both Tampa's Columbia Restaurant folks and Tampa International Airport for its thinking-outside-the-box style in getting a Columbia site to open at TIA. That idea helped nail the TIA's Columbia a sport at No. 25 on The Daily Meal's recent ranking of the 31 best airport restaurants in the world. It's all the more impressive since the Columbia only opened at TIA earlier this year. Read more of the TIA opening (along with a bunch of other classy places to feast) in the Tampa Bay Times.

The Daily Meal says it took six months and lots of input to cull it list of best restaurants from an initial global list of 100. Cuisine and service were both judged. The list of 31 restaurants is interesting for a couple points:

1. Of the 31 restaurants honored, about half are based at domestic U.S. airports, with the remainder scattered across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

2. Eight of the 31 restaurants ranked offer Spanish or Mexican cuisine. …

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