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25 gifts making a tough 2009 a bit better for Tampa Bay area

Away, foul grinch! Forget, on this day, our 12.3 percent jobless rate. Unwrap these 25 gifts that made Tampa Bay a better place in 2009. Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

25 New tech facilities by Draper Lab, M2Gen and SRI.

24 New, striking All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg that opens next month.

23 Hard-fought successes by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to secure better pay for Florida tomato pickers.

22 Signs our Public Service Commission isn't same old lap dog to utilities it regulates.

21 Bottoming out, we hope, of area home prices and sharp upswings in housing sales.

20 Dow market that fell under 6,500 in March is now close to 10,500, up 60 percent.

19 Regional mass transit momentum, maybe a high-speed rail link with Orlando?

18 USAA's decision in the spring to add 400 jobs here despite our jobless upswing.

17 Start of Tampa Bay-Orlando talks seeking more coordinated and competitive Central Florida economy.

16 Crackdowns, at last, by FBI and feds against rampant Florida fraud in mortgage and health care industries.

15 Though 14 Florida banks failed so far this year, none are in Pinellas, Hills­borough, Pasco or Hernando counties.

14 Solar power boomlet: TECO Energy/Energy 5.0 plant in Polk County, FPL's solar center in Arcadia, and Syd Kitson plan for the first solar-powered city near Fort Myers.

13 University of South Florida researchers set new record in research earnings, bringing in $380.4 million last year — a $20 million increase over the previous year.

12 Rescue of Tampa Bay's alternative weekly Creative Loafing, even if a court tussle yielded a new owner.

11 Verizon, not known for its customer service in Tampa Bay, acknowledged it could do better and pledged to try. Confession is half the battle.

10 Summer burst of negative profiles by Time, USA Today and New York Times characterizing Florida as a has-been state seems to have run its course.

9 Federal grants, like $100 million for Progress Energy Florida to develop smart grid technology, will help update the state's old electricity network.

8 Giant American Express recognized innovation in card payment systems at St. Petersburg's Revolution Money, so it bought the young company.

7 Swearing on a stack of Bibles it's leaving Florida, State Farm Florida opts to stay and keep insuring most of its homeowner customers.

6CEOs for Cities chief Carol Coletta showed how improved high school graduation rates here could contribute real economic returns.

5 GTE Federal Credit Union opened its new branch this month in St. Petersburg's underserved Midtown neighborhood, where bigger banks fear to tread.

4 Run on Swedish meatballs swept Tampa Bay for some reason. Oh, yeah. Ikea opened in Tampa.

3 Possible blockbuster breakthrough drug for depression, discovered by USF researchers, might generate big royalties to the university like Gatorade did for UF or cancer drug Taxol did for FSU.

2 Hillsborough County's school system sells itself as a potential education innovator and wins $100 million grant from Bill and Melinda Gates.

1 The best gift. We are muddling through a nasty recession but at least it's not a depression. It got too close for comfort in the spring.

25 gifts making a tough 2009 a bit better for Tampa Bay area 12/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:32pm]
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