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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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  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.