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As Progress Energy's big poles draw near, tiny Florida town won't surrender — yet

Two weeks ago, I chronicled the 11th-hour fight by Apalachicola, the proud but tiny town on the Gulf Coast southwest of Tallahassee, to try to persuade Progress Energy Florida to find an alternative to erecting glaring, 80-foot-plus power poles through the middle of the town's historic downtown. The town even held a mock funeral on Nov. 19 to protest and honor the "death" of the city's picturesque image as Florida's second oldest town.

Progress Energy argues it gave the town ample warning of what was coming, but Apalachicola says it has not surrendered just yet. Last week, local protesters parked their cars to block utility workers. Police were called and they dispersed the crowd.

A lawyer for the town's activist historical society stands ready to file an injunction. The city was scheduled to hold a closed-door executive meeting Tuesday night to decide whether to join the historical society legal proceeding. Says B.J. Terhune, a spokeswoman for the anti-pole efforts: "It's not looking good, but no one is giving up yet, either."

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It may not qualify as palace intrigue, but the senior level shakeup at St. Petersburg regional investment firm Raymond James Financial means at least one big local name (Dick Averitt) is heading into the retirement sunset, another (COO Chet Helck) once considered the successor to longtime CEO (now executive chairman) Tom James is handed other duties, and a new chief operating officer (Dennis Zank) is named.

The shuffle comes courtesy of current CEO Paul Reilly, who won the race to succeed Tom James as company chief, as other contenders, from Helck to (vice chairman) Francis "Bo" Godbold were passed over. Zank joined the firm more than 30 years ago.

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"Blueprint for growth" could be economic developers' most overused phrase of 2011. It cropped up again this week with Tampa announcing it has hired Los Angeles-based firm AECOM to create a master plan for downtown Tampa, courtesy of a federal HUD grant. It seems AECOM is a whopper business that's also involved in helping Minneapolis decide on a new Vikings football stadium, renovating a basketball stadium at the University of Illinois, and making over the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Indiana's Butler University. Notice the distinct sports arena trend?

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If you weren't befuddled by bank names, just wait. First there was the Bank of St. Petersburg which happened to be based in Tampa (before changing its name to Florida Bank). Now comes Bank of Tampa with plans to expand into Pinellas County. The bank, with nine Hillsborough County offices, recently named local community banker Ken Cherven to lead the charge as Pinellas president.

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The Freakonomics website offers a fresh posting by Southern Utah University professor David Berri who says Major League Baseball's recent labor agreement favors big market teams and will hurt the profitability of small market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays. How? By forcing such teams to better account for the revenue sharing they receive from big-market teams. Look out, Rays.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com

As Progress Energy's big poles draw near, tiny Florida town won't surrender — yet 11/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 10:41pm]

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