Make us your home page

Longtime business leader, philanthropist Frank Morsani sounds off on Tampa Bay economy

Frank Morsani, successful Tampa auto dealer and a leading area philanthropist, decided to pursue his recent book with two messages in mind. The first is to find ways to be inspired and to face adversity head on. The second message is the to realize the importance of giving back to your community.

Frank and his wife, Carol, have given back in many ways. Five years ago, the University of South Florida named its medical school the Morsani College of Medicine after receiving a record $20 million. That gift brought the overall generosity of the Morsanis to USF to $37 million. Earlier, in 1996, the couple gave $5 million to Tampa's Straz Center for the Performing Arts, prompting the naming of Carol Morsani Hall.

The couple last year sold their Tampa home and moved north to Brooksville in Hernando County. Frank keeps an office in Tampa and a hand in business and nonprofit community affairs.

Frank Morsani will discuss his life experiences and offer some thoughts on current events at the upcoming Times Festival of Reading. His book — To Be Frank: Building the American Dream in Business and Life — was co-written with writer Dave Scheiber.

To say Morsani has come a long way is an understatement. He grew up in Arkansas during the Depression Era in a home without electricity or indoor plumbing.

Morsani spoke in an interview on Friday with Tampa Bay Times business columnist Robert Trigaux. Here are some highlights of that conversation.

When you gave $20 million to the USF Morsani College of Medicine, it was before plans emerged to move the school to Jeff Vinik's project downtown. Did you have concerns?

I am a big believer in a liberal arts education so I had some initial concerns about how the college would remain interconnected. But after I got more information, it made sense given the college's ties to the clinical work it does at Tampa General Hospital. I am excited about it.

The last time we sat down was in 2011 when USF's College of Medicine was about to unveil your generous gift and the renaming of the school. Just to be up to date, have there been other major gifts since then?

We continue to do things but our major commitments are public knowledge. We have not made any additional big gifts. (Morsani laughs.) We're busy paying off the commitments we've already made.

You've witnessed the evolution of Tampa Bay's economy over many decades. Are you pleased with its direction?

The regional economy has been very dynamic. It used to be dominated by the banks, but that has changed. You never know what your base in the community may be. Florida will always be a spoke on the wheel and will never be a hub like Dallas or Denver or Atlanta. We are working hard to be a diverse economy, but I think it will always be a service economy.

We do not need to apologize for that, but we should educate for that. I think we are moving in the right direction. It is not always easy to identify the engines of prosperity.

You've witnessed a lot of elections in this country, though even you might agree this presidential race has been different. What's your take?

We are all uncomfortable with this one. What do we have on our hands?

We are a great nation, one that overcomes adversity.

I still think most Americans are centrists by and large. The political pendulum swings one way and then another before it finally comes back. That is our heritage.

Frank Morsani and Dave Scheiber will be featured authors at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 12 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. They will speak at 11 a.m. in PRW 118.

For more about the festival, see today's Latitudes or Thursday's Weekend, or go to

Longtime business leader, philanthropist Frank Morsani sounds off on Tampa Bay economy 11/04/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2016 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump


    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  2. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  5. Tampa Bay is ground-zero for assignment of benefits cases over broken auto glass


    When Rachel Thorpe tried to renew her auto insurance last year for her Toyta RAV4, she was stunned to see her monthly premium had nearly doubled to $600. The Sarasota driver was baffled since her only recent claim was over a broken windshield.

    Auto glass lawsuits filed by a third party (through what's known as assignment of benefits) are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay.
[Times file photo]