It may sound like I'm asking for your favorite stock pick in a tumbling market or your favorite Bucs player in a wretched NFL season.
But recession or not, I want to know: What is your pick for the top workplace in the Tampa Bay area?
It's easy to choose hotshots when the economy's humming. The real standouts — the truly top workplaces — are those that shine even in the tough times. Like now.
I'm cutting to the chase. I'm asking for your help and participation. Based on your input — not my input, not the editors of this newspaper, but your input — the St. Petersburg Times will publish a special report in March revealing your choices for the top 2010 Tampa Bay workplaces.
We'll tell you who's tops. And we'll also tell you why. A business called Workplace Dynamics, not affiliated with us, will contact nominated organizations and conduct the research. Each business — public, private, government or nonprofit — that participates receives free feedback on its own workplace.
We can publish the special report based on the input we've already received. But we'll publish a much better report if you step up. We want to dig deeper.
Let's get new blood and new area business names into the mix.
You can pick a top place for many reasons. Its great bosses, great cafeteria, great benefits, great day care, great working space, great ways to give recognition — even great support if the company, like many, must trim its staff in lean times.
Let me make a suggestion: Pick a top workplace for its best culture.
Let's find out who's our regional Google, the perennial top-placing U.S. workplace legendary for innovative culture, free food (and the "Google 15" — pounds new employees tend to gain), free on-site doctors, company transportation services and employee subsidies for buying eco-friendly vehicles, among many other perks.
Tampa Bay has no Google. Not yet. But we've got lots of companies, some well known and others hidden gems, that prize innovation, are friendly and motivating places to work, and eager to help you — the employee — make the most of your career.
Tell us who our top workplaces are and why.
Sure, I can run down a laundry list of the more obvious contenders for top workplaces here. In the Carillon area of St. Petersburg, Raymond James offers great working conditions, a strong professional culture, a tasty cafeteria, auto detailing services and some of the most stunning paintings and sculpture throughout its buildings that you'll see anywhere. Not to mention the longtime legendary on-site services of Tommie Walker's shoe shine/repair and drop-off dry cleaning services.
Hey, Ray Jay even stations hand soap dispensers inside the front door.
In Tampa, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute stands out for innovation in medical research and cancer care, enjoys a national if not international reputation for quality and instills a sense of intense pride in its staff.
At Tech Data Corp. in Clearwater, there's an intense sales atmosphere and a "geeks are good" habitat. Besides, at the moment, the hallways are crowded with Halloween decorations installed by vendors like Hewlett-Packard to help keep people amused and pumped up to sell their product lines. And don't forget Tech Data's own chef, David Riposo.
All great businesses. But these are the no-brainers. The low-hanging fruit. Who are the lesser-known contenders for top workplaces?
I'm talking about places like St. Petersburg's family-owned Mazzaro's Italian Market, where a shopping trip is a perfect mix of visiting Italy on the cheap, a religious culinary experience and dedicated service.
Or Busch Gardens in Tampa, where, even after countless trips in my nearly 19 years here, every visit feels brand new. Or USAA in Tampa, a strong business culture and a company actually adding 200 new financial jobs to the area amid our 11.7 percent unemployment rate. Or Publix, where employees can own private stock and share in the success of the No. 1 supermarket company in Florida.
I'm still scratching the surface of great workplaces. And that's the beauty. I know that if you work in a great environment, you will want to share that workplace with us.
Yeah, I know. Aren't there already some "best places to work" competitions around here? Florida Trend magazine, a sister publication of the Times, did its first statewide contest recently. Among Tampa Bay-based businesses, St. Pete's Raymond James Financial ranked eighth among big companies, Clearwater's Shared Technologies ranked second among mid-sized companies and Tampa-based IT Authorities came in first among smaller businesses.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal also conducts best workplace surveys. In its four groups based on company size, winners ranged from Microsoft (largest) to IT Authorities (smallest).
Bring us your top workplaces. Tell us why your workplace rocks. Look at the accompanying box with this column and see how easy it is for an employee to nominate his or her own company.
Show us what Tampa Bay's got out there.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Tommie Walker runs a shoe shine and dry cleaning business. His first name was misspelled in a column on Sunday.