Tom James earns nationwide honor
Raymond James Financial CEO Tom James has been named the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year national winner in the financial services category. The St. Petersburg executive was honored at a Jay Leno-hosted gala last week in Palm Springs, Calif., on the final evening of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, a gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. Awards were given in nine additional categories. All winners were selected by an independent panel of judges from approximately 400 regional award recipients. The overall winner was Matthew Szulik, chairman of open-source software leader Red Hat Inc. In June, awards were announced at the state level, setting up the winners to vie for Saturday's national awards. Area winners at the state level included James, as well as (in financial services category) CEO David Serlo of PSCU Financial Services Inc. in St. Petersburg, and (in retail/consumer category) CEO Mark Johnston, chairman Mike Johnston and president Bob Johnston of fondue-based Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. in Tampa.
They were not quite the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but four area business leaders last week offered sobering forecasts of rough times ahead for the Tampa Bay area economy. Raymond James economist Scott Brown talked of unemployment rates heading above 8 percent. Echelon Real Estate Service's Michael Talmadge outlined commercial vacancy rates across the metro area. Progress Energy CEO Jeff Lyash acknowledged that electric rates are going up 25 percent soon but held out a small possibility rates could moderate later in 2009. And Visit Florida research director Barry Pitegoff said tourism was down in the state but suggested the declines could be offset partially with more marketing. "Flat is the new up," he joked of the new tourism buzz phrase.
The four spoke at an annual look-ahead sponsored by the Largo Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Largo Library Foundation. The keynote speaker was Bob Sullivan, president of the 2008 Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, who is credited with helping make Super Bowl XLII last February the second-most-watched event in TV history (after the series finale of MASH in 1983). He shared his enthusiasm for the economic potential of the coming Super Bowl in Tampa in February. Overall, Sullivan — who toured Raymond James Stadium — was impressed with the area's level of preparation so far for the upcoming Super Bowl. Of course, he noted, this metro area has had plenty of experience with Super Bowls. He suggested future Super Bowls would be played in the nation's newest stadiums, including the Dallas Cowboys' $1-billion stadium, host of the 2011 Super Bowl.
When asked what was his biggest challenge in prepping Glendale, Ariz., and the state for the Super Bowl, Sullivan said, "Herding cats." It was tough, he explained, to make sure everybody was happy, including venues and towns around the stadium, metro area and state.
Baseball owners get financial scorecard
Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is still celebrating his baseball team's American League championship, but he took time last week to hear the economic outlook from Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman and close adviser to President-elect Barack Obama.
According to Bloomberg News, Volcker told Major League Baseball owners that it will take longer than many people expect to repair the U.S. economy. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig invited Volcker to speak to the sport's 30 owners at their quarterly meetings in New York. He talked for about an hour Thursday and took about a dozen questions from team officials on everything from automakers to unemployment.
Though the media was excluded, Rays owner Sternberg (himself a former Goldman Sachs executive) said Volcker indicated U.S. consumers will have to lead the rest of the world out of the global recession. "He said the same things we are getting in the papers, but when you hear it from the foremost financial authority in the world, it has a bigger impact.''
According to the Bloomberg story, Sternberg said Volcker rescued the economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s by curbing inflation. "I told him, you saved the planet," Sternberg said he told Volcker when they spoke at the World Series. "What he did back then was nothing short of heroic. He tamed the world's inflation."
Technology forum picks new officers
Regional tech-empowerment group the Tampa Bay Technology Forum has picked its new officers for 2009. At the top: Debra Curtiss, vice president and general manager of Peak 10 Data Center in Tampa, was confirmed as incoming chair of TBTF at last week's board of directors meeting. Curtiss is a 19-year veteran of the information technology and telecom industries.
Also named TBTF officers: Anand Pallegar, founder and president of atLarge Inc., an interactive advertising and Web analytics firm in Sarasota, was elected vice chair; Bright House Networks' director of corporate strategy Greg McLaughlin and Kathy Killingsworth, COO of Tribridge, were confirmed as treasurer and secretary, respectively.