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Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent 18 years covering crime, courts, sports and now the business beat for the Tampa Bay Times.

He was raised in the Tampa Bay area, attended Osceola High School and is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa. He worked for the Times while he was in college and later interned at the Des Moines Register.

After five years covering criminal and civil court in Pasco County for the Times, in 2008 he became metro police reporter for the city of St. Petersburg.

In June 2012 he joined the Times business staff and now covers Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and Tampa Bay's tourism industry.

Along the way he has also covered NASA, the NFL, the NBA, college football, hurricanes, forest fires, space shuttle launches, criminal trials and lots of high school football.

Phone: (813) 226-3404


Twitter: @JThalji

  1. St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport's boss now taxiing for departure


    CLEARWATER — Even while running other airports, from afar Noah Lagos saw the potential in Pinellas County's commercial airport.

    "I always had a vision that St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport could grow," he said.

    So when PIE — the airport rebranded itself around its three-letter code — needed a new executive director in 2004, he jumped at the chance.

    Lagos was right about the airport's potential — but not at first....

    An Allegiant Air plane sits on the tarmac at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. The pilots union is ready to go out on strike, which the airline is trying to prevent.
  2. Brazilian business jetmaker Embraer again picks Port Tampa Bay


    TAMPA — In 2013, Brazilian aerospace company Embraer S.A. shipped a limited run of components for its Phenom 300 light business jet through Port Tampa Bay to be assembled in its Melbourne facility.

    It took a while, but that experiment has finally paid off for Tampa: Embraer is now sending monthly shipments of aircraft parts through the port.

    The company is sending parts for two kinds of planes now, according to port officials, and in 2016 plans to send components for two additional models....

  3. New dining prospects rated for Tampa International Airport


    TAMPA — The most coveted endorsements in bay area food and beverage circles were released Friday, offering a glimpse at what new eating and drinking options might come to Tampa International Airport in 2017.

    There could be a Hard Rock Cafe and Qdoba Mexican Grill in the main terminal.

    Ducky's, Pei Wei Asian Diner and Burger 21 could come to Airside A.

    A slew of old and new restaurants — Cigar City Brewing, PDQ, RumFish Grill and Ulele Bar — could end up in Airside C....

  4. Bucs, Lightning, Rays not playing games when it comes to analytics


    TAMPA — The technology does not yet exist that can tell the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which quarterback to take with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft or show the Tampa Bay Rays how to fill the David Price-sized hole in their rotation.

    There is data, however, that could help the Tampa Bay Lightning figure out which season ticket holders they might be in danger of losing or which parts of Tropicana Field fans (and their dollars) are avoiding....

    Fans buy collectibles at Tropicana Field. The Rays are starting to figure out how crowds move through the Trop so they could, perhaps, move a concession stand or team shop to a better location. But the capability to do that is still limited.
  5. Now 20, Florida Aquarium no longer stands alone in downtown Tampa (w/video)


    TAMPA — This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Florida Aquarium, 20 years since it was built to bring life to a barren downtown.

    That's not quite how it worked out.

    "It was a challenge early because of location," said aquarium president and CEO Thom Stork, "and because of the infrastructure around the facility."

    To be more precise, there was no infrastructure — or much of anything else — around the facility....

    “It was a challenge early because of location,” said aquarium president and CEO Thom Stork. Now, a capital campaign will add meeting space, a touch tank, a learning center and a 350-seat events center to the venue.
  6. Syniverse CEO in a rush to get to the future


    TAMPA — Change comes quickly in the telecommunications business. Syniverse has learned that lesson well over the past eight months.

    The global player in mobile technology lost its CEO and gained a new one. It also laid off 100 of its 900 Tampa employees while integrating two newly acquired firms into its worldwide operations.

    Now change is upon Syniverse once again. This time, though, the company is embarking on an ambitious new course set by new CEO Steve Gray....

    Syniverse CEO Steve Gray says 2015 will be a transformative year for the company.
  7. Tampa Bay Steel's workplace proves its mettle



    For 24 hours a day, five days a week, Tampa Bay Steel Corp. cuts and reshapes steel to the exact specifications of its customers in construction, manufacturing and shipbuilding. ¶ As if they don't spend enough time together already, Tampa Bay Steel's employees also get together after work — and everyone's family is invited. ¶ "Everything we do," said owner, founder and CEO Buck McInnis, "we do together." ¶ That philosophy helped make Tampa Bay Steel one of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces. It was ranked 37th on the list of small companies....

    This is a photo of Debbie Trigg, 60, a receptionist at Tampa Bay Steel Corp. for the past eight years.

Photo Credit: Jamal Thalji
  8. Tampa's Beck Group brings architects, builders together


    TAMPA — The Beck Group was born in Texas in 1912 as a construction company. It merged with a design firm, Urban Architecture, 87 years later. Left brain, meet right brain.

    "You got Priuses over here," said assistant project manager Sean Horan, "and Chevy Silverados over there."

    Beck's melded culture — the precision of construction, the creativity of architecture — is one of the reasons why the firm's Tampa office was the highest-rated small business in the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces....

    Ryan Toth, regional director of The Beck Group in Tampa, stands with project drawings and bicycles restored by company employees.
  9. Tampa Bay Lightning employees enjoying the Jeff Vinik era


    TAMPA — Ross Markley spent four decades in corporate America. He was a senior vice president at a bank. He made good money and had a good career. But ask the 68-year-old retired executive to name the best job he's ever had, and he doesn't hesitate: It's working part-time for Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

    Markley works in guest services at the Amalie Arena. He helps fans find their seats or the bathrooms. ...

    Chef Nelson Rosado, right, hands conversion technician Brett Newmyer, left, fish tacos at the Firestick Grill on March 13.  Three days a week Tampa Bay Lightning employees are offered a discounted all-you-can-eat buffet lunch.
  10. March was the best month in St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport history


    CLEARWATER — March is usually the biggest month of the year at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. But this past March was its biggest month ever.

    That's because a record 167,263 passengers used the airport in March, officials said. That tops the previous monthly record set in March 1995 by 22 percent, or 30,546 passengers.

    "It's just Allegiant," said airport spokeswoman Michele Routh. "With all the different destinations that have come online, it was just a matter of time."...

  11. In the sports tourism business, Tampa runs up the score


    TAMPA — The city is hosting its second NCAA Women's Final Four this weekend. A third is coming in 2019. The two basketball tournaments highlight a remarkable run: Tampa will host an NCAA championship for five straight years.

    There's more at work here, though, than just a love of sports. These are business decisions.

    Sports tourism — whether it's hosting Super Bowls or Final Fours or youth tournaments — is big business. Amateur sports drove 20 percent of the 760,400 room nights booked in Hillsborough County last year — and that doesn't include the pro teams....

    Confetti falls after Tennessee defeats Stanford in Tampa for the championship in the Women’s Final Four in 2008. Eight months later, the NCAA again awarded the Final Four to Tampa for this year.
  12. St. Pete-Clearwater airport spared as Allegiant pilot strike averted at last hour


    CLEARWATER — A strike by Allegiant Air pilots that could have virtually shut down St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport was averted at the last hour.

    The strike was put on hold by order of a U.S. District Court on Wednesday evening just a few hours before it was supposed to start at 3 a.m. today.

    The work stoppage would have been acutely felt at St. Pete-Clearwater International, where Allegiant flies to 40 cities and is the airport's dominant carrier. It also was the only airline scheduled to operate there on Thursday, with 29 flights. In the hours leading up to the imminent strike, the airline and the pilots union blamed each other for the impasse that could have grounded up to 250 flights across the country....

    Allegiant Air is expanding its flight network, offering five new nonstop routes into St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. Passengers from Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Richmond, Va., Hagerstown, Md., and Omaha will be able to fly directly into Tampa Bay on the new routes beginning in February and March.
  13. Tampa-Cuba trade and tourism ties hindered by embargo, confusion

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — The bay area has only grown hungrier for more tourism and trade with Cuba since the Obama administration relaxed travel restrictions to the island nation in December.

    But interest in Cuba has been thwarted by red tape, confusion and the 53-year-old embargo.

    "I'm still seeing a lot of questions," said ABC Charters Inc. president Tessie Aral, whose company arranges three (soon to be five) flights a week to Cuba from Tampa International Airport....

    Tourists visit an area of central Havana earlier this month as a Cuban woman smokes a cigar in the background.
  14. Q&A: Jeff Vinik's 'new urbanist' designers discuss reshaping Tampa



    David Dixon and Jeff Speck are two of the best urban planners in the business.

    That's why Jeff Vinik hired them.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning owner is planning a $1 billion transformation of the downtown waterfront. He wants to spend the next decade turning 40 acres of empty land and existing development into a livable space that will appeal to two important demographics: millennials and empty nesters....

    Jeff Speck, left, of Speck & Associates LLC and David Dixon, right, of engineering firm Stantec are proponents of “new urbanism,” the movement to build walkable urban neighborhoods for people to live and work in.
  15. Tampa Bay pilots grapple with aftermath of deadly Germanwings crash


    No U.S. airline pilot is believed to have ever done what German pilot Andreas Lubitz is accused of doing Tuesday: deliberately crashing a commercial airliner, killing himself and 149 others.

    Now Tampa Bay area pilots are wrestling with a stunning act they can barely comprehend.

    "This is so far from the standard that professional pilots maintain and hold themselves to," said retired St. Petersburg airline pilot and aviation safety expert John Cox, 61. "It is almost indescribable."...