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Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent two decades covering crime, business, courts and sports for the Tampa Bay Times. Now he's an assistant metro editor.

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 interned at the Des Moines Register. He returned to Florida to work for the Times in its Citrus and Pasco County bureaus.

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 covered Tampa International Airport, Port Tampa Bay, the tourism industry and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's $1 billion plan to redevelop downtown Tampa.

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

In June 2015, he became an assistant metro editor in the Tampa newsroom.

Did you know: He filed the last byline in the history of the St. Petersburg Times, which changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 1, 2012.

Phone: (813) 226-3404

Email: jthalji@tampabay.com

Twitter: @jthalji

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  1. Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke steps down to become chief operating officer of the NFL

    Business

    TAMPA — Tod Leiweke said that hockey was his first love when Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik lured him away from the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2010 to come rebuild the bay area's failing hockey franchise as its new CEO.

    Now pro football has wooed Leiweke back.

    The Lightning CEO resigned Friday to take on one of the top jobs in the National Football League: chief operating officer, a position last held by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself in 2006....

    Tod Leiweke, left, will stay in a lesser capacity until August while president Steve Griggs takes over as Lightning CEO.
  2. Tampa Bay tourism aims at cities served by Allegiant, and a new calendar

    Tourism

    The Tampa Bay tourism industry isn't just relying on top feeder markets like Chicago and New York and its stronghold seasons of summer and winter to attract visitors anymore.

    Instead, officials are creating their own hybrid tourism seasons and aiming for secondary markets served by Allegiant Air in cities such as Akron, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; and Grand Rapids, Mich.

    "These are good, strong Allegiant markets," said David Downing, CEO of the Pinellas tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater....

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates (left) talks tourism with the media while (l to r) David Downing, Executive Director of Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater, Florida Gov Rick Scott and Visit Florida President and CEO J. William Seccombe listen. Florida Governor Rick Scott visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Thursday morning 7/23/2015 to highlight funding for VISIT FLORIDA to continue Florida?s record-breaking tourism. He held a press conference in the aquariums theater with area and state wide tourism officials and local leaders before getting a visit with the aquariums movie star dolphins Winter and Hope alongside Dolphin Tale actor Nathan Gamble.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning's finances on verge of skating into the black

    Business

    TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup final — and maybe in the black as well.

    The Lightning is close to breaking even for the first time in the Jeff Vinik era and only the second time in its 23-year history.

    Team officials say that the longest postseason run since Vinik bought the team in 2010 has sparked sales of season tickets, suites and sponsorships that will fuel revenues for years to come....

    Pavel Kubina drinks from the Stanley Cup after the Lightning last won it in 2004, also the last profitable year for the team.
  4. Tampa International Airport brings car rental companies under one roof

    Airlines

    TAMPA — One selling point of Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano's $943 million plan to remake the airport is that it would make renting cars there a whole lot easier.

    Instead of looking for deals on or off airport property, customers in the ninth largest rental market in the nation would be able to choose from a range of prices, choices and companies all under one roof.

    That perk will be a reality in two years: The airport said that nine rental companies — representing 16 different brands — have signed agreements to use its new 2.6 million-square-foot rental facility months before its even set to break ground this fall....

    This is an artist rendering of the exterior of the new car rental facility that Tampa International Airport will build by 2017. Airport officials said they've signed contracts with nine companies to bring 16 rental car companies to the new 2.6 million square-foot facility. Tampa has the 9th largest car rental market in the nation, and airport officials say that it will all be under one roof at the airport.
  5. Container architecture starting to have a moment in Tampa Bay

    Business

    They are always 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide and 20 or 40 feet long. Millions carry the cargo that keeps the economy going. Millions more are scattered across the globe, unused.

    Shipping containers symbolize our quest to buy things and the excess and waste that result. These corrugated steel boxes may also hold part of the solution.

    Containers are being recycled and reinvented to serve humanity in new ways, as homes and offices, bridges and schools, even a research station in Antarctica....

    Shipping containers in Port Tampa Bay are used for storage, but elsewhere they are used as building blocks for livable structures.
  6. Critics take aim at Tampa International Airport's concessions contracts

    Airlines

    TAMPA — The proposals are in. The bids have been ranked. After eight months, the process of choosing what people will eat, drink and buy at Tampa International Airport is almost at an end.

    The airport's overseer, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, will pick the winning bids on June 4.

    But critics of the process are starting to speak up.

    They question the airport's commitment to minority-owned and locally owned businesses, the diversity of the selection committees and even whether a board member should recuse himself from voting because a bidder donated to his re-election campaign....

    The airport’s bid process is designed to encourage concessionaires to include “local flavors,” but officials say federal law prohibits them from favoring local companies when awarding contracts.
  7. Museum of Science and Industry board interested in Jeff Vinik's downtown Tampa project

    Business

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik was a tad busy Monday — his Tampa Bay Lightning were in New York for that night's NHL playoff game — but he still found time to address a very important group: the Museum of Science and Industry's board of directors.

    Vinik is undertaking a $1 billion redevelopment of downtown Tampa, and he thinks MOSI would be a great addition to the project.

    So on Monday the Lightning owner briefed board members on the idea — and they're definitely interested....

    Jeff Vinik’s plan for downtown Tampa will cost $1 billion.
  8. Tampa Bay will be part of Humana's hiring spree

    Business

    TAMPA — Humana said that it's about to go on a hiring spree and start adding 500 jobs a year nationally — and many of those jobs will end up in the bay area.

    The Louisville, Ky., insurance company announced its new hiring goal Tuesday and said it wants to fill those new jobs by hiring military veterans and their spouses.

    "Tampa Bay will be a focus," Humana spokesman Jeff Blunt said, "and the area has a heavy military family presence."...

  9. New medical startup Inspirata sets up shop in Tampa, will hire 70

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Satish Sanan used to be big into horse racing. But the Clearwater entrepreneur said he sold his horses and is devoting himself to his new medical startup, Inspirata Inc.

    The company hopes to revolutionize digital pathology by creating digital slides of the cancer cells taken from patients.

    "This will be my legacy," Sanan said.

    Inspirata wants to create digital images that will make it easier for doctors to diagnosis patients, share information with other physicians, build a cancer database and create a "predictive algorithm" to forecast how future cancers will develop....

  10. Mapping out proposed dining, shopping options at Tampa International Airport

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Plans have been drawn. Checks have been cut. Demolition has begun. The metamorphosis of Tampa International Airport is well under way.

    There's one last step to take, however, and it may be the most important piece of the $943 million project:

    What are people going to eat, drink and buy when the transformed airport is unveiled in 2017?

    The complicated — and at times grueling — airport concessions selection process will finally come to a close with the June 4 meeting of the board that oversees the airport, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority....

    An artist’s rendering of the proposed Hard Rock Cafe in the main terminal.
  11. Fruit imports, Cuban ferries straining truce between Tampa Bay ports

    Business

    TAMPA — United Caribbean Lines CEO Bruce Nierenberg hopes to one day establish ferry travel to Cuba. He can picture ferries sailing from Port Tampa Bay.

    But he sees the same thing when he looks at Tampa's neighbor — and rival — across the bay: Port Manatee.

    "We'll choose the port that give us the best economics," Nierenberg said.

    Cuba is not the only potential disruption to an uneasy nine-month truce between Tampa Bay's two cargo ports. Tampa's decision weeks ago to build its own fruit warehouse did not sit well with Manatee, which says it's the state's largest fruit importer....

    Port Tampa Bay, left, and Port Manatee have been rivals for half a century. They’re both bulk cargo ports trying to reinvent themselves as container and vehicle ports.
  12. Details matter when securing the home before a hurricane

    Hurricanes

    In hurricane-wary Florida, residents have long heard the basics of how to protect their houses and themselves from an approaching storm: board up the windows, check the roof and — if you don't evacuate — find a safe space inside the home to ride out the storm.

    But Hillsborough County's manager of emergency planning Michael Ryan said there's something even more important that homeowners can do:...

  13. Prosecutors: 'Ironman' ran illegal lottery, must forfeit $2.8 million

    News

    TAMPA — It takes dedication, training and quite a bit of money for elite athletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, the most prestigious triathlon on the planet.

    Or one could just pay $50 to enter a lottery.

    That's what thousands of triathletes have done since 1983 to get a coveted slot in the Ironman, which has been run from the Tampa Bay area for the past 35 years....

    The Ironman brand has become big business as there are now 180 Ironman events in 20 countries.
  14. Brew with a view: Craft beer fuels Tampa tourism

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Before he became an impresario of the local craft beer scene, before he founded Cigar City Brewing, Joey Redner made sure that wherever he traveled he knew where all the microbreweries were.

    "You want to experience things you can't have back home," he said. "That's the fun of it."

    Beer tourism is an old concept that has come roaring back in recent years. In fact, craft beer has become a thing, especially in the bay area....

    Visit Tampa Bay, the tourism agency that markets the Tampa/Hillsborough area, is launching its new summer tourism campaign and one of the themes is beer. Visit Tampa Bay wants to leverage Tampa's new found gravitas in the craft brewing scene to bring tourists --specifically, bearded millennial craft beer drinkers -- to this side of the bay to sample what's on tap. Here are some of the posters they'll be using.

Photo Credit: Visit Tampa Bay
  15. Lufthansa sees growth potential in Tampa Bay

    Airlines

    ST. PETERSBURG — Think of Lufthansa as the biggest European tourist to ever visit the Tampa Bay area.

    The German airline, which will start serving Tampa International Airport on Sept. 25, is well-known for pampering its customers in business class.

    But Don Bunkenburg, a top North American executive with the airline, said Lufthansa was attracted to the region by more than just the promise of filling more business class seats....

    Lufthansa is the biggest airline in Europe and is known for its service to business travelers. The German airline begins its Tampa-Frankfurt flights on Sept. 25.