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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. Allegiant Air's CEO named 2015 Tony Jannus Award winner


    This year's recipient of the Tony Jannus Award is airline CEO Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., whose low-cost carrier Allegiant Air is propelling St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport toward a new passenger record.

    Gallagher's honor was announced Tuesday at the airport. The Allegiant CEO is the 52nd recipient of the award, which is handed out by the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society every year to recognize a figure in the world of commercial aviation....

  2. Tampa's Hard Rock casino wants to go global — but can it?


    TAMPA — The Seminole Tribe of Florida has declared that the fate of its plan to build the biggest hotel in Hillsborough County hinges on the fate of the deal that lets it offer baccarat and blackjack in Florida.

    In delivering that message to state leaders, the tribe has revealed its business strategy for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa:

    They want to take it global....

    The Seminoles’ Tampa casino is the most profitable of its seven Florida casinos, accounting for 40 percent of its 2014 revenues.
  3. Jeff Vinik hires urban planners to start designing $1 billion downtown Tampa project


    TAMPA — In December, Jeff Vinik unveiled his $1 billion vision to transform 40 acres of downtown property into a vibrant waterfront district. He asked the public to help shape it.

    Now it's time to ask the experts.

    Vinik has hired two men considered among the best in the business: "new urbanists" Jeff Speck and David Dixon are city planners at the forefront of the movement to build walkable urban spaces for people to live and work in....

    When Vinik unveiled his ambitious plans for a walkable, livable area south of Tampa’s downtown, he referred to the project as the Waterfront District to give it an identity.
  4. Port Authority Board votes to authorize building new refrigerated warehouse

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority's governing board on Tuesday authorized spending $20.8 million — half from the port, half from the state — to one day build a new refrigerated warehouse to bring back perishable foods to Tampa's docks.

    Port officials said that they're also negotiating with several companies looking to move their food products through Tampa.

    "We're very close," port CEO Paul Anderson said....

  5. 'New urbanism' advocate Jeff Speck joining Jeff Vinik's redevelopment team


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has added a big-time name to his team — but not to boost his hockey franchise's playoff fortunes.

    Jeff Speck is a city planner, author, TED talker and one of the nation's leading proponents of "new urbanism," the movement to build walkable urban neighborhoods for people to live and work in.

    He's also the newest member of the group Vinik has assembled to design and build his $1 billion redevelopment of downtown Tampa's waterfront....

    Jeff Speck is “a bit of a rock star in the world of urban planning,” said a transit proponent.
  6. Q&A: Jordan Zimmerman turned a B+ at USF into billions


    TAMPA — When Jordan Zimmerman gave $10 million to the University of South Florida last week, he said it was because the university inspired him to become the successful advertising executive he is today.

    USF inspired him, mainly, by being wrong.

    Zimmerman was a USF undergraduate in the 1980s when a professor explained the "purchase funnel." That's a marketing model used to explain a consumer's journey — awareness, interest, desire, action — from learning about a product to buying it....

    Jordan Zimmerman speaks at the University of South Florida on Monday. The Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications was renamed after his $10 million donation.
  7. Seminole Tribe's $1.6 billion expansion hinges on fate of gaming compact

    Economic Development

    The Seminole Tribe of Florida is planning a $1.6 billion expansion of its casinos and hotels in Tampa and Hollywood that could create 4,000 permanent jobs.

    But it says those projects won't happen unless Florida's leaders and the tribe agree on a new gaming compact that would allow the Seminoles to continue offering banked card games like blackjack.

    "If nothing happens," Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Tuesday, "both of these projects are on hold."...

    Jim Allen, Seminole Gaming CEO, says a new compact is needed before the tribe will go forward with expansion plans.
  8. Jordan Zimmerman's $10 million gift will remake, rename USF School of Mass Communications


    TAMPA — Jordan Zimmerman knows branding.

    He helped craft the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign of the 80s as an undergrad. When Madison Avenue wouldn't hire him, he built his own advertising agency. Zimmerman Advertising went on to craft famous brand campaigns for clients like Dunkin' Donuts ("America runs on Dunkin' ") and Papa John's Pizza ("Better ingredients. Better pizza.") He's also built his own personal brand as an industry innovator and executive-turned-philosopher....

    University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and trustee Jordan Zimmerman take a photo with students in front of the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications.
  9. TIA wants to be a world-class destination for art


    TAMPA — A $943 million construction project is under way to make Tampa International Airport bigger and better. Now airport officials want to class up the joint, too.

    The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Thursday voted to revive its public arts committee and start commissioning new works of art to adorn the expanded airport in 2017.

    "We want this to be a world-class destination for art," said Chris Minner, vice president of marketing....

  10. Seminole Hard Rock looking at new hotel project

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is seeking permission to build a new hotel tower alongside its most profitable casino.

    The proposed hotel, at 1.2 million square feet, would have 16 floors and 573 rooms, making it the second-largest hotel in Hillsborough County. The largest is the downtown Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which has 27 floors and 719 rooms.

    The bay area economic climate is certainly inviting to new hotel construction: Tourism, hotel profits and the real estate market for existing hotels are all booming....

    The existing Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino complex in Tampa is the most lucrative of the seven casinos owned by the Seminole tribe in Florida. The proposed hotel would be adjacent.
  11. Arrivals at Tampa International Airport: Victoria's Secret? Spanx? HSN?

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — The new retail options vying to do business at the renovated Tampa International Airport include Guess, HSN, the PGA, Quiksilver, Spanx, Tommy Bahama, Tumi, Victoria's Secret — and Beanie Babies.

    Dylan's Candy Bar, an exclusive candy boutique from Dylan Lauren, daughter of designer Ralph Lauren, also wants to open shop at TIA. So does Marc by Marc Jacobs, the designer's more affordable line, and high-end housewares designer Jonathan Adler....

     Tampa International Airport is revamping all of its dining and shopping options. This is an artist's rendering of a proposed Brighton Collectibles for Airside C. [Tampa International Airport]
  12. Look at what restaurants Tampa International Airport might be getting

    Economic Development


    If the bay area's most refined palates held a fantasy foodie draft while locked in the wine cellar at Bern's Steak House, they might dream up something like this:

    Mise en Place's Maryann Ferenc and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik leading a foodie's row of Bern's, Four Green Fields, Holy Hog BBQ, Kahwa Coffee, Mazarro Italian Market and Rumfish Grill.

    Or triple-threat restaurateur Richard Gonzmart (Columbia Restaurant, Goody Goody and Ulele) and Ducky's owner/Tampa Bay Rays star Evan Longoria anchoring a lineup of Bella's Italian Cafe, Buddy Brew Coffee and Datz....

    An artist's rendering of the Pam Breeze Marche Bar, a food court proposed for Airside C.
 [Tampa International Airport]
  13. Pinellas County's 'manaphin' takes Manhattan


    Madison Avenue loves the "manaphin."

    The manaphin is the mythical half-manatee, half-dolphin creature that Pinellas tourism officials created last year as an April Fools' Day prank that brought worldwide media attention to the county's beaches.

    That campaign received one of the hospitality industry's highest marketing awards Monday night in New York City.

    The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International's Adrian Awards gave the Pinellas County tourism agency, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, two of its platinum honors, one for the viral manaphin hoax and the other for a website used by the VSPC's industry partners....

    The “manaphin,” a half-manatee, half-dolphin sea creature invented by Visit St. Pete-Clearwater last year to create a buzz and reel in visitors to Pinellas County, was mentioned as one of last year’s best April Fools’ Day hoaxes by ABC News.
  14. Board of Governors endorses USF medical school for downtown Tampa

    Economic Development

    TALLAHASSEE — The University of South Florida on Thursday made its second pitch in four weeks to win the Board of Governors' support for its $153 million downtown Tampa medical education and research center.

    The sequel was better.

    USF wowed the governors. The BOG decided to forgo any discussion and voted to unanimously endorse USF's plan to build a 12-story office tower/medical campus in the heart of Jeff Vinik's $1 billion downtown redevelopment project....

    An artist's rendering shows a proposed University of South Florida medical school building beside a medical office building and parking garage in downtown Tampa. [University of South Florida]
  15. Florida broke record in 2014 with 97.3 million tourists

    State Roundup

    TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott stopped by Tampa International Airport on Monday to announce that Florida's tourism industry set a record in 2014.

    The state attracted 97.3 million visitors, and the Tampa Bay region certainly did its share of the work.

    On the Pinellas side of the bay, the county set its own record with 5.9 million tourists spending the night in 2014.

    In Hillsborough, hotels reached 70 percent occupancy for the first time in county history and generated a record $540 million in gross revenue....

    Clearwater Beach is packed on a Friday afternoon last March, contributing to Pinellas County’s record tourism numbers in 2014. Gov. Rick Scott says he expects the state to eclipse the 100 million mark in total tourists this year.