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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. Tampa International Airport breaks ground on expansion project


    TAMPA — The groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for Tampa International Airport's $943 million construction project marked the start of a massive transformation. It will change the way people will catch flights there, how they'll dine and entertain themselves, even how the airport will make money.

    It reminded Hillsborough County Aviation Authority chairman Robert Watkins of another momentous day: April 15, 1971, when the main terminal opened....

    Thursday morning's groundbreaking celebration at Tampa International Airport included a 24-square-foot cake. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. Pinellas tourism taking aim at U.K. in new winter campaign


    CLEARWATER — St. Petersburg and Clearwater are calling on London.

    Pinellas tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is spending $245,000 this winter to launch its first marketing push aimed at attracting tourists from the United Kingdom. That's the beaches' No. 1 pool for international visitors, including Canada.

    "The market is matured to the level where we can go direct to the consumer," VSPC interim CEO David Downing said. "We're taking our training wheels off."...

    David Downing, interim director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, describes an ad on a British double-decker bus at Tuesday’s meeting.
  3. Tampa Port CEO will get $250,000 bonus if he stays through 2019


    TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority governing board voted Tuesday to give CEO Paul Anderson a Joe Lopano-like bonus to avoid a Joe Maddon-like departure.

    Anderson will get a $250,000 bonus if he remains at Port Tampa Bay through 2019. That works out to $50,000 a year for five years. The bonus also comes with a four-year contract extension and a 4.5 percent raise, increasing his annual salary to $365,750....

    Port Authority CEO Paul Anderson also got a 4.5 percent raise.
  4. For Tampa International Airport, one flight leads to another, to another ... (w/video)


    TAMPA — Chris Minner had just started work at Tampa International Airport in 2011 when the new vice president of marketing said hello to an old friend — and top executive — at Lufthansa.

    "It's great to see you again," the airline executive told Minner, "but we're not flying to Tampa."

    Then came Thursday: officials from both sides of the bay gathered at the airport to fete TIA's latest international carrier, Lufthansa, which will start flights to Frankfurt in 2015....

    Marius Carstensen of Lufthansa Airlines reacts after learning that the box Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano was holding contained hand rolled cigars made in Tampa that Lopano was presenting to him after it was announced that Lufthansa would be flying in and out of Tampa on a non stop flight to Frankfurt. The new nonstop Lufthansa flight from Tampa to Frankfurt that was announced at Tampa International Airport this morning 11/13/14 will do more than just link the bay area to Germany. “We are now plugged into the most powerful hub in the world,” said airport CEO Joe Lopano during today’s announcement.
  5. TIA nonstop flight will link Tampa to Germany — and beyond


    TAMPA — The new nonstop Lufthansa flight from Tampa International Airport to Frankfurt launching in 2015 will do more than link the bay area to Germany.

    It will connect Tampa Bay to the rest of the world.

    "You can leave from this terminal and go to Cape Town, South Africa; Hyderabad, India; or Bombay, India (now known as Mumbai), from here and make just one stop in Frankfurt," airport CEO Joe Lopano said. "It puts us on the grid with the world."...

    A billboard on southbound Interstate 275 at the Fowler Avenue on-ramp advertises the new flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
  6. Tampa International Airport set to announce new route to Frankfurt, Germany


    TAMPA — Bay area leaders will gather at Tampa International Airport today to announce a new nonstop flight to one of the airport's most coveted international destinations: Frankfurt, Germany.

    Lufthansa German Airlines CEO Karl Garnadt said in October that Tampa is one of the carrier's top targets for a new series of low-cost, long-haul flights set to launch in fall 2015. Tampa was the only U.S. city the CEO listed ....

    Tourists enjoy a bird's-eye view of the banking district in downtown Frankfurt, Germany.
  7. Tampa International Airport set to announce new international flight


    TAMPA — A new international flight and a new carrier are headed to Tampa International Airport.

    The airport said it will make a big announcement at 10 a.m. Thursday about a new international flight. Mayor Bob Buckhorn, airport CEO Joe Lopano and other local tourism and business leaders will also be on hand for the announcement. But the airport would not disclose the new carrier or new overseas route on Wednesday....

  8. Allegiant Air announces five new nonstop East Coast, Midwest flights


    CLEARWATER — Allegiant Air, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport's dominant carrier, announced Wednesday that it will offer five new nonstop routes next year, connecting the airport to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Richmond, Va., Hagerstown, Md., and Omaha, Neb.

    The new routes will start service in February and March, the company said.

    "We are extremely pleased to announce this expansion and bring new convenient, low-cost vacation options to five new communities, as well as new destination options for those communities we currently serve," Jude Bricker, Allegiant's senior vice president for planning, said in a statement....

    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.
  9. Ybor City startup Gr8code ready to start boot camp for coders



    The founders of Gr8code all met in the startup world, guiding entrepreneurs and helping launch new businesses. It was in that world that they discovered a glaring unmet need: startups could not find enough skilled coders to build apps and websites.

    "There was such a gap between being able to hire the skills they needed," said Gr8code CEO Virginia Barnett, "and what was actually available."...

    Deborah Neff, left to right, Phuong Ngugen Cotey and Virginia Barnett look over the shoulder of Patrick Hughes, a Gr8code student, who is working on an assignment for class on Monday. [SAM OWENS   |   Times]

  10. Another Pinellas tourist tax record breaks $35 million mark


    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County set a record for tourist tax collections for the third consecutive fiscal year in 2014, breaking the $35 million barrier for the first time in history.

    This latest record may be more than just another sign of industry strength. To the county's top tourism official, it may also be a sign of transformation.

    "I firmly believe that we have reached a new era for tourism in St. Pete and Clearwater," said David Downing. "I think our brand has reached a traction level that we have never seen."...

    The natural shores of Caladesi Island beckon to two kayakers who had paddled from Dunedin Causeway.
  11. Take a look at the future of Tampa International Airport



    When Joe Lopano talks about what the Tampa International Airport of the future will look like, he sounds more like a real estate developer than the airport's CEO.

    Other times, he sounds like he's planning a romantic evening.

    "You have a little something to eat, maybe a glass of wine," Lopano said Thursday. "You watch the sunset. Then you go to the airside and get on your plane....

    A rendering of the new automated people mover station at Tampa International Airport's main terminal as seen from an outside terrace that wil be built for patrons at the terminal. The APM will connect the terminal to the economy parking garage and the consolidated rental car facility, or ConRAC, in 2017. [Tampa International Airport]
  12. Tampa International Airport construction means major changes for passengers


    TAMPA — There are big changes coming to Tampa International Airport, and that means big changes for people who use the airport.

    Starting in December, the airport will turn into a massive construction zone that will affect how people will access the airsides from inside the main terminal and also how they'll be able to catch a cab or bus out of TIA.

    "We're doing everything in our power to minimize any potential impacts," airport spokesman Danny Valentine said....

    This rendering shows what the east side of the expanded terminal at Tampa International Airport will look like from the blue curbside lanes. On the right is the new outdoor terrace. Construction is expected to be finished in 2017. [Tampa International Airport]
  13. Tampa International Airport makes record $197.2 million in revenue in fiscal 2014


    TAMPA — It was a very good fiscal year for Tampa International Airport's finances.

    TIA reported a record $197.2 million in operating revenue in fiscal year 2014, which ended in September. That's an increase of 7 percent, or nearly $13 million more than last year, when the airport set the old record of $184.3 million in revenue.

    The key, said airport CEO Joe Lopano, is that those passing through TIA are spending more money there....

  14. Copa Airlines CEO says a good holiday could lead to daily Tampa flights year-round


    TAMPA — Copa Airlines CEO Pedro Heilbron said that a successful winter holiday for his airline flying from Tampa International Airport could help decide whether Copa will fly daily from Tampa to Latin America year-round.

    In December, Copa started service to Tampa four times a week, giving the bay area its first direct flight to Latin America. Copa's passengers can use the airline's hub at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City to catch connecting flights all over Central and South America....

  15. USF trustees endorse downtown Tampa medical school


    TAMPA — The dean of the University of South Florida's medical school on Thursday implored a key group of trustees to bless the rise of a new downtown medical school.

    It would reshape USF and Tampa, Dr. Charles Lockwood told them.

    Then the dean called in his closer: Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

    "This decision is the single most important that has occurred in the last 25 years," Buckhorn said. "This is bigger than baseball."...

    An artist’s rendering shows what the new 12-story Morsani College of Medicine building could look like in downtown Tampa.