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

Email: thalji@tampabay.com

Twitter: @JThalji

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  1. Tampa Electric's solar project at TIA would be Tampa Bay's largest

    Energy

    TAMPA — The city's electric utility and international airport are teaming up to build the largest solar energy installation in the Tampa Bay region.

    If successful, the project could spark even more bay area investment in solar power, a renewable energy source that has been slow to take off in the Sunshine State.

    Tampa Electric Co. president Gordon Gillette said the lessons his utility would learn from installing 280,000 square feet of solar panels on top of Tampa International Airport's south economy parking garage would shape the company's plans for solar energy....

    Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric, points to a rendering of an array of solar panels that would be built on top of Tampa International Airport’s south economy parking garage.
  2. Edelweiss Air increasing TIA flights to three a week in 2015

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Edelweiss Air's route connecting Tampa to Zurich continues to be one of Tampa International Airport's big international success stories. It also has been a big success for the airline: That's why Edelweiss announced Monday that it will increase its overseas flights to Tampa from twice a week to three times a week starting in June.

    "This is an effect of our success that we have seen on the route since its start," Edelweiss chief commercial officer Alain Chisari said in a prepared statement....

  3. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's downtown plans not just for charity

    Economic Development

    TAMPA

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik wants to create a vibrant urban district in his adopted hometown that will rival any city in the nation.

    It will be a place with "a soul and a spirit," said Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke.

    That feng shui, though, also comes with a bottom-line business plan.

    That's because the Lightning owner's team is still unprofitable.

    To reverse that, Team Vinik is trying to bring in major employers like corporate and educational tenants to support his hockey franchise and downtown redevelopment project. It's a plan that now has the backing of billionaire Bill Gates' personal investment fund....

    Jayden Hyland, 10, of Tampa waves his Tampa Bay Lightning flag during an NHL preseason game against the Dallas Stars at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Friday. The Lightning has not turned a profit since Jeff Vinik bought the franchise in 2010. 
  4. Bill Gates investment fund will partner with Vinik on Channelside

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Bill Gates' riches will help fuel Jeff Vinik's vision.

    An investment fund controlled by Microsoft's billionaire founder will help finance the Tampa Bay Lightning owner's ambitious plan to build a massive entertainment, office, residential and retail district around the Amalie Arena.

    "This has the potential to be a billion-dollar development," said Vinik's top lieutenant, Tod Leiweke, during a 90-minute interview at the arena Thursday....

    Bob Abberger  was hired to manage the development and execution of the master plan for Channelside.
  5. Jeff Vinik believed to be buyer looking at Tampa's Marriott Waterside

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Someone is looking to buy the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's development team has talked to City Hall about the idea.

    And Mayor Bob Buckhorn believes the prospective buyer and Vinik are one and the same.

    "I am ever hopeful, cautiously optimistic and will be extremely pleased if he's able to do this," said Buckhorn, who said he spoke to Vinik's representatives about their desire to buy the Marriott in the last two to three weeks. "I know that they were interested, and they were going to pursue it."...

    Jeff Vinik has plans for a new hotel near the Amalie Arena.
  6. Tampa woman with three breasts? Suitcase find points to false front

    Bizarre News

    TAMPA — The tale told by the Tampa woman who claims she had a third breast implanted onto her chest created an Internet sensation.

    Now that story seems to be unraveling. But the woman who calls herself Jasmine Tridevil isn't backing down.

    The woman — she's actually Alisha Jasmine Hessler, 21 — said she paid $20,000 to an unidentified plastic surgeon to perform the procedure. She also hired a camera crew to film her so that she can star in her own MTV reality show....

    Alisha Jasmine Hessler, who favors the name Jasmine Tridevil, is sticking to her story of a third breast.
  7. U.S. transportation secretary stresses regional approach to transportation

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx delivered a message to local business leaders on Thursday: Work together to fulfill the region's transportation ambitions.

    "I know that there are some efforts to create a bold transit vision here in the area," Foxx told reporters after the meeting, "and you have to come together as a community to get that done."

    But while Foxx stressed the value of a regional approach to transportation challenges, Thursday's meeting lacked regional representation....

    Anthony Foxx stressed a regional approach to crucial issues.
  8. Hillsborough sets annual bed tax record — in 11 months

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Tourism is back in Hillsborough County, and it's bigger than ever.

    Hillsborough collected $21.9 million in bed taxes in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014, according to county tourism agency Visit Tampa Bay. That's already a county record for bed tax collections, and the year isn't over yet.

    The previous annual record was $21.8 million, in 2007. But Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada said Thursday his goal is to reach $23.3 million when the last month of the 2014 fiscal year, September, is in the books....

    Actor Hrithik Roshan greets fans and well-wishers after arriving at Tampa International Airport on April 24 for the “Bollywood Oscars” in Tampa.
  9. Luggage stolen from Tampa International Airport found

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Airport luggage around the country has been targeted for theft by anybody from organized crime rings to security officers themselves.

    But Tampa International Airport said two people recently simplified that process: They walked into baggage claim at TIA, grabbed some bags off the carousel and left.

    The first stolen suitcase was reported Sunday. TIA officials said the thefts continued through Tuesday and 10 total bags were reported being taken....

    Louanna Tallent, 37, of 3015 Spillers Ave., was arrested on four counts of grand theft. She was being held Wednesday in the Hillsborough County jail in lieu of $8,000 bail.
  10. Pinellas County Commission endorses David Downing to head tourism agency

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County Commission all but handed David Downing the county's top tourism job on Tuesday.

    A majority of commissioners took turns praising Downing, the county's interim tourism director, during a joint meeting with the Pinellas Tourist Development Council, which advises the commission on tourism.

    Commissioners seemed ready to give Downing the top job at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the agency that markets the Pinellas beaches. But it's not their call....

  11. Marriott to guests: Please tip the maids

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Evelyn Thomas, 60, spent two decades cleaning up after people as a maid. But the 15 years of it she spent cleaning up after hotel guests were hardest.

    "I don't care where you go, being a maid is a hard job at any hotel," she said, "because you have to clean up after people who don't care."

    The Marriott hotel chain thinks it has a way to make people care more: encourage them to tip their housekeepers....

    Marriott properties will place envelopes bearing the names of housekeepers in rooms.
  12. Tampa Bay's fall tourism push starts with giving tourists plenty to do

    Tourism

    Tampa Bay won't be selling the usual sun and sand during its first fall tourism push this year.

    Instead, the bay area will sell Picasso, poltergeists, pale ale and Earth, Wind & Fire.

    Fall is traditionally the slow season for Tampa Bay tourism. But officials on both sides of the bay want to counter that by attracting visitors using tourism campaigns focused on a strong lineup of concerts, art exhibitions, Halloween events and a movie premiere....

    Passengers rush past a new advertisement near the shuttles for the terminals on Wednesday at the Tampa International Airport. The sign encourages people to take photos with the dolphins from the movie, Dolphin Tale 2. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  13. In July, another record bed tax collection for Pinellas County signals strong tourism

    Tourism

    A record July for Pinellas County tourist development tax collections could set the stage for another record year.

    Pinellas pulled in $3.18 million in bed tax collections in July. That's up 11 percent from the $2.86 million collected in July 2013. This July was also the best July in county history and the first time Pinellas broke the $3 million mark in that month.

    Pinellas also has surpassed the $3 million mark in bed tax collections in the months of April, May and June....

  14. Congressman David Jolly juggles threats of red tide, bad publicity to Pinellas tourism

    Tourism

    When U.S. Rep David Jolly sailed out of Clearwater on Thursday morning with a boat full of TV cameras, it was to spotlight the potential crisis posed by the red tide bloom floating miles off the Pinellas coast.

    But when the congressman returned to shore he faced another crisis: the tourism industry was up in arms because Jolly was publicizing a possible threat that hasn't occurred yet — and might not happen at all....

  15. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik finally opens up (a little bit) about future plans: soon

    Business

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is adept at dodging questions about his plans for redeveloping the Channel District downtown. But on Wednesday he said this much:

    Soon.

    When asked how many years it would be before construction starts on his properties around the former Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Lightning owner said this:

    "A better question is how many days or months until we announce something," he said. "We are deliberate but we still want to move fast."...

    Jeff Vinik has continued to add pieces to his downtown development portfolio.