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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

Email: thalji@tampabay.com

Twitter: @JThalji

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  1. USF medical school plans for downtown Tampa delayed

    Economic Development

    JACKSONVILLE — It has been a smooth ride for the University of South Florida's proposed downtown Tampa medical school. In the past four months the project has won nothing but accolades and approving votes.

    The victory tour came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday.

    The medical school faced a crucial vote for state funding from the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System. But the meeting quickly unraveled when a handful of governors complained they didn't know enough to start spending tens of millions....

    The USF project is part of developer Jeff Vinik’s Tampa vision.
  2. More big votes on tap for USF's downtown medical school proposal

    Business

    TAMPA — The movement to build the University of South Florida's next medical school inside Jeff Vinik's downtown redevelopment project has scored two wins at home.

    Now it needs to win on the road.

    USF's proposal needs $62 million in state funding. That must be approved by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System.

    The board is set to hold two votes on the proposal when it meets today and Thursday at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville....

  3. Buckhorn vows (again) to fix downtown streetcar

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn has vowed to save downtown's struggling streetcar — once again.

    If that sounds familiar, it's because the mayor also vowed to save it back in 2012. But downtown's underused, underfunded trolley system remains in distress.

    But this time, the mayor said, he really means it.

    "I'm happy to take ownership of this," Buckhorn said, "because I do think we need to resolve this."...

    Tampa’s struggling downtown trolley hasn’t seen any funding from the Port Authority since 2012.
  4. Tampa Port Authority urges support for Hillsborough schools superintendent

    Business

    TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority on Tuesday morning waded into Hillsborough County's biggest controversy: whether or not school superintendent MaryEllen Elia should keep her job.

    The answer is an unequivocal yes, said Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandra Murman, who sits on the port's governing board.

    She asked the port board to support the superintendent. After some disagreement, they voted 4-2 in her favor....

  5. Vinik's vision for downtown Tampa in search of a name

    Business

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik is poised to remake downtown.

    He has a vision. He has a plan. He has the money.

    What he doesn't have is a name for the project.

    That's kind of a problem.

    "Neighborhoods need names," said Linda Saul-Sena, a former Tampa City Council member and urban planner.

    Vinik is expected to rename the area with a little crowdsourcing help from the public. He's taking suggestions for the project via his website, tampawaterfront2020.com....

    Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is seeking ideas from the public.
  6. Relaxed travel rules to Cuba could benefit Tampa International Airport

    Airlines

    TAMPA — There's cautious optimism that the newer, less restrictive rules for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba set to start today will boost Tampa International Airport's role as a gateway to the island nation.

    "Anything that makes it easier to fly to Cuba benefits us," said airport CEO Joe Lopano. "Now that we have further liberalization of the travel restrictions, we expect to see growth."...

    Tourists sunbathe as a vendor sells kites decorated with Cuba’s flag on a beach near Havana. A new set of U.S. government regulations takes effect today, severely loosening the 50-year-old travel and trade restrictions for Cuba.
Associated Press
  7. Gr8code's former CEO files suit against Ybor City startup's top investor

    Business

    TAMPA — Gr8code's former CEO has filed suit against the Ybor City startup's main investor.

    Meanwhile, the coding boot camp that made headlines in November for receiving a pledge of $5.4 million in venture capital money said it's currently teaching Web development classes.

    In her lawsuit filed on Tuesday, former Gr8code executive Virginia Barnett accused investor Steven Brickner of failing to deliver promised financing and instead took over the company....

  8. David Downing named Pinellas County tourism director

    Tourism

    David Downing remembers visiting the geodesic dome of the Aquatarium amusement park on the beach, lasers lighting up the night sky over the St. Petersburg Pier, and mermaid shows at the old Webb's City department store.

    Those memories are why he left the New York travel publishing scene in 2007 and returned home to join Pinellas County's tourism promotion operation.

    "I remember a lot of what this destination used to be," Downing said. "I see ghosts of it every day. It's in my blood."...

    David Downing, 48, was the interim head of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater before being named permanent director on Wednesday. VSPC is Pinellas County’s tourism development agency.
  9. Silver Airways adds Key West, Fort Lauderdale flights at St. Pete-Clearwater International

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay is already one of the hottest tourist destinations in the state. But now Silver Airways will connect St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and the bay area to two other Florida hot spots: Fort Lauderdale and Key West.

    Silver Airways also flies to those destinations from Tampa International Airport. But airport and airline officials said that Monday's announcement wasn't a bid to compete with Tampa....

    Silver Airways, a Fort Lauderdale airline, will start flying to Key West and Fort Lauderdale from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in March.
  10. A second strong candidate emerges for top Pinellas tourism job

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER — When the candidate interviews for Pinellas County's top tourism job started Friday, officials knew they had one very strong finalist.

    Now they have two.

    "I'd hire both," said Russ Kimball, general manager of the Sheraton Sand Key on Clearwater Beach.

    Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Interim CEO David Downing started the day as the favorite to be permanently installed atop the county's tourism marketing agency....

    Florida tourism official Susannah Costello impressed during her interview.
  11. New airline coming to St. Pete-Clearwater Airport

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport enjoyed its second-best passenger year ever in 2014. Airport director Noah Lagos is set Monday to reveal the identity of a new carrier that could help the airport do even better in 2015.

    Lagos will make the announcement at a 2:30 p.m. news conference at PIE — the airport also goes by its three-letter designation — and will also reveal two new cities the new carrier will serve....

  12. Hyde Park lines up replacements for older Restoration Hardware

    Retail

    TAMPA — The Hyde Park location that Restoration Hardware is vacating to move to a bigger, grander location at International Plaza won't stay empty long.

    Hyde Park Village's owner, WS Development, was quick to announce some new additions to the shopping lineup at the tony shopping district — including a replacement for the Restoration Hardware store.

    Sur La Table, a high-end cookware and cutlery store that also offers cooking classes, will take Restoration Hardware's place next to Anthropologie in the fall. ...

  13. Tampa was a finalist for Mercedes relocation

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Rick Homans has been keeping a big secret, and now it can now be told:

    Tampa was one of the finalist cities for the relocation of Mercedes-Benz's U.S. headquarters.

    The German luxury automaker ended months of speculation Tuesday when it announced that it had picked an Atlanta suburb as the site of its new U.S. headquarters, which is currently in New Jersey.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that Tampa was a finalist, as were Charlotte, N.C., and Plano, Texas....

    Mercedes-Benz ended months of speculation on Tuesday when it announced that it will move its U.S. headquarters from Montvale, N.J., to an Atlanta suburb. Tampa was one of the finalist cities for the relocation.
  14. Tampa International Airport construction will slow shuttle service

    Airlines

    TAMPA — More big changes at Tampa International Airport are ramping up tonight: shuttle service from the main terminal to Airsides A and C will be reduced to allow major renovations to start.

    There are two shuttles running to each airside. That will be reduced to one shuttle each for Airsides A and C starting about 10 p.m. Workers will also start putting up a construction barrier on the east end of the third-floor transfer level in the main terminal....

  15. Big Brothers Big Sisters moving headquarters to Tampa thanks to Pam Iorio and the EDC

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is moving its national headquarters to Tampa for one very important reason: It's the hometown of its president and CEO, former Mayor Pam Iorio.

    Iorio was hired in 2014 to steady the nonprofit. She committed to run it for two years and flew weekly to its Dallas headquarters. Last month Big Brothers Big Sisters extended her contract to 2019....

    Pam Iorio, left, former Tampa mayor and current Big Brothers Big Sisters president and CEO, hugs Sir.Giorgio, 13, a little brother to Alan Cohen, right, on Wednesday.