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

  1. Tampa Bay's fall tourism push starts with giving tourists plenty to do


    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]
  2. In July, another record bed tax collection for Pinellas County signals strong 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....

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

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


    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:


    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.
  5. Laser Spine Institute plans new headquarters in West Shore, will add 100 jobs


    TAMPA — Since the Laser Spine Institute was founded in 2005, it has grown from nine employees to more than 800 workers across the country.

    Now the Tampa company is ready to expand again here at home. The company said Wednesday that it plans to build a $56 million headquarters in the West Shore area while adding 100 jobs to its Tampa operation with average annual pay of about $80,000....

  6. Hillsborough, Pinellas tourism officials taking aim at slow fall season


    Tampa Bay's tourism agencies have called an audible during the traditionally slow fall season: For the first time, both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are actively marketing the Tampa Bay region during September, October and November.

    Hillsborough County's tourism agency, Visit Tampa Bay, this week launched its first-ever fall campaign: "Fall in love with Tampa Bay."

    "The thinking behind the fall campaign is: Let's keep the momentum going," said Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada. "It's really aimed at the months of September through November. They have been softer months for tourism."...

    Hillsborough County’s tourism agency is targeting this ad at 
people in places that get cold.
  7. Tampa Bay must weigh economic benefits, environmental risks of saving cruise ships


    Building a new cruise ship port on the Pinellas side of the Sunshine Skyway bridge could boost the Tampa Bay economy — or bust it.

    The mega cruise ships of the future won't fit under the Skyway. That endangers an industry that pumps $380 million a year into the local economy.

    But trying to save the cruise industry could endanger Tampa Bay itself. The bay has never been cleaner — or more lucrative. It supports one out of every five jobs in the region and a booming tourism industry....

    While cargo ships like this can pass under the Sunshine Skyway bridge, mega cruise ships of the future won’t fit. That endangers an industry that pumps $380 million a year into the local economy.
  8. Jeff Vinik proposes office building north of Times Forum

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's vision for the Channel District is coming into focus, and it includes bringing in hundreds of white-collar workers along with tourists and sports fans.

    The latest piece of his plan is a 202,000-square-foot office building that Vinik's companies propose to build north of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

    And a rezoning application filed last week suggests a tenant for that building could be Syniverse, a fast-growing high-tech firm now based in New Tampa....

    Jeff Vinik’s team has mentioned Syniverse as a possibility.
  9. Pinellas tourism agency won't turn to public-private model


    CLEARWATER — There was no debate at Wednesday's Pinellas Tourist Development Council meeting about whether the county tourism agency should switch to a public-private model that would let it spend bed-tax dollars without the accountability of a government agency.

    That's not going to happen.

    There was also no debate about the compensation of public employees who work for that agency, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater....

  10. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik now owns Channelside Bay Plaza

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik now officially owns Channelside Bay Plaza.

    Last month, Vinik's new company, CBP Development LLC, won control of Channelside when the litigants fighting over the failing downtown mall struck a last-minute court settlement.

    But just like any other piece of real estate, there had to be a closing. That was completed Tuesday afternoon.

    Vinik now owns Channelside, just like he owns the Lightning, the lease to the Tampa Bay Times Forum and 24 empty acres around the home of his hockey team....

    Lightning owner Jeff Vinik closed the deal on Channelside Bay Plaza.
  11. Port Tampa Bay to get two new cranes to handle container cargo

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority on Tuesday approved spending $21.5 million to build two new gantry cranes that officials hope will expand the port's cargo container business.

    This summer, the Florida Legislature awarded Port Tampa Bay $12 million to help pay for the project. The port will pay for the rest using a loan from the state's infrastructure bank.

    The port's governing board voted to award the $21.5 million contract to ZPMC, aka Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., one of the world's largest crane manufacturers....

  12. Departing Pinellas tourism chief talks about selling sand, surf


    CLEARWATER — D.T. Minich grew up in Colombia. He grew up in Canada. He grew up in Great Britain and the American Southwest, too. That's because his father was in the mining industry and took his family with him wherever he went.

    "Travel is in my blood," Minich said. "They'd pull us out of school and let us travel with them because they thought travel was the best form of education."...

    D.T. Minich was Pinellas’ tourism director for seven years.
  13. Port Tampa, Port Manatee meet, hoping to heal rift

    Economic Development

    ST. PETERSBURG — Today's meeting of Tampa Bay's seaports was billed as a chance to promote regional economic development.

    But in reality, it was a peace summit to heal the rift between Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee.

    Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad left no sports metaphor behind in declaring himself the referee of this regional economic conflict.

    The state wasn't spending millions on Florida's ports so they could compete at the expense of each other, Prasad told a group of more than 50 officials and spectators attending the meeting at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute....

  14. Amid crush of complaints, inspections and too few cabstands, Tampa taxi drivers persevere (w/video)


    TAMPA — It has been a rough ride for the city's taxi drivers.

    In recent weeks their cabs have been called pigsties and their professionalism has been questioned.

    Then on Wednesday, after seeing a fellow cabbie get a $50 ticket for double-parking, taxi driver Murat Limage finally had enough.

    As rain fell on downtown, Limage berated a cab inspector.

    "The taxi driver don't have no voice in Tampa," he said. "The city just wants money." ...

    Inspector Wayne New talks with Tampa cab drivers who have issues with the small cab stand in front of the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel. There is room for only seven cabs. 
  15. Board bids against itself to give Tampa International Airport CEO Lopano a 5 percent raise


    TAMPA — The moment the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority long feared came to pass Thursday: a bidding war for popular Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano.

    Except it was the board members who outbid each other to give Lopano his annual raise.

    The bidding stopped at a 5 percent pay increase of $16,537. The board voted 3-0 to raise Lopano's annual salary to $347,287 starting Oct. 1....