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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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....

  5. 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.
  6. 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]
  7. 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....

  8. 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....

  9. 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.
  10. Laser Spine Institute plans new headquarters in West Shore, will add 100 jobs

    Corporate

    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....

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

    Tourism

    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.
  12. Tampa Bay must weigh economic benefits, environmental risks of saving cruise ships

    Tourism

    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.
  13. 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.
  14. Pinellas tourism agency won't turn to public-private model

    Tourism

    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....

  15. 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.