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. 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....

  2. 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.
  3. 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....

  4. 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."...

    Led for the past seven years by D.T. Minich, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater honed its brand and its marketing, targeting visitors from New York, Chicago and Boston with winter ad campaigns  featuring scenes of Pinellas’ sunny, warm beaches.
  5. 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....

  6. 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. 
  7. 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....

  8. Florida TaxWatch: Public investment in tourism paying off


    The state spends tens of millions in public dollars each year to promote tourism, and a Florida TaxWatch report released Monday showed that investment is generating new visitors, new jobs and new spending.

    The business-backed institute in Tallahassee also said that the state is "well on its way" to fulfilling Gov. Rick Scott's goal of 100 million annual visitors by 2015.

    "We love it when they come here and spend money," said Florida TaxWatch chief economist Jerry Parrish. "We have a lot of great tourists leaving their money in the state of Florida, and that directly reduces the tax burden on Floridians."...

  9. Good grades may mean another raise for Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano


    TAMPA — It's good to be Joe Lopano. But it may get a few thousand dollars better.

    The CEO of Tampa International Airport, who makes $330,750 a year, could receive another raise this week.

    If he were to receive the same 5 percent merit raise he got last year, Lopano would be in line for a $16,537 pay bump.

    That's because Lopano's bosses at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority recently gave him mostly glowing scores on his annual performance evaluation. They could propose a raise for the CEO when the board's August meeting is held Thursday....

    Airport CEO Joe Lopano received an average score of 4.82 out of 5 in his annual reviews.
  10. Hillsborough negotiating with Lyft, but Uber not talking


    TAMPA — The agency that regulates Hillsborough County's cabs and limos is playing good cop, bad cop with ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber.

    The Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles, is negotiating with the companies to get them to comply with county rules.

    But while the PTC is talking to the companies, it has referred an unspecified number of ride-sharing drivers to the county State Attorney's Office for possible misdemeanor charges....

  11. After setting tourism records, Pinellas tourism chief D.T. Minich leaving for Kissimmee job


    CLEARWATER — D.T. Minich spent seven years modernizing and honing Pinellas County's tourism efforts. He also helped the industry rebound from recession and the 2010 BP oil spill to attract a record numbers of visitors and bed tax dollars to the county.

    But now he's moving on. Minich, the CEO and executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater (VSPC) – Pinellas County's convention and visitors bureau – will leave next month to take the same position with Experience Kissimmee, the tourism arm of Osceola County....

    D.T. Minich. Times files
  12. Vinik starts master-planning a master plan for Channelside

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik does not have a secret plan.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning owner doesn't have new designs ready to go for his latest downtown acquisition, Channelside Bay Plaza. He doesn't have a grand plan to tie Channelside and his 24 acres of undeveloped land together with his crown jewel, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, into one massive development in the Channel District.

    But he soon will....

    Jeff Vinik owns 24 acres near the Times Forum.
  13. Hotel executive calls out Tampa's 'deplorable, embarrassing' taxicabs


    TAMPA — Hotel developer Lou Plasencia flies all over the nation from Tampa International Airport. When he steps into a taxi, that's one of his first impressions of the city he's visiting.

    "When I hail a cab in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago," he said "it's a positive experience."

    Then there are the taxis at his hometown airport.

    "It is the most deplorable, embarrassing experience," Plasencia said, "to have a guest sit in that pigsty."...

    Tampa International Airport routinely inspects the cleanliness and service of the taxis and their drivers who operate at TIA, an airport official says.
  14. Hillsborough hotel market on track for pre-recession highs


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County lodging industry appears to be headed for a record year in 2014.

    That was the word from analysts at the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association's 15th annual trends and forecasting forum Thursday, when local hospitality executives got a look at the latest data for the Tampa-Hillsborough market.

    The entire Tampa Bay region is doing well, said Vail Brown, vice president of global business development and marketing at hotel research firm STR. But she said the Tampa-Hillsborough market is doing even better....

    Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said bay area tourism officials have worked better together.
  15. Channelside deal approved; now it's up to Jeff Vinik to make it work



    The fight for Channelside Bay Plaza is officially over.

    Now begins a new challenge: remaking downtown Tampa's Channel District.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is Channelside's new owner, thanks to the last-second settlement that ended the yearlong court fight over downtown's outdoor mall. The deal was hammered out Sunday night and approved Monday by a bankruptcy judge....

    Under Jeff Vinik’s Channelside Live proposal, the complex would get a facelift and new roster of shops and restaurants.