Jeff Harrington, Times Staff Writer

Jeff Harrington

Jeff Harrington has been an editor and reporter at the Tampa Bay Times since 1998. He was deputy business editor in fall 2008 as a national fiscal crisis erupted and shifted gears to become lead staff writer on the economy, banking, insurance and other money issues.

A native Ohioan, Jeff graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a dual major in American Studies and French. He worked at the City News Bureau of Chicago, Toledo Blade and Cincinnati Enquirer before winding his way down Interstate 75 to the Tampa Bay area.

He has received numerous awards for business and metro writing, including recognition by the Society of Professional Journalists and Associated Press, among others. He was a two-time finalist and one-time winner of a Gerald Loeb award honoring the best business writing in the country and his work was included in the Best Business Stories of the Year series in 2003.

Phone: (727) 893-8242


Twitter: @JeffMHarrington

  1. Florida's unemployment rate inches up to 6.3 percent

    Working Life

    Florida's unemployment rate inched up from 6.2 percent to 6.3 percent in March, ending a remarkable 42-month streak in which the rate has either dropped or stayed unchanged.

    But the reversal of fortune revealed Friday may actually be a good sign, indicating more discouraged workers who had stopped looking for a jobs are finally jumping back into the labor pool. That drives up competition — and the unemployment rate — but it also points to an improving economy....

  2. Lloyd's of London dramatically lowers its flood insurance rates in Florida


    Here's something that might shock many Tampa Bay homeowners:

    Flood insurance rates are falling.

    Lloyd's of London and other private insurers have muscled into the market, picking up customers stunned by rate hikes under the National Flood Insurance Program.

    The decreases can be dramatic:

    • For $146,000 of coverage on a house in St. Petersburg, the federal program quoted a renewal rate of $6,685. The Lloyd's rate: $1,367....

    For $250,000 of coverage, the National Flood Insurance Program from FEMA quoted a rate of $4,846 for this home in the Shores Acres section of St. Petersburg. The Lloyds of London rate for this home was $2,123.
  3. Valpak Direct Marketing moving Largo headquarters to St. Petersburg


    Valpak Direct Marketing Systems is moving its corporate headquarters from Largo to a St. Petersburg office park to get closer to its manufacturing center.

    About 325 employees of the direct mail and digital marketing company will move to the new location at 805 Executive Center Drive West in Baypoint Commerce Center. Valpak said Wednesday that it has signed at eight-year lease for the site, beginning Dec. 7. The office park is near Gandy Boulevard at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N....

  4. Longtime MOSI chief Wit Ostrenko to retire


    Wit Ostrenko, president and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry, is retiring from the Tampa institution he has led for more than 25 years.

    Ostrenko, 67, told directors during a recent board meeting of his decision to step down within the next 18 months. His current contract expires Dec. 31, 2015.

    Although the nonprofit museum has faced recent criticism over both strained finances and operations, Ostrenko said that didn't factor into his timing. He said he wanted to pass the baton to someone to lead MOSI through its next big expansion....

    Wit Ostrenko, 67, says MOSI’s recent stumbles have nothing to do with his retirement plans.
  5. A dose of hope for long-term jobless in Tampa Bay

    Working Life

    It was the dose of hope that Patty Sykes-Joseph needed for nearly a year, ever since she lost her management job when Sears shuttered its portrait studios.

    Ditto for Tony Perga, whose 30-year career in banking was halted years earlier after the demise of Colonial Bank.

    Both are among 20 long-term jobless in Tampa Bay picked for a new pilot program called Platform to Employment launched Monday during a business lunch at CareerSource Tampa Bay's Florida Avenue center....

    Job fair contact: WOW cable company sales representative Ava Kemp-Grier, right, meets with Robert Dolbow of St. Petersburg at the Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair, a Times-sponsored event, Monday at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg.
  6. Pilot program in Tampa targets plight of long-term jobless

    Working Life

    Employers in Tampa will soon have another incentive to hire some of the long-term jobless.

    Someone else will pick up the tab for the first two months in their new job with no obligation to keep them on.

    It's part of a privately funded pilot program called Platform to Employment that is being launched Monday during a business lunch at CareerSource Tampa Bay's center on Florida Avenue....

  7. A dozen reasons ASI keeps rating as a top place to work in Tampa Bay


    American Strategic Insurance founder and CEO John Auer can rattle off numerous reasons his company surfaces as a perennial top workplace in Tampa Bay. But everything the company does is secondary, he says, to starting with the right employees. Everything hinges on hiring people who are predisposed to have a happy attitude. "There is no shortage of insurance companies out there. We just thought if we had happy people who had a good attitude then (customers) would prefer to deal with them," Auer said. "And it's more fun for all of us to be around a positive, happy group." His strategy is paying off. This marks the third time out of the last five years that employee surveys have elevated the St. Petersburg property insurer to No. 1 in the midsize category....

    American Strategic Insurance founder and CEO John Auer, in the lobby of the St. Petersburg headquarters, says success starts with the right employees.
  8. Top Workplaces: Grow Financial Federal Credit Union shares strategies for success


    Grow Financial Federal Credit Union is in a league of its own, earning the top spot in the large-company category of Tampa Bay's top workplaces for the second year in a row. Don't expect CEO Bob Fisher to rest on his laurels, however. He and his executive team inside the Tampa-based credit union are constantly looking for fresh ways to keep workers engaged, motivated and, perhaps most of all, happy. The institution — founded in 1955 as a safe place for military personnel of MacDill Air Force Base to save and borrow — does all the right things on the financial side for its employees, with annual bonuses and generous 401(k) matches. But what sets it apart is an employee-centric culture that gives workers autonomy to make an impact every day, self-direct their careers and have plenty of fun along the way — be it through dressing up every Halloween; enjoying an annual catered meal; or attending company outings and cookouts. ...

    Grow Financial Federal Credit Union CEO Bob Fisher, left, and executive vice president Thomas Feindt agree that the company’s culture of good customer service has gotten stronger over the last couple of years.
  9. A team of self-starters at e-Ins makes for a happy — and productive — workplace


    ST. PETERSBURG — e-Ins, an insurance services firm debuting among Tampa Bay's Top Workplaces this year, has deep ties to a perennial name on the list: American Strategic Insurance, or ASI. Property insurer ASI — the No. 1 midsize company among Top Workplaces for three out of the past five years (including this year) — is a sister company of e-Ins. ASI is also e-Ins' main customer and, come Memorial Day, the company is moving into a newly constructed twin building on ASI's St. Petersburg campus. So does e-Ins need advice from its big sister on what it takes to make a happy workplace? Hardly. It's doing just fine....

  10. Business owners gird for new flood insurance battle


    Eckerd College wasn't invited to the party. Nor were a smattering of beachfront hotels, a St. Petersburg physical therapy clinic and hundreds of other property owners in Tampa Bay.

    They were all overlooked by a much-celebrated "fix" to the flood insurance crisis approved by Congress last month.

    The law signed by President Obama gives a reprieve from sharply higher flood insurance rates for many owners of older homes in flood-prone areas; what it doesn't do is stop huge rate increases from hitting some owners of commercial properties and second homes....

    Eckerd College vice president Lisa Mets says of the flood insurance increases: “We have not been spared. I personally am not tolerating it right now. I’m going to fight it.”
  11. Tech Data rebounds with better-than-expected earnings, new growth plans


    Tech Data Corp. is making it clear that an accounting debacle that haunted the company for months is no longer holding it down.

    The technology distributor, Tampa Bay's biggest public company by revenue, closed its fiscal year with record quarterly sales, record quarterly profits and a forecast to continue its year-over-year growth into the next fiscal year.

    "We've been at this for 40 years, and this is the most sales we've ever had in a quarter. That doesn't just happen," CEO Bob Dutkowsky said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times after releasing financial results Wednesday morning. "The net bottom line is this was a really good quarter for Tech Data."...

  12. Report: Florida private sector job growth picks up in March

    Working Life

    Job growth in Florida picked up in March, but it continues to trail the job-creating meccas of California and Texas, according to a regional employment report released Wednesday

    Payroll processing company ADP estimated Florida added 14,580 private-sector jobs in March, with 11,260 of them in the service-providing side. By comparison, Texas added 28,650 jobs and California added 25,500 jobs....

  13. Gerdau names new head for its Tampa operations



    Steelmaker Gerdau shuffles top leaders

    Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau is shuffling top management of its Tampa-based operations.

    Guilherme Gerdau Johannpeter, currently president of Gerdau Long Steel North America, is being promoted to executive vice president and will join Gerdau's executive committee. Johannpeter is moving from Tampa to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for his new role, which puts him in charge of the company's special steel business division in Brazil, Europe, North America and India. ...

  14. Tampa Bay's economic recovery — a bounce off the bottom but a long way to go

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay's economic recovery has been far stronger than elsewhere since the depth of the Great Recession.

    No, wait, the bay area is lagging most of the country in regaining its economic strength.

    Turns out both statements are true based on the latest Metro Monitor snapshot from the Brookings Institution released Wednesday. It all depends on which measuring stick you look at.

    Every quarter, Brookings ranks the recession's impact on the 100 largest metros based on four criteria: jobs, unemployment, economic output, and house prices. Wednesday's report is tied to data from the end of 2013....

  15. GRAPHIC: The numbers behind Florida's partial economic comeback

    Working Life

    The Great Recession officially ended about five years ago. • How much has badly bruised Florida come back during this belabored recovery? How far do we have to go? And how have we changed? • Government number crunchers recently released new calculations. The adjusted figures haven't altered the thrust of the state's economic story: We're gradually getting back to work, but many of the fastest-growing industries have lower-paying jobs. Click to read the full story....