What exactly does Jeb Bush do for a living?
That's the first sentence of a 1998 profile I co-wrote about Jeb with fellow staff writer Alecia Swasy. Back then, Bush was a 45-year-old of more modest means, a Republican nominee for governor eager to become wealthy whose business ventures often involved rich backers of Jeb's father, former President George Bush.
Sixteen years later, the former two-term governor is winning national street cred as an education reformer. He's rebuilding his personal coffers in South Florida. And he's back in the news as a likely Republican candidate to run for president in 2016....
When it comes to wage growth, Florida trails... almost everybody.
Compare the annual average pay from 2004 and 2013 and one-third of all U.S. counties have seen their pay decline, when the figures are adjusted for inflation.
But in Florida, three quarters of its counties suffered wage declines in that period, indicating the standard of living in Florida has declined even as most states show at least some modest gains. And states rich in energy jobs — like Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and the Dakotas — show booming wage increases....
In a year when many parts of the Tampa Bay business market rebounded, what single trend rises above all others to win the 2014 Award for Best Boost to the bay area economy?
A stock market flirting with 18,000 in recent weeks was one top contender. With the Dow kicking off 2014 at 15,698, it has again been a good year for investing.
What about the shrinking unemployment rate? It deserves high praise and competed mightily for the top 2014 award (my own concoction for our regional economy). Tampa Bay's regional jobless rate now sits at a respectable 6 percent, down from 6.8 percent a year ago and a perilous 12 percent this time in 2010....
Was it declining theme park attendance? Weaker profits and a plunging stock price? The nagging impact from the animal rights Blackfish film against keeping killer whales in captivity? Perhaps the long delay by Tampa's Busch Gardens to get this year's big new attraction — the Falcon's Fury ride — up and running?
Whatever the combo of ills, it was enough Thursday for SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent of the SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and some lesser theme parks, to unseat CEO Jim Atchison, name an interim chief and announce a companywide overhaul that will include layoffs....
12/09/14 Economic Development
Downtown St. Petersburg's been on a roll with the rise of its arts economy, a condo boom on and off Beach Drive, a spike in new apartment buildings, a retail re-do of BayWalk as the new Sundial, goals to grow USF St. Petersburg, a master waterfront plan and — maybe — even a new pier someday.
Amid so much abundance, one thing's been lagging.
New businesses. Quality jobs. Corporate clout....
State legislators, apparently waking from a long winter's nap, are introducing measures that would crack down on big power companies like Duke Energy Florida that are relentlessly gouging ratepayers.
Is Christmas coming early? Curtailing utilities' Grinch-like ways in Florida, even by a smidgen, would be quite a gift.
One bipartisan legislative proposal announced Monday seeks to "reform" the Florida Public Service Commission — the state's stooge organization that is supposed to (but does not) regulate power companies in this state....
What do employees at many of Tampa Bay's larger corporate and public organizations think of their workplaces and the top boss?
Worker feedback can be a lot like movie reviews. They range from celebrating likely award winners to panning those not worth the price of admission.
According to an online ranking, Publix Super Markets rocks, many of its workers say, and CEO Ed Crenshaw gets one of the higher approval ratings of area executives — even ranking 29th of all major CEOs in the country. Close behind come the higher-rated workplaces of the University of South Florida, Raymond James Financial and, believe it or not, the Hillsborough County Public Schools system....
It's hard to believe but the team value of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is approaching that of twice the worth of the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning — combined.
In 2014, the Bucs are valued at just over $1.2 billion, up an impressive 15 percent in the past year. The Rays trail far behind at $485 million while the Lightning bring up the rear at just $230 million, according to Forbes, which has tracked sports team values for 17 years....
If Duke Energy keeps up its remarkably self-serving agenda, the company should update its corporate slogan. Here's a suggestion.
Duke Energy: Me First, Customers Last.
In 2014, Duke's delivered little but calamity, especially in Florida, where customers serve as company punching bags. But even in its home state of North Carolina, Duke fumbled. Now it's busy downplaying a horrible environmental spill of its own making. A toxic sludge of 39,000 tons of arsenic-laced coal ash and 27,000 gallons of contaminated water now coats nearly 70 miles of the once-scenic Dan River....
11/20/14 Economic Development
A long-term project to recruit a brand name corporate headquarters here took a key, early step Thursday when survey results capturing the perceptions of this area by 350 CEOs and senior executives nationwide were delivered to local business and political leaders.
In a 47-slide PowerPoint presentation, market research consultant Barry Quarles outlined his findings to several dozen executives, as well as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, at the downtown Tampa Club....
11/19/14 Economic Development
The Tampa Bay Partnership celebrates 20 years this Friday as a group challenged since the start to market the Tampa Bay area as a single economic region even as it still refuses to act as one.
Stuart Rogel, partnership CEO since 1994, has starred in that era as the modern day Sisyphus — pushing the We Are One Economy pitch up the hill all these years only to see it too often roll back down....
Busch Gardens is many miles away from the first drenched rows of SeaWorld's Shamu shows in Orlando. But Tampa Bay's top theme park is still getting soaked.
Busch Gardens finds itself caught in a financial and public opinion maelstrom not quite of its own making. The park is part of SeaWorld Entertainment, composed mostly of multiple SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks, plus a few smaller brand parks in the United States....
Not to pooh-pooh the growing celebration of more and more apartment and condo towers proposed or already under construction in downtown Tampa. But — please — let's not become so euphoric that we end up in a real estate bubble in the core of this emerging city.
The good news is that after far too many fits and starts downtown Tampa is showing renewed signs of life and, more to the point, the promise of more to come. Witness the early sketches of the massive Jeff Vinik overhaul of Channelside (with a Bill Gates good housekeeping seal of approval in financing part of it), the possibility of USF's medical school relocating downtown and the burst of boutique hotels. People are noticing the completion of Riverwalk and, of course, the jolt of lofty apartment and condo towers suddenly slated to rise in an arc across the city's downtown....
Tampa Bay's auto show opens Friday with every manner of sports car, gas-sipping hybrid, zippy runaround and carbon fiber-crafted luxury vehicle among its 400 offerings of 2015 models from three dozen brands.
The show has come a long way from the first time I previewed it in 2003, when automakers pitched flip-down screens for built-in DVD movie watching as the hottest innovation around.
11/11/14 Working Life
The 15 percent of Floridians stuck in poverty is bad enough. But the real shocker is the alarming number of Floridians who hold jobs but still cannot meet the basic needs of their households.
A new United Way of Florida report out Tuesday finds a startling 45 percent — or 3.2 million — of all households in this state cannot afford basic housing, child care, food, health care and transportation. In the broader Tampa Bay area alone, that translates to more than 600,000 households in seven counties that are unable to consistently afford the cost of living in Florida. Conditions in those households still lag behind prerecession levels, the "Study on Financial Hardship" report says....