1. Archive

Working moms' prospects scarce in Florida, magazine says

If you're a mother looking for a great place to work, chances are good it won't be in Florida. Florida companies are scarce on Working Mother magazine's annual list of best companies for working mothers.

One that did make the grade: JFK Medical Center in Palm Beach County. The magazine gave it high marks for for its promotion of women to management, its new charter elementary school and its "Parent Night Out" program offering Saturday night day care. Baptist Health South Florida also is a regular on the list, but Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, which once made the grade, no longer ranks.

Of course, some of the highly rated companies based elsewhere have a substantial Florida presence, including Bank of America, Target and Wachovia Corp. Wachovia is listed in the magazine's Top 10, getting kudos for its child care programs, including backup day care at $15 a day.

Companies that made the list are more likely than others to offer flexible work schedules, help with elder care and physical fitness programs.

_ HELEN HUNTLEY, Times staff writer

Hop a train to Canada to save on drug costs

Fed up with the high price of prescription drugs in the states? Want a free trip to Canada, where you can buy them cheaper? Willing to share your story with the press?

Florida PIRG and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights are looking for Floridians who will board their train to Toronto, holding press conferences along the way. Closest point for Tampa Bay area residents to jump aboard will be Orlando's Amtrak station.

In August, the foundation sponsored a similar trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, along the West Coast. It attracted 28 people, from small-business owners to seniors. The sponsors hope to attract the same-sized group, from a range of backgrounds, for the East Coast trip that will leave Miami on Oct. 11, arriving in Toronto late Oct. 13. Participants will visit a Canadian doctor and drugstore, then fly home Oct. 14. Train transportation, accommodations, airfare and most meals will be covered by the sponsors. Participants will have to pay a nominal fee for the Canadian doctor, plus pay for their prescriptions.

Jerry Flanagan of the foundation said the sponsors will screen interested participants with an eye toward those with the greatest need. Participants on the West Coast trip saved an average of $2,000 per person on their Canadian purchases.

Space on the chartered train may also be limited if two special guests join. Both President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry have been offered a seat on the Rx Express; neither was able to fit the West Coast trip into his campaign schedule.

_ KRIS HUNDLEY, Times staff writer

Trademark petition filed before tabloid was launched

When Times Publishing Co., parent company of the St. Petersburg Times, launched its splashy new free weekly tabloid for young adult readers on Sept. 10, it called it tbt+, short for Tampa Bay Times.

But up until now, "Tampa Bay Times" has been a trademark registered to Tribune Company Holdings, the parent company of the Times' chief competitor, the Tampa Tribune. According to the Times, the trademark has been abandoned.

Before tbt+ debuted, Times Publishing filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Tribune Holdings' trademark. The petition claims Tribune Holdings abandoned the trademark by not using it for three years with no intent to resume use. It says Times Publishing intends to use the name and will be damaged if Tribune Holdings is allowed to keep the trademark.

"We see it as a matter of legal housekeeping," said Times Publishing chief executive Paul Tash. He said the name was selected because it clearly identifies both the publication and the publisher: "It covers Tampa Bay and we're the Times."

Tribune Holdings has held the trademark since 1987. The company published an afternoon newspaper named the Tampa Times until 1982. Tribune publisher Gil Thelen declined to comment on the issue, saying the dispute may involve litigation. The company's response to the petition is due by Oct. 26.

_ ELEN HUNTLEY, Times staff writer

Verizon offers communications management system

Iobi is coming, finally.

After a big splash at its unveiling in Las Vegas in January, the new communications management system from Verizon Communications should be available in the Tampa Bay area by the end of the year.

Iobi (pronounced eye-oh-bee) will roll out first in the New England area and cost $7.95 a month, the company said last week.

For the money, people will be able to create what Verizon calls "personal networks" to handle the numerous ways they communicate by phone and online: land-line phones, cell phones, e-mail and text messages.

They can have calls forwarded to other phones, to a computer or to voice mail. It can be managed on a computer desktop, on a Web site or by phone.

While not all the services are new, such as call forwarding, putting them all in one package is Verizon's attempt to help _ and keep as customers _ people who use multiple methods to communicate.

Verizon also plans to introduce a communications command center device called Verizon One.

The company has spent billions upgrading its network, particularly for high-speed Internet access, where work is under way in the Tampa Bay area.

At one point, the company said some iobi services would be available free to all its customers while others would be part of the premium service. It was not clear what, if any, free services might be offered.

_ DAVE GUSSOW, Times staff writer

Marriott escalates its romance with Tampa

What are the ingredients of a successful hotel?

Two top officers of Marriott International _ one a brand manager, the other the company's chief executive _ offer two perspectives in describing why the new Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza was an enticing property to them.

"Hotels are about three things: business travel, family travel and romance," said Jurgen Giesbert, senior vice president of Renaissance North America. "This property, which we've given a romantic theme that's carried throughout the decor, has all three."

But to Bill Marriott, chairman and chief executive, it's all about real estate. The hotel is located next to an airport in the geographic heart of the region and part of a shopping mall with a regional audience.

"Hotels are about three things: location, location, location," said the son of the chain's founder.

The Renaissance become the sixth Marriott property in the Westshore area of Tampa. There are now 1,332 rooms or suites under various Marriott flags within 1.5 miles of the airport. In contrast, the length of the Pinellas beaches has one Marriott with 222 suites.


TECO takeover not in plans, larger utility says

TECO Energy Inc.'s longtime insistence that it wants to remain independent hasn't prevented takeover speculation from arising now and then. But Southern Co. of Atlanta, one of the utilities most frequently cited on Wall Street as a potential acquirer, isn't interested, according to its executive vice president and chief financial officer, Tom Fanning.

Southern, the parent of Pensacola's Gulf Power Co., gets name-checked by would-be TECO matchmakers because it's larger, healthier and in the neighborhood. But Fanning, who was in Pensacola last week with other Southern executives to check on Gulf Power's recovery efforts after Hurricane Ivan, said acquiring the heavily indebted Tampa utility wouldn't be compatible with Southern's financial goals. Those goals include maintaining an annual earnings growth rate of at least 5 percent and ensuring that any acquisitions add to earnings within months and not hurt the company's credit rating.

Fanning said Southern's low-risk strategy is in line with the interests of its shareholders, who are attracted to the company's stable investment returns and reliable, annual increases in its dividend. Like TECO, Southern made significant investments in unregulated wholesale power via its subsidiary Mirant Corp. But Southern got out of the business before the wholesale market soured, spinning off Mirant in 2001. Two years later, Mirant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

When asked if he could rule out any future interest in TECO, Fanning replied, "I don't like absolutes." But he stressed that any such deal should be considered "exceedingly unlikely."

_ LOUIS HAU, Times staff writer

NAACP leader: Give bank bonus for integrating board

As president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP, Darryl Rouson has long been on a mission to convince area-based banks to put an African-American member on their boards.

Now he wants to increase the pressure by ponying up something banks are sure to notice: hard cash.

In private meetings last week with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and other city officials, Rouson floated the idea of the city investing millions of dollars with the first Pinellas County bank to have an African-American board member.

"It would be similar to the antiapartheid efforts (encouraging divesting) in those doing business in South Africa," Rouson said.

St. Petersburg uses Bank of America for its major financial services, and that wouldn't change.

What might be in play is about $400-million in fixed-income investments, specifically part of the $100-million of that pool placed in short-term investments, according to St. Petersburg internal services administrator Andy Houston, who oversees budget and finance.

Much of the $100-million, Houston said, is placed in an overnight account with the state to get the highest possible return.

Houston sat down with Rouson last week and plans a more detailed meeting this week to discuss the implications of such a move.

But he also is alerting the city's politicians that there will be a tradeoff if a small community bank is used instead of the state overnight services. "We would make a little bit less and would not have the liquidity," he said.

_ JEFF HARRINGTON, Times staff writer

Glazers' purchase triggers exemption at Zapata

When Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer bought $7.1-million worth of Zapata Corp. stock a few weeks ago, boosting his family's stake in the fish oil company from 47.2 percent to 51.9 percent, he told the Securities and Exchange Commission he did so for "investment purposes."

That may not be the entire story.

Under new corporate governance rules created in the wake of scandals like Enron Corp.'s, Zapata had until Oct. 31 to assure that a majority of its board of directors were independent. Currently, four of the Rochester, N.Y., company's seven board members are offspring of Glazer, including chairman, president and chief executive Avram Glazer.

But by crossing the 50 percent threshold, Glazer turned Zapata into what regulators call a controlled company _ and triggered an exemption from some of the new governance rules. In a proxy statement issued last week, Zapata said it would avail itself of the exemption by leaving its board as is, among other things.

Avram Glazer, who showed up for only half of Zapata's board and committee meetings in 2003, earned $600,000 in salary and bonuses. His three siblings each received at least $30,000 last year for their board service. The company's stock closed Friday at a healthy price of per share.

Chief financial officer Leonard DiSalvo did not respond to a request for comment. But shareholders can meet him and other directors at the company's Nov. 1 annual shareholder meeting in Canandaigua, N.Y.

_ SCOTT BARANCIK, Times staff writer