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Tampa Bay’s business leaders pepper this year’s Florida 500

ICYMI: Florida Trend magazine released its list of the state’s 500 most influential business leaders.
From left, Celestar CEO Gregory Celestan, Duke Energy Florida president Catherine Stempien and Raymond James Financial chairman and CEO Paul Reilly were three of the Tampa Bay business leaders to make Florida Trend's Florida 500 this year. [Handout]
Published Sep. 13

Florida Trend’s second-annual look at the state’s top business movers and shakers came out earlier this month.

Yogi Goswami.

The list included everyone from legendary NBA coach and Miami Heat president Pat Riley to National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to entrepreneur, inventor and University of South Florida professor Yogi Goswami.

Compiling the roster is a gargantuan effort. For readers, one of the payoffs is the interesting nuggets the 500 men and women who made the list share about their careers. Many answered questions like what would a competitor say about your company, what’s the best advice you ever received and what’s your Olympic fantasy.

The answers were both amusing and illuminating.

Mise en Place co-owner Maryann Ferenc.

Maryann Ferenc, co-founder of Tampa’s esteemed Mise en Place restaurant and CEO of Mise en Place Hospitality Group, said her Olympic fantasy was “curling, to learn more patience.” For Michael Brown, executive vice president at multinational construction company Skanska, it was shot put.

Arthur Rutenberg Homes chairman Barry Rutenberg’s favorite song is I Won’t Back Down by Florida legend Tom Petty. Catherine Stempien, president of Duke Energy Florida, prefers Sunflower by Post Malone from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. “I have a 17-year-old son,” she noted.

Sembler Co. executive chairman Craig Sher’s “topic for sabbatical” was bass guitar. Sembler CEO Ron Wheeler’s favorite app is Spotify.

Pam Iorio, left, former Tampa mayor and current Big Brothers Big Sisters president and CEO, hugs a little brother.

When asked to describe one thing they never want to do again, several listed undergoing a colonoscopy. Pam Iorio, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, said she would like to never again fly in and out of LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Celestar CEO Gregory Celestan, a West Point graduate who spent 20 years in the Army, said he didn’t want to sleep on the ground ever again. “I enjoyed my time in the military, but sleeping on the ground and eating cold food gets old quickly.” His favorite app is Uber Eats, a food delivery service.

Tampa Bay Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash responded: “Never again fire a good person whose talents no longer fit the business.”

Paul Tash, Tampa Bay Times chairman and CEO

Paul Reilly, chairman and CEO of Raymond James Financial, made a practical suggestion when answering what he’d change about our community. “We collectively need to recognize how critical good transportation is to attracting and retaining a strong workforce,” he said.

Tampa Bay Rays president Matt Silverman said that he hopes his next vacation is “anywhere with very limited cell reception.”

Florida Trend's Florida 500 list. [Florida Trend]

Florida Trend, a sister publication to the Tampa Bay Times, includes a breakdown of how the magazine created the Florida 500. It wasn’t easy, though as Florida Trend executive editor Mark Howard wrote, “Selecting the 500 was again a reminder of the quality and depth of leadership in Florida’s communities — people who have moved Florida well beyond its old identity as a tourist and retirement haven.”

Check it out at


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