The 180-page Florida 500 is a compelling read for anyone curious about how the state's most influential business leaders rose to power.
Florida Trend magazine undertook some heavy lifting to compile the 2018 roster. Sure, some of the 500 bios read like they were cleared by public relations specialists. But more often, they provide a candid, and at times humorous, look at how these men and women turned challenges into opportunities.
They reveal an astonishing array of backgrounds. Many started with very little. Some overcame shyness, alcoholism, prejudice or their own bad decisions.
They comment on where the state is headed. No rah-rah session, they worry about education, transportation and climate change.
The magazine, a sister publication of the Tampa Bay Times, broke the list into 16 sectors, including agriculture, education, finance, manufacturing, tourism and technology. The "Living Legends" category includes Tampa-based real estate developer Edward DeBartolo Jr., legendary golfer turned businessman Jack Nicklaus, and Micky Arison, who grew Carnival Cruise Line into one of the industry's Big Three.
A few of the locals who made the list: University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, West Point graduate and Celestar CEO Gregory Celestan, Tampa Bay Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Penny Hoarder founder Kyle Taylor and Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Plant City's Wish Farms.
Some genuine celebrities made the list — Jimmy Buffett and Gloria and Emilio Estefan — along with some well-known politicians — former Gov. Jeb Bush and former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher, now president at Florida State University. He revealed his affection for all things Elvis.
Many of the bios include how the movers and shakers spend their free time.
Genshaft is an avid bicyclist. Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson surfs. Bill Carlson, president of the Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker/Hall, writes poetry. James Nozar, CEO of Tampa's Strategic Property Partners, loves wandering the aisles of hardware and home improvement stores Maryann Ferenc, CEO of local fine dining staple Mise En Place, cherishes her Sunday morning spiritual routine.
They also list some of the jobs they had along the way.
Mark Perlberg, president and CEO of Oasis Outsourcing in West Palm Beach, was a Fuller Brush salesman in high school. Lawyer John Morgan, founder of Morgan & Morgan, played Pluto at Disney World. Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano drove a cab.
"And I'm kind of an introvert," Lopano added.
Go to floridatrend500.com to access the first of what will be annual Florida 500s. You can also use that link to buy a hard copy or nominate someone for the 2019 list.
Contact Graham Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GrahamBrink.