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Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent 18 years covering crime, courts, sports and now the business beat for the Tampa Bay Times.

He was raised in the Tampa Bay area, attended Osceola High School and is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa. He worked for the Times while he was in college and later interned at the Des Moines Register.

After five years covering criminal and civil court in Pasco County for the Times, in 2008 he became metro police reporter for the city of St. Petersburg.

In June 2012 he joined the Times business staff and now covers Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and Tampa Bay's tourism industry.

Along the way he has also covered NASA, the NFL, the NBA, college football, hurricanes, forest fires, space shuttle launches, criminal trials and lots of high school football.

Phone: (813) 226-3404


Twitter: @JThalji

  1. Amazon to expand Ruskin operation, creating hundreds of jobs

    Economic Development

    RUSKIN — Whether it comes to selling books or video games or tortilla chips, Amazon always has a plan.

    Now the world's biggest online store is ready to execute the next phase of its plan in southern Hillsborough County: Amazon announced Tuesday that it will double the operational capacity of its massive Ruskin warehouse and add hundreds of full-time jobs.

    "This was always the plan," said Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey. "But now the timing is right."...

    Amazon finished construction on the 1.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center last year and hired more than 1,000 workers to run it. The company left room inside for expansion.
  2. With #AmptheAwesome, Pinellas ups tourism in payback, and risk


    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County has spent millions crafting a brand that paints itself as a halcyon beach paradise with plenty to do after the sun sets.

    That strategy has attracted a record number of visitors, year after year. This summer, though, tourism officials are going to try something a tad risky:

    They're going to let tourists define the Pinellas brand, using social media....

    Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the Pinellas tourism agency, plans to run ads for its “Amp the Awesome” summer campaign.
  3. The bottom line on Winston: It's all about money


    TAMPA — When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted quarterback Jameis Winston, the franchise did more than bet its future on his skills, talent and work ethic.

    The team also inherited Winston's 2½ years of awful judgment and bad publicity.

    The decision to choose a player with Winston's past will affect fan support, ticket and merchandise sales, corporate sponsorships and TV ratings....

    Jameis Winston was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Thursday’s NFL draft.
  4. Jeff Vinik's development team looking at idea of moving MOSI downtown


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's development team has begun exploring the idea of moving the Museum of Science and Industry to Vinik's $1 billion development near Amalie Arena downtown.

    "We're really at the very beginning of the conversation," MOSI interim president and CEO Molly Demeulenaere said Monday. "There are some very exciting things that could take place if MOSI had the opportunity to relocate to a more urban area, but you don't just pick up a $120 million infrastructure and move it."...

    MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, is at 4801 E Fowler Ave. in Tampa, near the University of South Florida.
  5. Gasparilla becomes a season for tourism marketing officials


    TAMPA — Gasparilla: It's not just for debauchery anymore.

    In fact, the entire Gasparilla season of arts, film, music festivals, the half-marathon and races, the parades and, yes, the alcohol-soaked pirate invasion itself, has become a big part of Tampa's winter tourism strategy.

    "It's right in the heart of a good season for us," said Visit Tampa Bay's Santiago Corrada, CEO of Hillsborough County's tourism marketing corporation. "We have changed strategy within our organization to really focus on what makes us unique."...

    Tampa’s Gasparilla events draw big crowds to the city each year. The main attraction, the adult-oriented parade, is one of the biggest in the country and drew about 350,000 this year, according to organizers. At left, Erika Delgado fist bumps with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla’s Peter Baker during last year’s parade.
  6. TIA's new lineup of food, drink and shopping options awaits June vote


    TAMPA — The rankings of the top dining, drinking and shopping options vying for space at Tampa International Airport are in and waiting for a final vote.

    That will be the job of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, whose members oversee the airport. The board will vote in June to decide what the new concessions lineup will look like when the airport's $943 million construction project is finished around 2017....

  7. Should Allegiant's mechanical problems at St. Pete-Clearwater airport set off alarms?


    CLEARWATER — An Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83 took off from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport on Jan. 19 bound for Ohio — and never made it.

    Instead, the crew reported "smoke in the cockpit" and headed back to the airport.

    That was one of more than three dozen mechanical issues reported by Allegiant pilots across the country from September to March. Nine of the incidents involved St. Pete-Clearwater International....

  8. St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport's boss now taxiing for departure


    CLEARWATER — Even while running other airports, from afar Noah Lagos saw the potential in Pinellas County's commercial airport.

    "I always had a vision that St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport could grow," he said.

    So when PIE — the airport rebranded itself around its three-letter code — needed a new executive director in 2004, he jumped at the chance.

    Lagos was right about the airport's potential — but not at first....

    Passenger aircraft with Allegiant Air’s fleet are parked on the tarmac at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. Allegiant accounts for about 95 percent of customer traffic at PIE.
  9. Brazilian business jetmaker Embraer again picks Port Tampa Bay


    TAMPA — In 2013, Brazilian aerospace company Embraer S.A. shipped a limited run of components for its Phenom 300 light business jet through Port Tampa Bay to be assembled in its Melbourne facility.

    It took a while, but that experiment has finally paid off for Tampa: Embraer is now sending monthly shipments of aircraft parts through the port.

    The company is sending parts for two kinds of planes now, according to port officials, and in 2016 plans to send components for two additional models....

  10. New dining prospects rated for Tampa International Airport


    TAMPA — The most coveted endorsements in bay area food and beverage circles were released Friday, offering a glimpse at what new eating and drinking options might come to Tampa International Airport in 2017.

    There could be a Hard Rock Cafe and Qdoba Mexican Grill in the main terminal.

    Ducky's, Pei Wei Asian Diner and Burger 21 could come to Airside A.

    A slew of old and new restaurants — Cigar City Brewing, PDQ, RumFish Grill and Ulele Bar — could end up in Airside C....

  11. Bucs, Lightning, Rays not playing games when it comes to analytics


    TAMPA — The technology does not yet exist that can tell the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which quarterback to take with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft or show the Tampa Bay Rays how to fill the David Price-sized hole in their rotation.

    There is data, however, that could help the Tampa Bay Lightning figure out which season ticket holders they might be in danger of losing or which parts of Tropicana Field fans (and their dollars) are avoiding....

    Fans buy collectibles at Tropicana Field. The Rays are starting to figure out how crowds move through the Trop so they could, perhaps, move a concession stand or team shop to a better location. But the capability to do that is still limited.
  12. Now 20, Florida Aquarium no longer stands alone in downtown Tampa (w/video)


    TAMPA — This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Florida Aquarium, 20 years since it was built to bring life to a barren downtown.

    That's not quite how it worked out.

    "It was a challenge early because of location," said aquarium president and CEO Thom Stork, "and because of the infrastructure around the facility."

    To be more precise, there was no infrastructure — or much of anything else — around the facility....

    An aerial photo of the Florida Aquarium under construction in 1993 shows the emptiness of the surrounding area.
  13. Syniverse CEO in a rush to get to the future


    TAMPA — Change comes quickly in the telecommunications business. Syniverse has learned that lesson well over the past eight months.

    The global player in mobile technology lost its CEO and gained a new one. It also laid off 100 of its 900 Tampa employees while integrating two newly acquired firms into its worldwide operations.

    Now change is upon Syniverse once again. This time, though, the company is embarking on an ambitious new course set by new CEO Steve Gray....

    Syniverse CEO Steve Gray says 2015 will be a transformative year for the company.
  14. Tampa Bay Steel's workplace proves its mettle



    For 24 hours a day, five days a week, Tampa Bay Steel Corp. cuts and reshapes steel to the exact specifications of its customers in construction, manufacturing and shipbuilding. ¶ As if they don't spend enough time together already, Tampa Bay Steel's employees also get together after work — and everyone's family is invited. ¶ "Everything we do," said owner, founder and CEO Buck McInnis, "we do together." ¶ That philosophy helped make Tampa Bay Steel one of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces. It was ranked 37th on the list of small companies....

     Mug of Mark Stewart, President of Tampa Bay Steel.  (For top workplaces.)
  15. Tampa's Beck Group brings architects, builders together


    TAMPA — The Beck Group was born in Texas in 1912 as a construction company. It merged with a design firm, Urban Architecture, 87 years later. Left brain, meet right brain.

    "You got Priuses over here," said assistant project manager Sean Horan, "and Chevy Silverados over there."

    Beck's melded culture — the precision of construction, the creativity of architecture — is one of the reasons why the firm's Tampa office was the highest-rated small business in the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces....

    Ryan Toth, regional director of The Beck Group in Tampa, stands with project drawings and bicycles restored by company employees.