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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers business news with a focus on energy issues and Florida utilities.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Times_Levesque

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  1. Emera names local Tampa Electric, Peoples Gas board

    Energy

    TAMPA — The energy conglomerate Emera promised to appoint a local board of directors when it acquired TECO Energy in late 2015 in a $10.4 billion deal. The idea was to keep close ties to the community.

    On Tuesday, Emera kept that promise as it announced a board of well-known local and state community and business leaders to oversee operations of Tampa Electric and TECO Peoples Gas which together serve 1.1 million customers in Tampa Bay and across Florida....

    Will Weatherford, managing partner of Weatherford Partners and former Florida House Speaker  
[Times file photo]
  2. Tampa Bay unemployment drops to 4.1 percent

    Business

    Tampa Bay's job market is flexing a little muscle after a moribund couple of months.

    The region's unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in March — down a half percent from February and from 4.5 percent a year ago — as its 44,000 job openings led all metros statewide in job demand.

    Florida's economic pulse did not beat as quickly.

    The state's unemployment rate dropped from 5 to 4.8 percent in March compared to February but is down just a tenth of a percent from a year ago, according to figures released by the state Friday. The state added only 6,200 jobs from February to March but is up 146,100 for the year, state figures show. The state's unemployment rate still trails the nation's, which stood at 4.5 percent in March....

    The Tampa Bay metro area's jobless rate in March fell to 4.1 percent from 4.5 percent a year ago, but people are still looking for jobs, and better jobs. A recent job fair hosted by CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas still attracted job seekers who were unemployed for less than a month or already had jobs. A large portion of employers had positions to fill. [Malena Carollo | Times]
  3. Raymond James Financial inks $172.5 million deal to buy Scout Investments

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Continuing a growth curve that is showing no sign of abating, St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Financial announced this morning that it is buying Kansas City-based Scout Investments from the UMB Financial Corp. in a $172.5 million deal.

    The agreement includes Scout's Reams Asset Management division, and Raymond James said in a news release Scout and Reams would join its subsidiary, Carillon Tower Advisers, a global asset management firm....

    Raymond James Financial has reached an agreement to buy Scout Investments and its Reams Asset Management division, both of Kansas City, for $172.5 million from UMB Financial Corp. [Times file photo]
  4. Tampa International Airport details $543 million second phase of massive construction plan

    Airlines

    TAMPA — At Tampa International Airport, looking to the future is a bit like a mother planning for a child's growth spurt while trying to keep him in the same size sneakers.

    The airport's footprint isn't getting any bigger. But my, how the passenger numbers are growing.

    Airport officials Tuesday unveiled the $543 million second phase of its massive expansion project that includes express curbside drop-off for passengers without checked bags and the commercial development of 17 acres of airport property....

    Artist rendering of Phase II of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space, expanded curbside and a gas station, among other things. [Courtesy of Tampa International Airport}
  5. Former Lincare CIO sues company for wrongful termination

    Business

    CLEARWATER — It was an attractive package that helped lure Charles D. Hartwig away from his job at the giant conglomerate, Johnson & Johnson, to become chief information officer at Clearwater-based Lincare, a provider of in-home oxygen and respiratory services.

    A base salary of $325,000 a year. A $50,000 signing bonus. An annual bonus of up to $130,000. And Lincare agreed to pay all his expenses to move his family from their New Jersey home....

    Charles D. Hartwig, former CIO of Lincare, filed a wrongful termination suit against the company. [LinkedIn]
  6. Miami company on a litigation spree using expired patent

    Energy

    TAMPA — Atlas IP is a Miami company incorporated in 2013 with just one asset on its books — Patent 5,371,734, nicknamed Patent 734.

    The patent was issued in 1994 and describes one of the ways wireless networks communicate.

    Here's the thing about Patent 734: It expired a month before Atlas' corporate birth.

    What followed Atlas' acquisition of this patent was a litigation storm. In 2013, Atlas began suing medical device makers whose products used wireless technology, including cardiac monitors and insulin pumps. Atlas acquired the patent for $50,000, then sought $1.2 billion in damages from one medical device maker....

    Michael A. Fischer's patent for a "medium access control protocol for wireless network" dated Dec. 6, 1994.
[U.S. Patent Office]
  7. Duke Energy Florida raising electric rates average of $5.99 monthly

    Energy

    ST. PETERSBURG — Times have been good for Florida utility customers reaping the reward of falling fuel prices in recent years.

    Times are changing. Duke Energy Florida customers will see monthly bills rise about $6 on average under a mid-year residential rate increase that the North Carolina-based utility blames on rising prices for natural gas and coal.

    Duke Energy Florida said the increase it proposed Thursday — about $5.99 a month per 1,000 kilowatt hours — would bring the total 1,000-kwh cost to $123.23 monthly, or a 5 percent hike....

    Duke Energy Florida customers will see monthly bills rise about $6 on average under a mid-year residential rate increase that the North Carolina-based utility blames on rising prices for natural gas and coal. 
[Times file photo]
  8. Florida grapefruit harvest takes another big hit

    Agriculture

    Florida's citrus industry continued to take its lumps from a destructive bacterial disease as the state's grapefruit harvest forecast was reduced Tuesday by 800,000 boxes to 8.1 million, a new report shows.

    But the news isn't all gloomy with the orange crop holding steady at 67 million boxes in a revised forecast release by the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service.

    "It's a tough hit for Florida's grapefruit growers who have been so committed to fighting pest and disease to maintain this staple of Florida's economy. Florida grapefruit is, by far, what world consumers seek out for its unique flavor profile, sweetness and juiciness," said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus....

    Though the orange crop is holding steady, Florida's grapefruit harvest forecast was reduced Tuesday by 800,000 boxes to 8.1 million.
[Times file photo]
  9. Allegiant Air pushes St. Pete-Clearwater airport to record month

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air and a robust spring break propelled St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to a record-breaking March as its monthly passenger traffic exceeded 200,000 for the first time ever, the airport said.

    Nearly 207,000 passengers used the airport in March, up 12 percent from March 2016 and beating the previous monthly record of 194,000 set last July.

    It's the airport's 25th consecutive record-breaking month....

    Allegiant Air and a robust spring break propelled St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to a record-breaking March as its monthly passenger traffic exceeded 200,000 for the first time ever, the airport said.
[Times file photo]
  10. Lucky 13: How these companies made Top Workplace rankings every single year

    Business

    At the Ditek Corp., a Largo company making surge protectors, manufacturing employees asked for a four-day work week and their bosses figured out how to make it happen.

    Over at the St. Petersburg public accounting firm Gregory Sharer & Stuart (GSS), a partner learned that an employee got a guitar as a Christmas gift and then went out and bought the worker three months of lessons.

    Five support and service employees at Bouchard Insurance in Clearwater earned a Mexican cruise for their outstanding work....

    Front to back: Jon Snyder, Phillip McElfresh, Scott McConachie and Jack Cicchini participate in the six-month Producer In Training program at Bouchard Insurance that helps employees with general insurance knowledge and personal development.
  11. Three Allegiant Air flights suffered engine problems in March

    Airlines

    The last two springs have proven to be challenging for Allegiant Air and its passengers with a high number of aircraft breakdowns for its aging fleet of MD-80-series aircraft. And now, spring 2017 is getting off to a troublesome start.

    Three Allegiant MD-83s suffered engine-related breakdowns in March that led to emergency landings.

    A March 19 Allegiant Air flight out of the Orlando-Sanford airport may have flown up to eight minutes with a fire in its right engine after a fire-suppression system failed to extinguish it, an incident the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed it is now investigating....

    Pilots of an MD-83, like the one seen in this file photo, that tookoff from the Orlando-Sanford airport last month suffered an engine fire they had difficulty extinguishing.



  12. Staff for Florida regulators recommend continued gas hedging despite nearly $7 billion in losses

    Energy

    Some argue that Florida's big investor-owned electric utilities are just lousy at hedging, or betting, on the price of natural gas.

    Are their $6.7 billion in hedging losses since 2002 — losses customers pay for through higher electricity costs — evidence enough of that?

    "I don't think that they're that good at it," said attorney Jon Moyle, representing a consortium of large industrial energy users. "It's not their core business… When you look at the results, they're not something that you would shine up and hold up and say, 'This is really good.'"...

    Public Service Commissioner, Art Graham, seen in this 2015 file photo, said the commission needs to do better limiting losses on natual gas hedging. (Tampa Bay Times Photo/Steve Cannon)
  13. Goodwill Industries-Suncoast plans new store, distribution center in Hillsborough

    Business

    TAMPA — Thrift store operator Goodwill Industries-Suncoast plans to open a new, 200,000-square-foot distribution center by November and another store by January on a 22-acre parcel in east Hillsborough County even as the nonprofit grapples with a $1 million budget shortfall.

    A North Carolina developer, the Piedmont Companies, closed a $4.275 million purchase of the tract near the intersection of U.S. 301 and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway on March 3 and will build the facility for Goodwill, leasing it back to the agency, Goodwill confirmed Wednesday....

    Goodwill Industries -- Suncoast is working with a developer to build a 200,000-square-foot distribution center and store in Hillsborough County off U.S. 301.
[WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE | Times]
  14. Goodwill Industries mired in national sales slump, Tampa Bay shortfall $1 million

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — It looks as if Goodwill Industries is not immune to the same economic woes affecting beleaguered retail giants like Macy's and Sears.

    Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, a charity best known for its job training and thrift stores, has frozen employee salaries and reduced other expenses as retail sales at 19 of its stores in Tampa Bay and west-central Florida are running nearly $1 million behind budget this fiscal year....

    Goodwill Industries -- Suncoast is experiencing a $1 million shortfall in retail sales at its 19 stores in Tampa Bay and west-central Florida, prompting the nonprofit to cut costs and freeze salaries. 
[WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE | Times]
  15. Allegiant Air flight makes emergency landing due to possible engine fire

    Airlines

    An Allegiant Air flight that departed the Orlando area made an emergency landing in Ohio a week ago after the pilot reported a fire in one of the aircraft's engines at 14,000 feet.

    Flight 636 with 163 passengers and crew was about 10 minutes from landing in Dayton, Ohio, just before noon when a cockpit warning light indicated a fire in the aircraft's right engine, according to an internal Allegiant memo obtained by the Tampa Bay Times....

    An Allegiant Air flight from Orlando Sanford International Airport made an emergency landing in Ohio on March 19 after the pilot reported an engine fire. The plane landed safety. This photo shows an MD-80 series aircraft in Las Vegas in late 2016.
[Times file photo]