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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 26, 2003 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

This week's items: Richard K. "Dick" Armey, the former U.S. House majority leader laments loss of Tony DungyThe Florida Council on Economic Education has released the names of the next five inductees into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame.

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

A Tony fan

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Tony Dungy almost two years ago, and that still seems to haunt Richard K. "Dick" Armey, the former U.S. House majority leader.

For some reason, Armey, who was in Tampa Dec. 18, lamented Dungy's departure not once but twice as he chatted with the Bay area news media during an appearance at the Tampa Convention Center.

Now, Dungy is a decent football coach and a more decent human being. But most of Tampa has gotten over his unceremonious eviction from One Buc Place. Even the guy who gave Dungy his walking papers, Rich McKay, has moved on to Atlanta.

Why can't Armey put it behind him, too? We suspect the former Texas congressman, one of your more jovial politicians, isn't all that familiar with Tampa and just couldn't think of other small talk that would help him bond with local scribes.

The reason for Armey's visit wasn't crystal clear. And that was after he and William S. Cohen subjected themselves, as the former Clinton defense secretary put it, to "the tender mercies" of the local Fourth Estate at a news conference.

This much Coffee Talk could glean: Armey and Cohen are affiliated with Piper Rudnick LLP, a business law firm with 12 offices scattered across the country, including one in Tampa. They apparently came to the Cigar City to give local poohbahs a heads-up on how the feds are going to go about deciding which domestic military installations get axed in the next round of base closings.

Mind you, Armey, who authored the legislation that governs base closings, says the process has been completely de-politicized. (Right.) So he and Cohen, both Republicans, wouldn't be able to exert much of their considerable influence around Washington to prevent the closure of, say, MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa.

But Armey did say their advisory services are available if the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce or some other worthy check-writer wanted to procure them.

Cohen and Armey were hustled off before Coffee Talk got a chance to ask who paid their way to our sunny Gulf Coast, where Cohen spoke at a Tampa chamber luncheon. As of that day, nobody in Tampa had retained them yet on the MacDill issue, they did say.

Hall of famers

The Florida Council on Economic Education has released the names of the next five inductees into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2004 members are: Barry Alpert, an investment banker at Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg; Lee E. Arnold Jr., chairman and chief executive of Arnold Cos. in Clearwater; David P. Lyons, chief executive of Saddle Creek Corp. in Lakeland; and Lester Wishnatzki and Larry C. Morgan of Wishnatzki Farms Inc. in Plant City.

The council, a nonprofit organization that educates teachers and students about free-market economics, will hold the induction ceremony Feb. 26 at the Hyatt Regency Tampa hotel in downtown Tampa.

Malio to the rescue

Startup companies would be lucky to come up with this much money this fast.

Malio Iavarone, owner of Malio's Steak House in Tampa, has been named national man of the year by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for raising more than $160,000 in eight weeks for research and treatment of the cancers.

Iavarone, whose restaurant is a popular gathering spot for local business people, politicians and sports figures, credited family and friends for chipping in. Iavarone singled out Tampa businessman Edward J. DeBartolo and the former San Francisco 49ers owner's wife, Cindy, for special help with the fund raising.

Job picture mixed

Gov. Jeb Bush hailed a 0.2% drop in Florida's November unemployment rate from October. "I am especially grateful during the holiday season to see more Floridians enjoying the benefits of our state's growing economy," Bush says in a Dec. 19 press release issued by his office.

The governor says a seasonally adjusted 97,300 new jobs were created between November 2002 and November 2003, which he notes was the 20th consecutive month of employment growth in the state.

What those and other jobs might be paying isn't as worthy of praise.

Florida's per-capita income in 2002 was $29,559. That was 96% of the national average and 7% above the average in the Southeast. Those calculations include investment and pension income, which skews income statistics in the retiree-plentiful Sunshine State.

When those sources are backed out, wages alone don't look so swell.

The median hourly wage for Florida workers in 2002 was $9.90 an hour, below both the national average of $10.47 and the Southeast average of $10.18.

"Adjusted for inflation, Florida median hourly rates in 2002 exceeded 1989 levels (the peak year of the last business cycle) by only 6.1%," according to Bruce Nissen, research director at Florida International University's Center for Labor Research and Studies.

Well, there's always next year.

On the road to recovery

Look what a local automobile dealer dragged into Big Cat Rescue: a check for $4,000.

Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary in Tampa's Citrus Park area, says in a news release that it used the money to transport and care for two adult jaguars, which had been abused in New Hampshire.

The name of the generous car dealer? Not surprisingly, it was Rob Elder, president and general manager of Jaguar of Tampa.

"When I visited the sanctuary and saw the wonderful work they are doing to provide a peaceful, healthy retirement to these wonderful animals, I just could not let these jaguars die," Elder says in a news release.

Destroying the cats is exactly what would have happened if Elder and the car manufacturer hadn't stepped in. Carole Lewis, founder of Big Cat Rescue, says the two jaguars had been kept in small basement cages up north for more than a year and were in such poor condition that they couldn't be resold. Now getting overdue medical treatment in Tampa, the jaguars, a 13-year-old golden spotted male and a 9-year-old black female, are doing much better outdoors in the Florida sunshine, says Lewis.

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