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Business Outlook: Tampa Bay's emerging business leaders

Two tried and true executives - USF president Judy Genshaft and Raymond James CEO Tom James - share the top vote-getting in our January annual survey of area businesses responding to the question: Who do you see emerging as the area's top business leaders?

By Times Staff Writers
Published February 3, 2008


Two tried and true executives - USF president Judy Genshaft and Raymond James CEO Tom James - share the top vote-getting in our January annual survey of area businesses responding to the question: Who do you see emerging as the area's top business leaders? Genshaft continues to rotate through the leadership slots of Tampa Bay's major economic development groups, while James remains a perennial heavyweight through his participation in economic and arts groups. Here are the key business players, chosen by their peers in our recent survey. Other leaders, 6D: More emerging leaders and some whose prominence - at least for now - may be fading.

Judy Genshaft, 60, president, University of South Florida, Tampa

Why:USF prominence continues as a powerful magnet for research, federal grants and economic development. She is a tireless executive closely involved with the Tampa Bay Partnership, Greater Tampa Chamber, the Committee of One hundred and other pro-growth business groups.

The big question: Can she maintain her clout with a shrinking state budget?

What those surveyed said: "USF can have a dramatic impact on the Tampa Bay community." "She is an advocate for the area."

Tom James, 65, CEO, Raymond James Financial, St. Petersburg

Why:He enjoys longevity as a top executive, steady growth and presence of Raymond James investment firm, big arts involvement and high regional profile thanks to Raymond James Stadium where the Bucs play. Chairs Florida Council of 100.

The big question: How much longer does he plan to stay at the company?

What those surveyed said: "Built a great regional franchise and gives a lot to philanthropic causes." "Making a big difference in the business community.""

Jeffrey Lyash, 46, CEO, Progress Energy Florida, St. Petersburg

Why: Ranks No. 2 in survey. Natural clout as head of the major power utility. An engineer, he must sell long-term effort to build a major nuclear power plant - the area's first in more than a generation - in south Levy County.

The big question: Can he successfully pitch nuclear power as an affordable and "clean" alternative to coal, natural gas and oil?

What those surveyed said: "He's a dynamic new leader." "He thinks outside the box." "Thinks of the future, not the past."

Pam Iorio, 48, mayor, Tampa

Why: Ranks third in three-way tie. Now in second term, she is pushing for revitalization of city's downtown. Tall task. Formidable mayor. Also big cheerleader for mass transit - a key goal to be met before Tampa Bay can bump up to the next level of competition as a metro area.

The big question: Is there time to get it all done? Or is the mayor's job the start of bigger things?

What those surveyed said: "She's had to make a lot of tough calls." "She's a visionary, good at following her plan."

Steve Mason, 59, CEO, Baycare Health System, Clearwater

Why: Ranks third in three-way tie. He runs the area's highest profile nonprofit health care system of nine hospitals. While more diplomatic than predecessor Frank Murphy, Mason is just as involved. He is vice chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership and will chair this key regional marketing group in the next term.

The big question: Is he a flash in the pan or on a path to regional clout?

What those surveyed said: "Key business leader." "He is out taking action." "Ability to lead a large organization."

Roy McCraw Jr., 61, regional president, Wachovia Bank, Tampa

Why: Ranks third in three-way tie. He's emerged as a senior banker for the area, chairs the Tampa Bay Partnership and is an old hand with other economic development groups. Besides, how many area business leaders climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, hike the Inca Trail in Peru and endure a weeklong survival course in the Utah desert?

The big question: What does McCraw do for an encore?

What those surveyed said: "Very visible." "Involved in a lot of important issues."

Rick Baker, 51, mayor, St. Petersburg

Why: Ranks fourth in three-way tie. Always made economic development a priority. Successful record, including gains in Midtown portion of town. Second term ends in January 2010.

The big question: Can he fairly represent the citizens in the Tampa Bay Rays' high-stakes deal to gain a waterfront baseball stadium and a major redevelopment of the area surrounding Tropicana Field?

What those surveyed said: "Has a vision and unites the public and private sector for the common good." "Trying to create a broader coalition."

Rhea Law, 58, chairwoman, Fowler White Boggs Banker law firm

Why: Ranks fourth in three-way tie. You name it, she's done it in economic development and community leadership roles in Tampa. One of a very few women other than USF's Judy Genshaft to be a major business player (and probably tops in the private sector) at the moment. Chairs USF's board of trustees.

The big question: What's left to conquer?

What those surveyed said: "Savvy in the business world." "Always involved in good projects."

Larry Richey, 51, senior managing director, Cushman & Wakefield, Tampa

Why: Ranks fourth in three-way tie. Major player in commercial real estate and new head of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

The big question: Now that he's made it to the top of a major chamber, will he have staying power?

What those surveyed said: "He's a leader in an area key to the success of the Tampa Bay business market." "He's out taking action."

Honorable mentions: Matt Silverman, above, president, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Petersburg; Alex Sink, Florida chief financial officer, Tallahassee, and John Sykes, founder, Sykes Enterprises.

Once prominent, now fading: Chris Sullivan, founder, Outback Steakhouse, Tampa; John Ramil, president, TECO Energy, Tampa; Kiran Patel, founder, WellCare, Tampa, and Fred McClure, lawyer, DLA Piper, Tampa; Dewey Mitchell, owner, Prudential Tropical Realty, Trinity, and Tim Main, CEO, Jabil Circuit, St. Petersburg.