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Icon: Harris Mullen

Harris Mullen, a former reporter for the Tampa Tribune who left the newspaper to run his family’s printing and publishing business, founded Florida Trend in 1958 after he saw a need for a magazine covering statewide business. In the first issue, he wrote, “There was Florida industry on the move. We had not caused it; we had only stopped it for a moment and put it on paper.” As for the magazine, he said that creating Florida Trend “has been an exhilarating experience. We see no place for timidity or mildness in this new future. It is a future to be met with boldness, action, and a certain calculated risk.” Mullen ran Florida Trend for 22 years before selling the magazine to the St. Petersburg Times in 1980. Now retired, Mullen lives in Tampa with his wife, Kay. Following are some excerpts from his columns.

Harris Mullen
Harris Mullen at Ybor Square in 1993 [Photo: Dan Gaye]
» October 1965: It’s the doggoned little things that count. Mostly it’s how you treat people person-to-person that forges your company stature.

» May 1966: When this magazine was only two months old, in the summer of 1958, we decided that a sort of an exposé of the size and scope of the Du Pont holdings in Florida would make pretty jazzy reading. We needed subscribers badly. ... When the story appeared it covered 16 pages of Florida Trend and it was studded with information that very few Florida businessmen had ever seen. ... We were amazed at the amount of information that was available which had simply never been put together. Apparently no one had really tried.

» February 1968: Some day, perhaps in the not too distant future, Florida will shed its elective Cabinet system for one that will allow the dynamic executive needs of one of America’s largest states. It must be matched and counter balanced, however, by a dynamic professional Legislature that will wrestle with urgent problems and make sure they are accomplished.

» April 1968 — 10th anniversary: At the turn of the century Florida was pretty much monopolized by tycoons such as Henry Flagler and H.B. Plant who could, and did, call most of the important shots. Then came a bevy of potent promoters bursting with zeal, brass and ideas who pushed Florida’s second big crest; men like Carl Fisher, George Merrick and Barron Collier. Then after World War II another building surge by a few big, and hundreds of small developers who, following some of the patterns of the past, led Florida’s third crest of development. I believe the next crest in Florida’s future will be a sort of an economic renaissance. The opportunities won’t be so much in land grabbing as in the past, but in idea grabbing. It will be an age for the creative.

» September 1968: Everybody in Florida should be required by law to plant a tree every year. In five years we would have 40 million new trees. The Chinese do something like this I think, or used to, anyway.

» “Seems like every time I sit down here to try to write about the future I twist and squirm and end up writing about the past. This worries me some too because I’ve always hoped to be a sort of Jules Verne.”
— Harris Mullen, April 1968, 10th Anniversary
» October 1968: When I was a kid in Florida the only thing worse than a cattle thief was a Republican.

» November 1968: I’m convinced that the car is the curse of this age, not because it kills a lot of people, which it does, but because it is strangling all 200 million of us slowly to death.

» February 1971: It was obvious that the power role of the office was intoxicating to Claude Kirk. He loved it, probably better than any man before him. It would not surprise me if he slept with the Great Seal of Florida under his pillow or wore a secret badge of office under his lapel.

» August 1971: When I was a kid I used to spin the world globe with my eyes closed and pretend I would have to live wherever my finger hit. I could do this for an hour and never hit Florida. And I would wonder how I was so lucky to be born where I was. And I have felt that way ever since. You couldn’t tear me out of Florida. I love every nook and cranny of it.

» December 1971: This country is crying for people who can do something. It is not crying for liberal arts majors. It needs people who can perform a service or skill; people who know a technique, people who can fix something, people who can solve sticky problems, people with pride in their work, regardless of the task.

» August 1973: America is the only nation in the world where when a man is able to afford a Ford he buys a Cadillac. ... What are the Arabs going to do with the hundreds of billions of dollars poured into their hands? ... I am no economist, but it surely looks like we are going to incur some fantastic new highs in deficit balance of payments if Arabian oil imports reach the proportions that are projected.

» December 1973: If there’s one thing Florida used to agree about it was that nearly all growth is good. Hardly any of us believe that now.

» August 1976: Development is cyclical by nature and you can be sure that there will be more downswings for Florida in the future, but mostly things will be moving up because the state has perhaps more economic potential than any in the nation.

» January 1978 — 20th anniversary: In the next 20 years Florida will have other serious economic cycles. The pressures created by energy needs and supplies will reshape the whole way we do business. Public welfare will have increasing impact on business and business will become increasingly sensitive to its contributions to the public. Business looks like it is going to be more serious and less fun, with less margin for mistakes.

» April 1978: Disney World is one of the best examples of making an idea work for the economy that I know. It is an example of the axiom that if you do something big enough and well enough it is almost sure to succeed.

» June 1978: The older I get, however, the less awed I am by people considered to be powerful and influential. I think this is because we realize that the bigger influences in our lives come not from highly publicized people, but from an assortment of people and ideas by which we have been more directly influenced.

» October 1978: I am amazed and dismayed at the number of intelligent people who see no threat or great problem if casino gambling were to come to Florida. ... Conversely I am heartened by the assortment of people with widely divergent backgrounds and philosophies who are against it tooth and nail.

» February 1980: By now many of our readers have learned that Florida Trend has been sold to the Times Publishing Company, publishers of the St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent. ... It was a good move, I think. Good for the buyer, me, our stockholders, and most importantly of all, for you and our other subscribers. ... Few men, I believe, have been as fortunate as I to have spent 22 years working on Florida Trend and moving amongst the people of this state. You gave me the confidence to believe that our state will grow and develop in the total interest of all its citizens. I’ll never believe anything else.