fb-pixel Skip to main content

Ex-Massport executive tries to replicate agency’s success to diversify the biotech industry

A top exec at State Street says farewell; BC touts its economic footprint ahead of PILOTs debate; Why is Jason Robins visiting New Hampshire anyway?; New start for a former TV hand

Kenn Turner, chief executive of Mass. Life Sciences Center.Chris Morris

Kenn Turner helped bring diversity into Boston’s development sector during his nearly eight-year tenure as an executive at the Massachusetts Port Authority. Now, he is trying to do something similar for another key part of the region’s economy: life sciences.

Turner just wrapped up his first year as chief executive of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a 20-person quasi-public agency that assists biotech and medical device companies. Diversity will be front and center as the Waltham agency embarks on a new chapter for its workforce development efforts.

Turner met last week with a medical device company — he isn’t ready to announce its name — where his agency plans to develop a pilot program to attract more people to the life sciences field. The hope is to retrain adults who have quit their jobs or are looking to switch careers during the pandemic, and to bring more diverse candidates into the hiring mix, with the idea that most life sciences companies will need to cast a broad net to find the workers they need.

The workforce development program, to be unveiled in the spring, would likely tap into state job training funds, and would be developed as a model that could be rolled out to other companies.

Advertisement



Turner is also determined to use his position as a convener, to get people talking in the industry, where he expects a welcome audience. Examples include Turner’s participation in a diversity-focused, virtual “town hall” discussion last week at Thermo Fisher Scientific, or a workforce development summit at UMass Boston that he’s planning with chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco.

Turner, who is Black, has enjoyed a long career, first in the private sector with employers such as Hasbro and AOL, and then in the public sphere, at the state Department of Veterans’ Services and Massport. He wants to see the doors swing open for the next generation.

Advertisement



“When I was interviewing for this job, talking to the board, I made it very clear to them . . . that in every decision I make, I’m going to make that decision through the lens of DE&I,” Turner said. “It’s not just the right thing to do, which it is. It’s the smart thing to do.”

Old colleagues parting ways again

After working together at four different companies, State Street’s Ron O’Hanley and Cyrus Taraporevala are about to part ways: State Street said Taraporevala will retire this year from his high-profile job as chief executive at State Street Global Advisors, the company’s giant asset management arm.

They first worked together in the early 1990s, at McKinsey & Co. Much later, they overlapped at BNY Mellon and again at Fidelity Investments. Taraporevala joined State Street in 2016 and took over for O’Hanley as the boss at SSGA in late 2017, when O’Hanley moved up to become president, and eventually chief executive, of the parent company.

O’Hanley said his colleague’s departure didn’t come as a surprise, at least not internally. But Taraporevala gave no hint of it in his Jan. 10 letter to investors, in which he described how State Street would increase pressure on companies in its portfolio to be more environmentally conscious and improve diversity within their ranks.

The news sparked a question about SSGA’s future, given the rumors it could be spun off. During a call with analysts, Brennan Hawken of investment bank UBS asked if any changes in strategic direction were in the works at SSGA. O’Hanley tamped down any expectation of a spinoff or sale, saying he’s sticking with the asset management business.

Advertisement



“I look at our numbers. The result of our long-term investment in the business is strong,” O’Hanley said later. “I have no interest in not being in it.”

BC makes an impact

The past week was a big one for Boston College: BC released an updated economic impact report, and also unveiled a new associate’s degree program at the Pine Manor College property in Brookline.

President William Leahy said it was just coincidental these announcements happened around the same time. They were ready to go, and the new semester was beginning. Econsult Solutions of Philadelphia wrote the economic report, which showed how BC’s impact has grown since its last report in 2008: Its community contributions total nearly $17 million (compared to $5 million in 2008), for example, and volunteer service hours totaled 768,000 (nearly double 2008 levels). Total employment, full and part time, rose to nearly 6,000, up from 3,900.

Those numbers will likely keep growing, thanks in part to a $100 million investment in what BC calls the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success. The institute will include BC’s first associate’s degree program, dubbed Messina College, as well as mentoring and support for students from underprivileged communities.

BC gets flack for not participating in Boston’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program. Leahy said that was not the reason for the report, but the college can use these figures to make its case as city leaders revisit the PILOT program this year.

Advertisement



“Our city is flush with cash,” Leahy said. “I don’t know why some of the city councilors even want to talk about PILOTs. I think the PILOTs extract dollars from institutions like colleges, universities, and museums that help the city immensely.”

Taking his ball to Concord?

DraftKings chief executive Jason Robins trekked up to Concord, N.H., to hang with Governor Chris Sununu last week, a trip the governor memorialized with a Facebook post. So what prompted Robins to head north? Could it be that New Hampshire legalized sports betting more than two years ago, while efforts to do so on Beacon Hill remain stuck on the one-yard line?

DraftKings spokesman Parker Winslow said the meeting was “an informal sit down” between Robins and Sununu, set up by the New Hampshire Lottery’s executive director, Charlie McIntyre.

Sununu described his state as “the premier sports betting destination in the Northeast,” bringing in more than $1 billion in wagers in two years. The meeting at the State House, he wrote on Facebook, was “to discuss how we can grow even further!”

Some commenters said New Hampshire needs a full-fledged casino. Others said the state shouldn’t have any gambling at all. But the comment that got the most reaction was from Bedford, N.H., resident Dan Hynes: “We could also be the premier Marijuana industry and bring in a ton of money if you didn’t keep vetoing and blocking the legislation.”

Advertisement



At least on that front, Massachusetts remains well ahead of its northern neighbor.

Telling a different sort of story

Like many journalists, Mike Fahey thought he would be in the business for life. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden death of his father last year led to a change of plans.

In late 2020, Fahey took a high profile job at FOX 45 WBFF-TV in Baltimore, as news director, after several years as an executive producer at 7 News in Boston. The ink was barely dry on his apartment lease in Maryland when his dad died last March. So he quit his job to come back to Massachusetts, in part to help his mom. He got his old job back, but knew pretty quickly he was going to switch careers.

Last Tuesday, he made it public, announcing the launch of Fahey Communications. He’s a one-man band for now, working out of his apartment complex in East Boston. He will focus on nonprofits and small businesses, particularly ones that need help more than ever because of the pandemic. His first clients include End Mass Overdose (aka EMO Health) in Boston and Black Girls Do Engineer, out of Houston.

“Sitting in the newsroom every day, I realized not enough was being done for local businesses and nonprofits,” Fahey said. “Somebody needed to help get their stories on the air . . . I thought to myself, if there’s anybody who knows how to do that, it’s me.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.