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From Boston to Newfoundland to Germany, Gebolys sees potential for green hydrogen

Lucey heads full-time to cable trade group; Land O’Lakes chief recalls formative years in Boston; Bullhorn boss sings some new tunes; Remembering the start of Sam Adams, on Patriots Day

Gene Gebolys, CEO of World Energy.Chris Morris

The Canadian government just unveiled plans to spend the equivalent of $4 billion over five years on tax credits to spur a new green hydrogen industry. And a Boston executive hopes to be among the first in line.

Gene Gebolys, chief executive of World Energy, is embarking on his company’s most ambitious project yet, and those tax credits could be crucial. Through its World Energy GH2 partnership with Canadian businessman John Risley and others, World Energy has embarked on plans for a green hydrogen production facility and export terminal in the town of Stephenville, on the island of Newfoundland. The goal: create hydrogen from water, using electrolysis powered by dozens of still-to-be-built wind turbines, and then ship that hydrogen in the form of liquid ammonia (which consists of hydrogen and nitrogen). They see a strong market in Europe, where customers could convert it back to hydrogen, in large part to replace Russian natural gas.

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The project, known as Project Nujio’qonik, could cost as much as $12 billion. Gebolys hopes to wrap up permitting by the end of the year.

For now, the target market is Germany. Last year, World Energy hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Stephenville site, to commit to a green hydrogen trade pact. Resource-rich Canada, with ample water and wind, is seen as a perfect place for a green hydrogen sector to be born.

This shift into green hydrogen marks a big milestone for Gebolys, who started World Energy in a coffee shop in Cambridge on Earth Day 25 years ago by acquiring the biofuels business from Twin River Technologies of Quincy. “The basic premise was, we need to find ways to move beyond fossil fuels,” Gebolys said. “Twenty five years later, we’re working on the same impulse.”

The company produces renewable diesel and biodiesel at four facilities across North America. World Energy is making renewable fuels for jet flight at a facility in California, and will soon do the same in Texas after a conversion project is completed there.

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Now, Gebolys says he’s encouraged by the tax incentives for green hydrogen that Congress included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which then prompted the Canadian government to respond with its own incentives.

Of World Energy’s 325 employees, only about 30 work at the company’s headquarters at 225 Franklin St. in the Financial District. Boston’s no Houston, Gebolys said, but it’s still a great place to run an energy company.

“Boston’s a good location because we have such good access to thinkers, knowledge-intensive workers,” Gebolys said. “We’re effectively playing the global playing field [for talent]. This is as good a place as anywhere to do that from.”

A new voice for cable, or “connectivity,” if you prefer

The New England Connectivity and Telecommunications Association is trying to update its image as the voice for the local cable company, in part by switching out the “Cable” in its name.

Now NECTA will have some help in spreading the word: The Boston trade group has hired Anna Lucey to be its executive vice president. Alongside president Tim Wilkerson, the association will have two registered lobbyists who can work the Massachusetts State House.

Lucey has been a familiar face to NECTA for years. Her first private-sector job after working as a top lawyer on the House Ways and Means Committee was with cable operator Charter Communications. She left after nearly two years in 2018 to form a lobbying firm with Brian Dempsey, the former chair of the ways and means committee. She launched her own firm, A. Lucey Strategies, in late 2021, and NECTA was a client. Now she has joined NECTA full time and handed off her other clients to other firms.

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Then-governor Charlie Baker helped ensure broadband services were extended to remote towns in central and western Massachusetts. Now, it will be up to Baker’s successor, Maura Healey, to encourage more broadband adoption across the state. Lucey said she’s excited to play a pivotal role. “Digital equity, that is our next challenge,” she said.

Land O'Lakes Inc. brand butter is displayed for sale inside an Albertsons Cos. Vons grocery store in San Diego, California on June 22, 2020. Bing Guan/Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomber

Always a Boston connection

All roads lead through the Hub of the Universe, right?

Boston Globe chief executive Linda Pizzuti Henry reminded attendees of Boston’s nickname as she introduced Beth Ford, the chief executive of the Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes agricultural cooperative, at the Boston College Chief Executives Club last week. Henry noted many world leaders spent some formative time in the Boston area, by attending one of our many universities or starting their career here.

Count Ford among them. While she got her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, she came to Boston for a job. She told the crowd at the CEOs club that she had many fond memories of the time she spent in her 20s here working for what was then Mobil Oil, and met the godfather of her sons in Boston.

“I had quite some fun when I was there,” Ford said. “I was like 23, right out of college. Had about a nickel in my pocket. You know that time of life when you’re exploring, doing things you shouldn’t do, that you don’t tell your parents. Good times . . . It was just joyously fun.”

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Inspiration strikes in some interesting places

Some people took up exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others learned to bake, or took on home improvement projects. Art Papas, the chief executive of customer relationship software firm Bullhorn, took out his guitar.

It started with conversations with a former Bullhorn manager, drummer Alex Reinart. At first, Papas wasn’t ready to do something creative while he was dealing with the tumult of those early pandemic weeks in 2020. Then, he decided, this could be the perfect time. They wrote five rock songs together and recorded them, toiling on nights and weekends. The project took about three years to complete, but now the songs are available on Spotify. Papas sang on all the songs. They’re still trying to find a venue to showcase the tunes this spring, under the band name Where’s Gladys.

Papas also plays in Boston-based Bullhorn’s “house band,” Stampede, at the company’s customer conference every couple of years. “Where’s Gladys isn’t big enough yet to get invited to play that conference yet,” Papas jokes.

As for that unusual name, Papas credits a stranger who he and his wife overheard while attending a play.

“I was complaining that we were having trouble coming up with a band name,” Papas said. “When the play finished, as we were leaving, there was a group of elderly women standing in front of us. One of them turned around and in a panic yelled, “Where’s Gladys?!’” And thus, a new rock band was born.

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Bartender Benny Hoey holds a glass of Boston lager at the Sam Adams Taproom next to Faneuil Hall in Boston on Feb. 6, 2020.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Boston’s big day is also Sam Adams’ birthday

Patriots Day commemorates a few of the Revolutionary War’s earliest battles, and it’s when the Boston Marathon takes place. But the date has another historical context, at least from Boston Beer Co.’s perspective. The brewer of Samuel Adams Boston Lager posted on LinkedIn last week the company’s flagship beer made its debut on Patriots Day in 1985.

That prompted Boston Harbor Distillery founder Rhonda Kallman to post a comment about Boston Beer’s humble roots. Kallman was there at the beginning, alongside chairman Jim Koch, and she long remained as an executive at Boston Beer before striking out on her own in 2000.

“I remember that day,” Kallman said of the Sam Adams launch. “Jim & I standing on the corner of Fairfield & Newbury St in front of Daisy Buchanan’s with cold packs in our briefcases and bottles of Samuel Adams with generic labels that read ‘Sample Brew.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘Ok, what now’ . . . The rest is history.”


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