In 2021, Mass Audubon president David O’Neill announced ambitious goals that included protecting 10,000 additional acres of natural lands by the end of 2026 through acquisitions or conservation restrictions — more than doubling the nonprofit’s previous annual pace of land deals.
O’Neill, then only a year into the job, eventually realized he would need some help to pull this off. Enter Jocelyn Forbush. She joins the Lincoln-based organization on Sept. 5, as its first-ever chief conservation officer.
Forbush is best known in environmental circles for the 20-plus years she spent with a similarly-minded preservation group, the Trustees of Reservations. She started with the Trustees in 2000, working on initiatives in Western Massachusetts including a coalition-building effort to bring together roughly three dozen small hill towns west of the Connecticut River to focus on land preservation. Eventually, Forbush became executive vice president at the Trustees and helped spearhead the group’s One Waterfront initiative to secure and protect harborside properties in Boston. Forbush ended up leading the nonprofit on an interim basis after then-chief executive Barbara Erickson was stricken with a rare form of appendix cancer that eventually proved fatal.
Forbush left the Trustees in early 2022, about a year after Erickson’s death, and worked on a temporary project with the Fidelity Foundation as a senior adviser for arts and culture.
It was around this time that O’Neill met with Forbush, at the suggestion of several Mass Audubon board members, to “pick her brain” about conservation issues, as O’Neill recalls. Mass Audubon then hired a headhunting firm to find its first chief conservation officer, to lead its accelerated land preservation efforts, and Forbush was among the candidates invited in for interviews.
“This was a role that was absolutely necessary to fill,” O’Neill said. “For us to be able to accelerate . . . we needed somebody with Jocelyn’s talents.”
Forbush already has a good head start on that 10,000-by-2026 goal; Mass Audubon has added about 3,000 acres to its portfolio since 2022 began. O’Neill also wants Mass Audubon to play a key role in helping other groups and government agencies collectively preserve another 140,000 acres by 2026, which would ensure nearly one-third of land in Massachusetts gets protected from development. Concerns around climate change have added a new level of urgency to these plans.
“It’s not just my challenge but the organization’s challenge,” she said. “How can we move fast enough? How can we bring everyone into this work and get folks excited?”
Just don’t ask her which of the 60-plus properties in Mass Audubon’s portfolio are her favorite. If Forbush has one, she isn’t letting on. She’ll be putting a lot of mileage on her VW Golf, crisscrossing the state.
“I live in the hills and I love the coast,” Forbush said. “For such a small state, it packs a punch.”
The CIC keeps evolving
It’s been a busy summer for CIC, as the Cambridge shared office operator continues its strong rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, CIC announced its first management agreement with a university, unveiling a deal with the University of Chicago to run a 20,000-square-foot life sciences lab as part of a project known as Hyde Park Labs that’s being developed by Trammell Crow Co. and Beacon Capital Partners. The CIC space will focus on startups launched by faculty members at UChicago.
CIC chief executive Tim Rowe said this deal represents a recent shift in CIC’s approach. For most of the nearly 25 years since its inception, the Cambridge Innovation Center leased office space to startups. Now, though, Rowe believes CIC, as it’s known today, can better endure the ups and downs of real estate cycles by expanding through management agreements instead. It’s a model that’s similar to the one championed by the hotel industry: It’s no coincidence that CIC hired Camilla Jensen, a former executive with Marriott International, to be its new chief financial officer about a year ago.
Then, last week, CIC received some attention at the White House, when Vice President Kamala Harris announced the recommended awardees for the Minority Business Development Agency’s new Capital Readiness Program. CIC is expected to receive around $3 million to launch the CIC Social Impact Program, which aims to help dozens of entrepreneurs of color and women across eastern Massachusetts advise and grow their startups. Stas Gayshan, CIC”s general counsel, said this will be the first federal grant for CIC. The programming will take place at CIC’s main office in Cambridge.
“The goal is to be intentional, and also intense,” Gayshan said. “We’re going to be very actively engaged and doing a lot of close work, side by side, with the entrepreneurs . . . We can bridge the gap between the opportunities that some founders see and other founders don’t see.”
Felch finds the bright side of AI
Chief information officers from around the country converged in Boston last week for the Converge23 conference at the Westin Boston Seaport District hotel, and the hot topic — surprise, surprise — was generative artificial intelligence.
Generative AI has gone mainstream thanks to OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT late last year. Now, CIOs everywhere are racing to figure out what it means for their companies, workers, and customers.
From Dell Technologies chief digital officer and CIO Jen Felch’s perspective, “GenAI” offers a business opportunity for Dell and a useful tool for her employees, as long as appropriate safeguards are in place. She cites Microsoft’s Copilot software, which provides AI-powered assistance for an added monthly fee, as an example. About one-fourth of Felch’s software development team uses Copilot but now Dell is making it available for other employees.
“Where AI takes the drudgery out of the job, it’s powerful,” Felch said. “Most people [at the conference] are looking at the pluses to say, ‘This is a huge shift in capabilities. Let’s learn about how we do it safely.’”
Bud Light’s loss is not Boston Beer’s gain
Given the drain in sales that Bud Light has seen lately, shouldn’t Boston Beer be capturing some of that business, maybe with its Truly spiked seltzers?
Robert Ottenstein, a beverage analyst at investment bank Evercore, posed the question to Boston Beer chief executive Dave Burwick and chairman Jim Koch on their most recent earnings call, on July 27.
The answer: well, not really.
“We’re not that surprised because when you look at the demographics, the geographies and such where Bud Light might be struggling, those are really hard core light beer drinkers,” Burwick said.
And Koch pointed to some of the apparent beneficiaries: Coors Light, Miller Lite, possibly even Pabst and Yuengling. There isn’t much overlap between the light beer crowd and hard seltzer fans, he said. “We never really had that much interaction with the hardcore light beer drinkers with Truly,” Koch added.
Even Encore Casino is feeling the Sumner shutdown
This Sumner Tunnel shutdown is getting so bad, they’re complaining about it in Vegas.
Julie Cameron-Doe, chief financial officer for Wynn Resorts, told analysts and investors last week that revenue at the casino company was being negatively affected by the $160 million tunnel restoration project under the harbor. One possible reason: Plenty of gamblers headed to Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor casino normally use the Sumner to get there from Logan Airport. Plus, the shutdown is causing traffic jams in that entire area. Think the Tobin, Interstate 93, Route 99.
Cameron-Doe said the effect is primarily being felt in the table games business. For some reason, slot machine and nongambling revenue like food and hotel stays still continued to grow, year over year, in July. Apparently, not even a completely closed harbor tunnel can keep some loyal Wynn fans away.