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Worcester Airport regains its altitude under Andy Davis’s watch

Super Bowl Sunday was a big night for one Boston ad shop; $25M gift to BC Theology school; Hao aims to keep Mass. atop the life sciences heap; Could combat sports boost Mass. economy?

Worcester Regional Airport director Andy Davis.Chris Morris

While passenger traffic at Logan Airport still fell short of its 2019 levels last year, Logan’s smaller sibling in Worcester has already soared above its prepandemic count.

In 2023, 204,000 passengers traveled through Worcester Regional Airport, compared with 194,000 in 2019. It was the busiest year for Worcester since Massport began running the airport in 2000 — first on behalf of the city and then, starting in 2010, as the owner.

Airport director Andy Davis has been piloting a comeback since taking charge in 2008. He remembers the lean times in 2012 and 2013, when there were no commercial airlines serving Worcester. Things started to take off for ORH when JetBlue Airways launched flights to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in late 2013, with help from a two-year Massport subsidy. American Airlines joined the fun in 2018, as did Delta Air Lines, a year later. Then the pandemic hit: All three airlines suspended their Worcester flights in 2020.

However, all three lived up to their promise to return — albeit with somewhat altered schedules. Instead of Philadelphia, American now flies to New York’s JFK Airport, for example, while Delta serves New York’s LaGuardia Airport instead of Detroit. The newest announcement: JetBlue added seasonal service to Fort Myers, Fla., last month.

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The airport still doesn’t break even; a spokeswoman said the net cost to Massport totals about $10 million a year. But Davis said the impact on the Central Massachusetts economy is invaluable.

One major growth driver: the 2018 installation of an instrument landing system that allows jets to land in low visibility. (The airport had been notorious for fog-related diversions.)

To help keep up with demand, Davis said his team recently added 200 temporary parking spaces and a second security checkpoint lane. He’s also working with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and local colleges such as Holy Cross, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the UMass Chan Medical School to help drum up more business. His goals include landing a San Juan flight and more service to New York and other business hubs.

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It’s a far cry from those quiet days over a decade ago.

“Between 12 and 6 p.m., the terminal is pulsing, it’s vibrant,” Davis said. “Right now, we’re still in growth mode.”

Boston shop Full Contact scores a Super Bowl ad

That DunKings spot — the one with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Tom Brady wearing garish Dunkin’-themed tracksuits — screamed “Boston” from TV sets during the Super Bowl game on Sunday.

But there was another ad with at least as much Boston DNA, even if it wasn’t readily apparent to casual viewers: an ad for the Coca-Cola-owned Bodyarmor sports drink.

The 30-second spot, dubbed “Field of Fake,” features vignettes in which artificial intelligence is used to create football scenes to bizarre effect — with scenes on the gridiron blended with oddball extra limbs, mouths, even a cartoon hammerhead shark. The goal: contrasting the “fakeness” of AI with the “realness” of Bodyarmor’s ingredients. It ran in more than 20 markets across the country (but not in Boston) and in Canada.

It’s the brainchild of Boston’s Full Contact Advertising. Founding partner Marty Donohue said the concept was first floated while discussing a Bodyarmor product launch. The higher-ups there liked it so much, they decided to make it their Super Bowl ad.

Donohue said his team only had a few weeks to produce the spot. Full Contact managing partner Mark Battista played a key role, in part because of previous work he did with Bodyarmor executive Kristen Rumble. Full Contact creative team members who helped bring the spot to life included Al Duggan, Ellie Fusco, Lawrence O’Toole, Kevin Barlow, and Patrick Driscoll. Boston’s Pretty Awesome did the video editing, and Mike Letourneau handled audio and sound design.

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“The whole point was making fun of the ridiculousness of AI,” Donohue said. “We used AI to humiliate AI.”

Gloria and Chuck Clough are donating $25 million to bolster BC’s School of Theology and Ministry, one of the largest ever donations to a theology or ministry school.Courtesy of Boston College

BC Theology school receives $25m gift from Clough family

Chuck Clough and Gloria Clough have given countless hours of their time to support both their Roman Catholic faith and Boston College. Now, they’re giving a big financial donation to help both institutions as well.

BC announced on Monday that the couple has agreed to give $25 million to bolster BC’s School of Theology and Ministry, one of the largest ever donations to a theology or ministry school. Chuck Clough, who earned his bachelor’s degree from BC in 1964, said the money will be used to hire faculty and provide financial aid to students. The school, which has about 375 students and 30 full-time faculty members, provides postgraduate degree and certificate programs for aspiring clergy and laypeople.

Chuck Clough has a long career in financial services, currently chairing Boston investment firm Clough Capital Partners, all while working as a deacon at the Holy Family and St. Irene churches in Concord and Carlisle; he has been a trustee or trustee associate at BC since 1994. Meanwhile, Gloria Clough, a clinical nurse specialist, earned a master’s degree in nursing from BC and a master’s degree in divinity from the former Weston Jesuit School of Theology, which became the BC theology school in 2008.

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BC will hold a dedication ceremony in March, where a plaque will be unveiled honoring the Cloughs by naming the theology school, at Simboli Hall on BC’s Brighton campus along Lake Street, after them.

“The church is a really powerful force for social justice in the world and one of the largest providers of social services,” Chuck Clough said. “The gift . . . magnifies the ability of the church to do these things.”

Yvonne Hao, Governor Maura Healey’s economic development secretary.Webb Chappell for the Boston Globe

Hao hopes to defend state’s life sciences advantages

Yvonne Hao wants Massachusetts to think more like a startup, in part by being “relentlessly paranoid” about the stiff competition for our companies and our talent.

Hao, Governor Maura Healey’s economic development secretary, made the case during a panel discussion hosted last week in Boston by the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

Former McKinsey & Co. consultant Nav Singh asked Hao to name the rival states that worry her the most. She mentioned the competitive threats posed by North Carolina and Texas, in particular. But before directly answering the question, Hao noted that she had just attended a forum with 30-plus other top economic development officials in other states; nearly all of them talked about how they are focusing on life sciences and climate-tech — two prominent sectors in Massachusetts.

“When you are the incumbent, . . . it makes it very hard to change and adapt,” said Hao, noting how Massachusetts eventually supplanted New Jersey as the nation’s pharma capital. “The question for us is: . . . How do we always make sure we have the mindset of an innovator or a startup?”

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Sean O'Malley, top, lands punches after knocking down Aljamain Sterling during their UFC 292 Bantamweight title mixed martial arts fight on Aug. 19, 2023, at TD Garden in Boston.Paul Rutherford/Getty

Can the ultimate fighting economy boost Massachusetts?

Combat sports as an economic stimulus strategy?

That’s apparently the plan at the Legislature’s economic development committee, which favorably reported a bill last week to draw more big-time mixed-martial arts events from the likes of the Ultimate Fighting Championship league.

The goal essentially is to make state oversight more professional. Among other things, the bill would require the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission, which regulates boxing and mixed-martial arts matches, to hire a full-time executive director, someone with at least five years’ experience in unarmed combat sports. MSAC deputies who attend these events would get a bump in pay, and be required to undergo formal training.

Representative Jerry Parisella, cochairman of the legislative committee, says lawmakers are reacting to a high-profile 2019 match at the TD Garden in which a deputy authorized UFC fighter Greg Hardy to take a hit from his inhaler. Hardy won his fight with Ben Sosoli, but the MSAC later rescinded that win because of Hardy’s inhaler use.

Representative Kip Diggs, a retired professional boxer, brought the issue to Parisella’s attention.

“There’s a huge segment of the population that loves this stuff,” Parisella said. “They’ve been going to Foxwoods in Connecticut for years. Rhode Island has embraced it. We felt we should not be losing out.”


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