First it was Mike Widmer. Then Paul Guzzi. Now, it is Bill Vernon’s time.
The Massachusetts director for the National Federation of Independent Business is about to turn 65, and he’s preparing for retirement. It’s not going to happen immediately: Vernon says he plans to leave by next April.
In doing so, he’ll be the latest among longtime local leaders of business advocacy groups to walk away. Widmer and Guzzi left the top jobs at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, respectively, last year after serving for about two decades. Vernon is their counterpart at the NFIB, and he’s been the state director for almost as long (17 years).
The NFIB doesn’t quite have the clout on Beacon Hill as those other two groups, probably because its focus is on small businesses. The organization has 8,000 member firms in this state, with an average of five employees each.
There are times when Vernon’s advocacy efforts have lined up with the big-business groups, and other times when he took a different tack. He often works with Jon Hurst at the Retailers Association of Massachusetts to champion the mom-and-pop shops that wouldn’t otherwise have a voice under the golden dome.
Vernon’s not sure what he’ll do next. He’s a former state rep from Mansfield who was the state GOP’s executive director for a few years in the 1990s, and he has a law degree from Boston University. He says Nashville-based NFIB probably will have a replacement lined up by the time he leaves.
The free-market views held by Vernon’s group don’t always find a receptive audience in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. That doesn’t seem to deter him. “Everybody says they are for ‘small business,’ [but] it’s a struggle,” he says. —JON CHESTO
America’s Test Kitchen’s Chris Kimball set to launch a new media venture
When a contract dispute led Chris Kimball to walk away from his role as the head of America’s Test Kitchen last fall, it was clear the bow-tied food guru had too much of a following to hang up his apron for good.
On Wednesday, we got a new inkling of what he’s up to next. Suffolk County property records indicate that Kimball is launching a new venture, CPK Media, and signed a seven-year lease at 177 Milk St. to house the company in January. The lease was filed publicly April 1.
Kimball, who published his first issue of Cook’s Illustrated in 1993, grew to become the perfectionist face of America’s Test Kitchen brand, helping to propel its flagship television show into the most popular cooking program on public television. Kimball still retains a role as a minority owner in the Brookline-based company and has said in interviews that the split was amicable.
In an interview with Current last fall, he hinted that his new venture “will be very focused on public media,” and job listings indicate there will be an audio component. Kimball did not respond to inquiries about what else might be in store.
If nothing else, the location of the new business seems a fitting locale for his new food-centric endeavor: The Romanesque Revival building was the former Flour & Grain Exchange. —JANELLE NANOS
Mass. High Tech Council gets serious on millionaires’ tax
The Massachusetts High Technology Council has a new goal on its agenda: defeating the so-called millionaires’ tax.
Bill Achtmeyer, the council’s board chairman, briefly touched on the topic during a presentation to the council at Bentley University in Waltham on Wednesday. Achtmeyer, senior managing director at consultancy Parthenon-EY , told the crowd he’s worried about a proposed income tax surcharge for high earners that could be up for a statewide vote in 2018.
It’s particularly bad timing, he said, with General Electric planning to move its headquarters here from Connecticut.
“That’s probably not the reason why General Electric decided to come here,” Achtmeyer said. “We would like to see that be defeated.”
Governor Charlie Baker also spoke to the council. He didn’t address the millionaires’ tax. But he did talk about GE and why the company picked Boston’s Seaport area.
Execs there like the proximity to Logan Airport, Baker said, and the numerous high-tech firms located within a short drive.
Still, Baker urged those in attendance to think about investing in parts of the state beyond Greater Boston, to “send some of the genius that sits within 10 miles of this place out into some other areas of the state.” —JON CHESTO
Kerry alum tackles photos
Since 2012, EverPresent Inc. of Newton has digitized its customers’ photo prints and videotapes. But when founders Eric Niloff and his wife Jennifer checked out their own photo collection about a year ago, they got a nasty shock, and a new business idea.
“We were looking at our own digital archives at home,” Eric Niloff said, “and it was a disaster.” Thousands of images jumbled together without rhyme or reason. If their files were such a mess, millions must be even worse off.
So EverPresent, which was born to scan old-school analog images, has launched a new service for managing digital stills and videos. For $449, the company will collect all your images, from computers and smartphones, in a single searchable archive created not by software, but by human editors. For $949, they’ll tag the images to identify people, dates, or locations.
Niloff studied political science at Yale University, then served as speechwriter to US Senator John Kerry in 2005 and managed Chris Gabrieli’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign. Niloff then joined the Parthenon Group, a Boston-based consulting company now owned by Ernst & Young.
In 2012, after archiving his own grandfather’s sizable photo collection, Niloff decided to profit from his new-found expertise. With financing from his old friend Gabrieli, EverPresent was born. —HIAWATHA BRAYCan’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at email@example.com.