Business & Tech

Bold Types

UMass duo have a winning message about unsafe texting

Chris Morris for The Boston Globe
Kyle Pandiscio and Julia Keefe

Don’t text and drive. Or did it say don’t text and die?

An auto-corrected text message that changes “drive” to “die” is sprawled across thousands of digital billboards around the country — including in Times Square — as part of a safe-driving campaign.

The billboard, named Auto Car-Wreck, was unveiled in early June and designed by University of Massachusetts Amherst junior Kyle Pandiscio and recent graduate Julia Keefe. The duo won the Project Yellow Light Billboard contest, which is geared to inspiring teenagers to stop texting and driving.

Advertisement

The billboard will be displayed for about a year, at various spots along Route 9, as well as on two interstates: I-495 north near Lawrence and south near Methuen, and I-290 in Worcester.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The competition is in partnership with the Ad Council, Mazda, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Organizations for Youth Safety, U-Haul, Clear Channel Outdoor, and iHeartRadio. Students could enter video, radio, or billboard submissions.

“Our concept is creating an environment on the billboard that is recognizable and easily understood by young adults,” Pandiscio said. “Nowadays, teenagers are very attached to their phone screens, so we knew they’d be comfortable with the idea of auto-correct because a lot of them use it.”

Pandiscio and Keefe applied through the University of Massachusetts AdLab. There were 1,150 teams, and Pandiscio and Keefe each won a $1,000 scholarship.

Keefe said that using a simple texting interface made their design more effective.

Advertisement

Pandiscio estimated that more than 20 million passersby have seen the message.

“When people are driving, the last thing [we] want to do is create a billboard that is distracting,” Pandiscio said. “It’s been great to know that people are seeing our message, and listening to it, too.” — NATASHA MASCARENHAS

Helping to build a new city

Gerry Kavanaugh was at Ted Kennedy’s side in the 1990s when the late US senator unsuccessfully tried to save the South Weymouth Naval Air Station from being closed.

Now, Kavanaugh gets another crack at the 1,500-acre property, known as Union Point — this time as an executive at the company overseeing its redevelopment. He starts this month running developer LStar Ventures’ LStar Capital division, helping to arrange debt and equity financing for projects at the former military facility. He’ll work directly for Kyle Corkum, LStar’s president.

The New Bedford native says he enjoyed his job as senior vice chancellor at UMass Dartmouth. But the opportunity to help create what will essentially be a new city roughly a dozen miles south of Boston was too good to pass up.

Advertisement

Kavanaugh got his start in urban planning, eventually working at what was then known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority through 1993, during Ray Flynn’s administration. He then joined Kennedy in Washington, first overseeing economic policy for the senator, and then as Kennedy’s chief of staff for four years, through 2001. Several private-sector gigs followed before then-UMass president Bob Caret invited him to join the university system in 2014.

While Kavanaugh’s career moved along, the South Weymouth base development progressed slowly, in fits and starts. But lately, under LStar, the vast effort is gaining steam, with commercial tenants such as Prodrive Technologies lining up.

Kavanaugh says the region’s hot real estate market and recent changes to the redevelopment plan have increased the property’s attractiveness.

“I think it’s really coming together,” Kavanaugh says. “When this [opportunity] came up, I thought this would be a fun way to spend the next five to 10 years. It’s now real. It’s now going to happen.” — JON CHESTO

Lighting giant picks Fort Point

When German lighting giant Osram completed its purchase of Boston startup Digital Lumens last week, it didn’t just buy some great lighting technology and a solid list of clients.

Osram also acquired a beachhead in the city’s Innovation District, with the Digital Lumens office on Congress Street in Fort Point.

Michael Flieger, chief financial officer of Osram’s business in the Americas, says entering Boston will be important for the company as it tries to attract younger talent. Osram employs about 300 people in Massachusetts today, but in the suburbs, in Wilmington and Beverly. With a city location, “that gives us a reach into a different talent pool,” he says.

The plan is to expand the 65-person workforce at Digital Lumens, which specializes in setting up digitally connected lighting systems for industrial customers. It’s likely, though, that Osram will hire people for other business lines to work alongside the Digital Lumens team, turning the Boston office into a tech center for the parent company.

Tom Pincince, president of Digital Lumens, says there’s enough room for now to accommodate another 30 or 40 people. Long-term? That’s still unclear. But the team will definitely stay in Boston.

“It’s a great place to find and attract the best talent in the region,” Pincince says. “We are looking forward to expanding our presence and welcoming other Osram employees as we build a hub of innovation and expand our footprint here.” — JON CHESTO

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.