Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest public health crises facing this state. But Julie Burns is learning the hard way that it’s not a cause that easily fits into local companies’ philanthropic plans.
Burns is hoping to change that. Her nascent organization, Rize Massachusetts, essentially depends on her team’s ability to do so. The group was launched in March, largely as a way to draw corporate funds into the fight against opioid abuse. The backers’ goal: to raise $50 million over five years.
The initial funding round raised $13 million from a few key donors: Partners HealthCare, General Electric Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and 1199SEIU, the health care workers’ union. Burns moved from Blue Cross Blue Shield’s foundation to become Rize’s new executive director in August. The staff is intentionally small: Burns is joined by an administrative assistant, and there are plans to hire two other people soon. Blue Cross donates office space to Rize at the insurer’s Back Bay headquarters.
Burns said she hopes to renew fund-raising efforts in early 2018. But first, she wants to show potential donors where some of the money will go. Toward that end, Rize last week accepted applications for six “design grants” of $50,000 apiece to help health care and social service providers develop innovative ways to get treatment to people who need it. She said 36 applications were submitted by Friday’s deadline.
There will be a speedy decision. The Rize board is expected to pick its first winners at its December meeting and award the grants by year’s end. The high-powered board includes GE’s David Barash; philanthropist Jack Connors; Blue Cross chief Andrew Dreyfus; Cape Cod Healthcare CEO Michael Lauf; Tyrek Lee Sr. of the SEIU; Myechia Minter-Jordan of the Dimock Center; and Learn to Cope’s founder Joanne Peterson. Also on the board: two of the city’s most prominent hospital CEOs, Boston Medical Center’s Kate Walsh and David Torchiana of Partners.
So far, Burns is enjoying the challenge.
“One of the biggest surprises is that there is not more philanthropy in this space, not only locally, but nationally,” Burns said. “We have to make the case as to why corporations, individuals, and foundations should be contributing to this effort. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to really build the case for support.” — JON CHESTO
Warren seeks allies against GOP tax plan
Senator Elizabeth Warren came to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce with one goal in mind: enlisting more allies in the battle to thwart the GOP’s tax plans in Washington.
She might be running out of time. The House narrowly approved its version last week, and the full Senate could take it up shortly.
During her chamber speech on Friday, Warren portrayed the tax-cut legislation as a vehicle designed to help the super-rich and big companies, at the expense of the middle class and small businesses. That’s why she implored the crowd at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront hotel, “I need every one of you in this fight.”
She focused on taxes. But Warren touched on a few other issues during the Q&A. Among them: the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to relax restrictions on ownership of multiple media outlets in the same market. Warren’s not a fan.
“One of the things we have counted on throughout the generations of America . . . was an active and independent [and] rambunctious media,” Warren said. “I’m very much opposed to clearing the way for more concentration within this industry.”
Warren also expressed concern over the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency Warren helped establish during the Obama administration. Warren is worried that a chief appointed by President Trump might not be as consumer friendly as Richard Cordray, the agency’s current director who is stepping down at the end of the month.
Warren then joked about what she described as a “bait-and-switch” tactic she used to get Cordray in the job.
“It was exactly seven years ago that I called Rich Cordray and asked if he would come and help me do this on a ‘temporary’ basis,” Warren said. “That was the way I could get him in the door. I’m like that.” — JON CHESTO
‘Entrepreneur-led’ firms are fund focus
Babson College professor Joel Shulman believes he has uncovered a crucial secret to stock-picking, and it doesn’t involve betting on a particular sector or company size.
Instead, Shulman looks for what he calls “entrepreneur-led” publicly traded companies — primarily companies run by their founders. Toward that end, Shulman’s Boston-based investment firm, EntrepreneurShares, launched an exchange-traded fund last week that allows investors to put money with the 30 largest entrepreneur-led public companies. Shulman said his side business has focused on entrepreneur-led operations for 12 years, and now has nearly $400 million in assets under management.
“We found something really valuable in money management circles,” Shulman said. “The test of time is going to show that this is a very useful thing when selecting stocks.”
The launch at the New York Stock Exchange turned into a Babson College reunion of sorts.
Among those in attendance: Bruce Herring (class of 1987, Fidelity Investments executive), Rusty Vanneman (class of 1987, chief investment officer at CLS Investments), and Tom Lydon (class of 1982, founder of ETF Trends).
Shulman said entrepreneurs tend to take a longer view than chief executives who are brought in from the outside. That approach, generally speaking, has allowed entrepreneur-led companies to outperform the broader market.
“Their incentives are different than just making money,” Shulman said of founder CEOs. “It’s the crown jewel of their life. It’s their baby. If you can find [another] Steve Jobs at Apple, who wants to make a dent in the universe, you can’t do better.”
— JON CHESTO