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Inner-city entrepreneurs get boost from Steve Grossman

Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

After realizing his career in elected politics was probably over with his loss in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Martha Coakley, former state treasurer Steve Grossman turned to his friend, renowned Harvard Business School prof Michael Porter, for help figuring out his next move. The result: Grossman became CEO in 2015 of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit that Porter founded.

Under Grossman’s watch, it has broadened its scope, from three cities to 11 this year, with four more planned for next year. The group provides classes and coaching for inner-city entrepreneurs, with a focus on how to put a pitch together and how to make connections with bankers and investors who provide crucial capital.


ICIC wasn’t actually working with Boston businesses when Grossman arrived, but he quickly changed that. (The organization is based in Dudley Square.) Entrepreneurs from other cities in Eastern Massachusetts, such as Lowell and Lawrence, also get assistance through the Boston hub now.

In most cases, local companies and foundations underwrite the costs. MassMutual and Berkshire Bank, for example, are funding ICIC’s foray into Springfield, and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will bring the program to Connecticut’s capital city next year. In Boston, benefactors include Bank of America, Santander, John Hancock, Eastern Bank, the Boston Foundation, Metro Credit Union, and Kronos.

By 2020, Grossman hopes ICIC will be in at least 20 cities around the country.

“We’re never going to give up on our home base, which is Massachusetts and the neighborhoods of Boston, and the [state’s] 26 ‘gateway cities,’ ” Grossman says. “There’s enormous potential here.”

Council is a big draw

Jim Brett likes to think of the New England Council’s annual dinner as his group’s report card, in part because it’s also the organization’s main fund-raiser, covering more than a third of its $5 million annual budget.


So it looks like Brett and his eight-person staff may have earned an “A.” He said nearly 1,700 people attended the annual meeting last week at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center.

“They really stepped up to the plate,” Brett says.

The council honored another round of “New Englanders of the Year.” Here’s the Class of 2018: Vertex Pharmaceuticals CEO Jeff Leiden; retiring congresswoman Niki Tsongas; General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and a Quincy native); and retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee whose Maine foundation helps injured veterans.

Brett says the event draws people from all over New England and from all corners of the region’s economy. “It’s all of New England coming together,” Brett says. “That’s what makes it special.”

Meanwhile, the council’s board of directors welcomed some new faces: Mo Cowan, General Electric’s president of global government affairs and policy; John Pantano, alliance director at Philips Healthcare; Kevin Rasch, vice president of government affairs at Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare; Peter Sherlock, chief operating officer at MITRE Corp.; and Alison Weiss, head of federal government relations at MassMutual.

The board added two board seats to accommodate Sherlock and Weiss. Cowan replaces GE’s Alex Dimitrief; Pantano takes over for Laurel Sweeney, who left Philips earlier this year; and Rasch replaces former CEO Eric Schultz, who abruptly departed Harvard Pilgrim in June.


When the superstar who was the main draw at your upcoming fund-raiser cancels a month before the event, it helps to have concert promoter Don Law on speed-dial.


Bob Elias learned that the hard way. As director of government relations at antipoverty agency Action for Boston Community Development, Elias takes it upon himself to ensure that ABCD’s annual gala comes off without a hitch.

But when Queen Latifah canceled her Oct. 26 appearance at the Boston Marriott Copley Place in late September, citing a family issue, Elias was worried. “Where do we go? There’s a short turnaround time.”

But in a matter of days, two of Law’s business associates, were enlisted. Denise Kirk and Kelly Finnegan with Brattle Entertainment, which works with Law to book musicians, found a strong replacement: Leslie Odom Jr., who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

The feedback from guests, Elias says, has been positive, in part because the touring version of “Hamilton” will still be playing at the Boston Opera House around that time.

He says event chairwoman Amy Latimer, the TD Garden president, has been helpful, drawing upon her corporate contacts, and he expects more than 1,000 people to attend the ACBD dinner.

Boxer’s money man

When Mark “The Bazooka” DeLuca enters the ring at the TD Garden on Saturday to avenge his single loss as a pro boxer, one of Boston’s most prominent financial executives will be there to cheer him on.

State pension fund chief Michael Trotsky says he has developed a friendship with DeLuca over the years. When the 30-year-old DeLuca walks into the ring, he tries to look for Trotsky’s 15-year-old son, Ben, to give him a wink. On Saturday, DeLuca will face off again with Walter Wright, who broke DeLuca’s unbeaten record in June during a fight in New Hampshire.


The fight will be among several taking place in an event presented by Matchroom Boxing USA and Murphys Boxing, the local promotion firm led by Dropkick Murphys frontman Ken Casey. The fight program features three Murphys Boxing fighters, including DeLuca, a Whitman native.

Trotsky says he has taken a keen interest in DeLuca, in part because of his local ties, and in part because of his work ethic and sportsmanship.

“As a Marine, he’s got a really serious, respectful demeanor,” Trotsky says of DeLuca, a veteran who served in Afghanistan. “It’s unusual, in such a brutal sport, to find such a gentleman.”

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