The Ocean Spray Cranberries’ headquarters in Lakeville is as picturesque and pastoral as the bogs depicted on the company’s juice labels. But that’s not necessarily a big selling point to attract millennial talent.
Not long after Bobby Chacko became CEO about a year ago, he decided he needed a beachhead in Boston to recruit younger employees. Eventually, Chacko settled on a 4,000-square-foot section of a WeWork office on Sleeper Street in the Seaport area, a part of Boston that Chacko calls “the Silicon Valley of the East Coast.”
“Primarily it’s about the energy that the city can provide,” Chacko says. “With a WeWork, you have like-minded, aspirational entrepreneurs . . . in the space.”
Nearly 60 HQ workers moved to the office, which Ocean Spray dubbed the “Lighthouse,” from Lakeville during the past several weeks, primarily marketing and innovation employees. They celebrated the office opening on Monday; among those attending were Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston and Patriots star Julian Edelman. The Ocean Spray headquarters, where about 400 of the farmers cooperative’s 2,000 employees work, will remain in Lakeville.
Among the tasks facing Chacko’s Boston team: thinking of new products that push Ocean Spray further into the “health and wellness” space. Some examples: the relatively new cranberry supplement “soft chews’ and the Growing Goodness line of juice products for kids, or oat milk and “wellness shots” that are expected to hit the market this summer.
Chacko came to Ocean Spray in 2017 following several years as a top executive at Mars Inc.’s former coffee business. (Mars has since sold that operation to Lavazza.) Initially brought on as a senior vice president, Chacko moved up to the top spot at the cooperative following the departure of longtime chief Randy Papadellis in 2018. — JON CHESTO
Versatile GE executive to depart in September
While General Electric has had three different CEOs since it moved its headquarters to Boston, the person who represents GE in Boston’s business community has remained consistent through the tumult. But not for much longer.
GE vice president Ann Klee plans to leave the company in September. Among her various roles at GE, Klee managed its relocation to Boston from Connecticut in 2016, in part by quickly getting up to speed on the politics and mannerisms that make this city unique.
For example, she convinced the company to save a rotting green pedestrian footbridge at considerable expense. It was important to GE’s new neighbors in Fort Point to keep some of the historical character of the old brick-and-beam Necco complex that GE will occupy this fall after leaving temporary digs nearby.
Klee helped guide the permits for the new campus through the various government hoops, in almost record time. When GE retrenched from those ambitious plans, scaling back the HQ to just the renovated Necco buildings and shelving a new 12-story tower, it was Klee who made sure the state would be reimbursed for the $87 million in taxpayer funds that were sunk into the real estate.
“It was the right time,” Klee says of her departure. “A lot of my big projects have or will be wrapping up this summer. With everything I’ve done, it seemed like it was time for some new perspective in these roles.”
Klee wears several hats. Mo Cowan, GE’s president of global affairs, will take over her Boston development and operations role. Buck de Wolf will assume her environmental health and safety responsibilities. (That job includes varied tasks ranging from curbing GE’s greenhouse gas emissions to cleaning up the Housatonic River.) Klee also runs GE’s foundation, but the new foundation head hasn’t yet been determined.
Klee, an environmental lawyer by background, says she doesn’t know what she’ll do next, but she hopes to stay in Boston.
“What I like doing is managing big hairy projects,” Klee says. “I’m much more interested in a role where I can help a company solve big problems or manage big projects . . . That’s really what I’m hoping to do.” — JON CHESTO
GM’s Reuss scours top area schools for talent
General Motors president Mark Reuss returned to Boston last week for a busy day with current and prospective colleagues. The visit underscores how GM is taking a bit of a nontraditional approach to recruiting talent from top schools.
Reuss was last in Boston in 2018, as a student himself. He was attending a Harvard Business School class with professor Bill George, the former Medtronic CEO, on running a global operation.
On Tuesday, Reuss huddled with a handful of MIT and Harvard students and fellow GM executives Ken Kelzer and Will Dickson over lunch at the Commonwealth restaurant in Cambridge. All the students were involved in GM-affiliated projects, ranging from proposing new product business models for the company, to coming up with ways to make Boston’s transit services carbon neutral.
Reuss then headed to MIT’s Solve conference to join a 30-minute session on “Tech for Equality” with panelists Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, and Alaa Murabit, a prominent Canadian physician and diplomat.
During the panel, Reuss talked about GM’s approach to “responsible capitalism,” citing the company’s efforts to help students in Detroit public schools. Company executives, he said, believe it’s important to make more opportunities for advancement available to more people.
“That’s a big change from what this company was 20, 25 years ago,” Reuss said at the panel. “Not that everybody was bad in GM but [we’re] putting that in the center of the core and focusing on it.” — JON CHESTO
At the chamber this year, it’s all about women
For the first time in the program’s 36-year history, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce has an all-female slate of new inductees into its hall of fame of Distinguished Bostonians.
The decision was a deliberate move by the chamber to recognize the 25th anniversary of its Women’s Network. This year’s class of Distinguished Bostonians consists of Children’s Hospital CEO Sandi Fenwick, Cambridge College president Deborah Jackson, and Care.com CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo. All three will be honored with a video testimonial at the chamber’s annual meeting Wednesday at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
The emcees and keynote speakers are women as well. The event will be emceed by Suffolk Construction executive Linda Dorcena Forry and John Hancock CEO Marianne Harrison. Keynote speaker Carol Meyrowitz, executive chairman at TJX, will be interviewed by Karen Kaplan, chief executive at ad agency Hill Holliday, and a former chair of the chamber’s board of directors.
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Tania Del Rio, head of Boston’s Office of Women’s Advancement, will take the slots normally filled by the governor and the mayor. A replica of State Street’s Fearless Girl sculpturewill greet attendees at registration. Even the “Voice of God” – the prerecorded announcements usually delivered by a booming male voice – is being handled by a woman.
Celia Richa, a vice president at the chamber, wants to turn the event into a call to action to advance women in Boston’s business circles. “We’re calling on the male allies in the business community to play a role, too,” she said. — JON CHESTO