John Cogliano is back in the bus business.
The Foxborough resident, a former secretary of transportation under Mitt Romney, has been watching the so-called “bus renaissance” develop since he left state government 12 years ago, and has been waiting for the right time to hop on board. (He has largely worked as a consultant in the meantime.) When the Anzuoni family put the Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Co. up for sale, Cogliano saw his opportunity. He teamed up with entrepreneur Win Sargent and accountant Paul Fuerst to buy the company.
The deal closed over the summer. Now, Cogliano (below) is in the driver’s seat. He became the Plymouth bus company’s president, in charge of overseeing the company’s 150 full- and part-time workers. The operations include the flagship P&B business of commuter buses between points in Southeastern Massachusetts and Boston, the Brush Hill trolleys and charter buses, and the McGinn division that runs the Logan Express buses out of Peabody.
Cogliano became friends with Sargent, who is P&B’s new CEO and majority owner, about two years ago when they were discussing a different opportunity: a potential infrastructure investing fund. That venture didn’t pan out but Cogliano sees an open road ahead for P&B.
Among Cogliano’s most pressing tasks: finding more drivers. P&B faces a shortage, so he hopes to hire experienced drivers as well as people willing to learn at P&B’s training facility. He is also planning to purchase 25 new buses to replace older ones in the company’s 50-vehicle fleet. And he wants to deploy more of them when buses fill up earlier than usual on their routes.
“I’ve been watching this whole bus renaissance,” Cogliano says. “For the past 15 years or more, there has been steady bus growth. . . . With all this traffic congestion, bus travel is a real solution. Every motor coach loaded with passengers takes 55 cars off the road.”
Cogliano had his commercial driver’s license when he was in state government; he would sometimes join snowplow crews on their routes when he was the state’s highway commissioner. While he has since let that license lapse, he hopes to eventually revive it — this time, to drive buses.
“I look forward to someday driving one of those coaches,” Cogliano says. “But right now, my priority is to rebuild this company and prepare it for the next level of growth.” — JON CHESTO
NHL tries on ISlide sandals
Three down, one to go.
Justin Kittredge just lined up a two-year licensing deal with the National Hockey League to make and sell sandals featuring NHL team logos through his Hyde Park company, ISlide. They became available on his website about two weeks ago.
The arrangement follows similar licensing deals with Major League Baseball this past spring, and the National Basketball Association in 2015.
“Hockey is one of these sports, [fans] are fanatical about their teams,” Kittredge says. “(And) anybody who plays hockey is dying to get out of their skates as fast as possible.”
Kittredge started with basketball first because that’s where his connections were. He ran Reebok’s basketball division before leaving in January 2013 to start ISlide. He now employs more than 30 people at his Hyde Park facility, where the images are printed on the footwear he sells.
Kittredge also has a stake in a joint venture that owns the Vietnamese factory where the sandals are manufactured. It was his good fortune that he relocated production out of China about three years ago, before the Trump administration’s trade war.
Licensing is a minor but important part of his business. ISlide also makes customized sandals for individual buyers as well as youth and college teams. He declines to disclose revenue figures, but says total sales grew 35 percent in 2018 and they’re on pace to grow 40 percent this year.
The “slides” are already finding their way to hockey players’ lockers. Former Boston Bruins star Mark Recchi, now an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, recently bought sandals for the Pittsburgh team. And Stran Promotional Solutions of Quincy bought a bunch for the Bruins players.
Kittredge has one big fish left to be caught: the National Football League. The head of licensing for the NFL has already visited, he says, but there’s no deal yet. “It’s gone really well,” Kittredge says. “I feel confident we’ll get them.” — JON CHESTO
Giving Nielsen top ratings
It may have taken five years, but Nielsen is finally starting to live up to Bill Fine’s expectations.
At an industry conference in 2014, the WCVB-TV general manager issued a bold challenge to the ratings company and any potential rival to improve their sample sizes. (Fine was chairman of the Television Bureau of Advertising trade group at the time, and remains on its executive board.) In the Boston market, only 600 households were being measured for Nielsen ratings that year.
The number subsequently rose to 800. But the real jump took place last week, when Nielsen added “portable people meters” to its TV rating system in Boston and many other top markets. These are carried around and not only pick up signals when people are watching TV in their homes but also in places like bars and restaurants. These PPMs augment the set-top boxes known as “local people meters” that were already in participating homes.
As a result, Fine says 1,600 households in Greater Boston are now being measured for Nielsen ratings.
“It’s about time,” Fine says. “It’s to the benefit of all the clients, to everybody, to have far more accurate ratings. . . . It just represents what’s been happening in the marketplace much more accurately than it was before. It’s like looking through the Hubble telescope instead of a telescope in your yard.” — JON CHESTO
Cancer therapy displayed
Just weeks after the Trump administration finalized its decision to approve Medicare coverage for an expensive kind of cancer therapy, the administration’s top Medicare official stopped by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as she made her rounds. Call it a victory tour stop.
Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, stopped by Dana-Farber to meet with CEO Laurie Glimcher on Sept. 25. Verma’s main purpose: to learn more about Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell, or “CAR T-cell,” therapy, a form of treatment that relies on a patient’s immune cells. A version of this treatment made by Novartis was the first gene therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
A spokeswoman for the hospital says this one-time treatment can cost several hundred thousand dollars. While at Dana-Farber, Verma also met with a patient who benefited from the therapy. He expressed gratitude that he received the game-changing treatment last year at a time when nothing else was working, and he is now cancer-free.
— JON CHESTO
Blue gives way to Green
It might seem like restaurants are closing more frequently these days around Greater Boston, with everything from the cost of real estate to changing diners’ tastes to blame.
Add the rise of legal marijuana to the list.
Chef Ming Tsai seems poised to hand over the space of his Blue Dragon restaurant in Fort Point to Keltic Green, a venture led by Justin Smith that wants to open a retail marijuana dispensary there, likely sometime in 2021 or 2022. Tsai says he owns the space with five other people and they had to consider this business opportunity.
“Justin is an entrepreneur with values like mine,” Tsai says. “Should he ultimately obtain the license he seeks through this process, I trust he will develop the same level of kinship and respect for the neighbors that has defined my experience running Blue Dragon.” — JON CHESTO