As a safety-net hospital with a patient base that’s heavily reliant on government insurance, Boston Medical Center faces an unusual challenge among Boston research hospitals: a lack of wealthy benefactors who are appreciative of their treatment and want to give back.
“Most hospitals and research organizations in our town have very grateful patients who often go on to become donors,” says Kate Walsh (below), BMC’s chief executive. “At Boston Medical Center, they write us heartwarming notes. They’ll send us $5 in a card. But they’re not [usually] in a position to make substantial contributions.”
Still, the BMC’s development team and the South End hospital just celebrated the end of six years of fund-raising on Thursday, ringing up a total that would be the envy of most hospitals: $450 million.
Well-to-do individuals played a key role, even if they weren’t former patients, in large part because they believe in the hospital’s mission. (Some of the donors serve on the hospital’s board.) About half of the money raised came from individuals and foundations, with the rest coming as corporate gifts or from competitive government grant programs.
Walsh says about $125 million went to campus improvements: a modernized and expanded emergency department, an addition to the Moakley building, a new “women and infants center” and neonatal intensive care unit, to name just a few. That quirky yellow utilities tube across Albany Street was replaced with a shiny pedestrian bridge.
“We renovated the house while we were living in it, which is a pretty challenging enterprise for a place like ours,” Walsh says.
Among her biggest victories: a smooth move of roughly 250 patients out of the Newton Pavilion, a building the BMC was closing. Not everything went according to plan, though. The hospital had hoped to be “carbon neutral” by the end of this year, but that goal has been pushed out a year.
The other $325 million went to programming, such as a behavioral health initiative and new pediatrics work, according to hospital officials. In that bucket: the largest single donation, $25 million from Eilene and John Grayken, to form a center focused on the opioid epidemic.
Major gifts also came from the Klarman Family Foundation and the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation.
This was the largest fund-raising campaign for the hospital since it was created in the 1996 merger of Boston University Medical Center and Boston City Hospital.
“We can’t find anything like it around the country,” Walsh says. “There’s no freestanding safety-net hospital that has raised these kinds of dollars.”
Wayfair CEO’s hometown was a sure short-list bet
Niraj Shah received a hero’s welcome when he stepped up to the microphone Thursday at Pittsfield’s Clock Tower Business Center, home to his company’s newest facility.
And why not? Shah grew up in the Berkshires city, graduating from Pittsfield High in 1991. He went on to launch the now-giant online retailer Wayfair, with business partner Steve Conine.
When it came time to open a new call center last year, the Wayfair chief executive made sure his hometown was on the list of contenders. The administration of Governor Charlie Baker helped, too, lining up $31 million in tax incentives in return for Wayfair’s pledge to add 3,000 jobs to its already sizable workforce in Boston as part of an ambitious headquarters expansion and 300 at the new 40,000-square-foot call center in Pittsfield.
The call center opened about two weeks ago, with 30 people working there now. Shah hopes to add another 25 to 30 workers a month, to get to the promised 300 figure next year.
“There are plenty of people who grow up and leave and never look back,” Baker said at the event. “For Niraj, this was personal.”
Baker then directed a comment to Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, who just scored one of the city’s biggest economic wins in its recent history. “I don’t think you had to work for this one, mayor,” Baker joked. “You kind of had him at ‘Hello.’ ”
Massport raises the bar on diversity in projects
The Massachusetts Port Authority set a new standard during bidding for a hotel project in South Boston when it decided that the diversity of development teams would count for up to 25 percent of the scoring.
The result: a hotel with 1,050-plus rooms that will fly the Omni flag, a project that features a minority-owned construction company and a number of minority investors.
Massport has made it clear the diversity scoring will continue. It’s one reason the authority held a networking event for developers and contractors last week. About 150 people attended, many from out of state. It wasn’t just the usual faces, though there were plenty of those, as well. Speakers included Massport’s new CEO, Lisa Wieland; Massport board member Warren Fields; and Boston’s economic chief, John Barros.
Massport is seeking bidders for land it owns next door to the former John Hancock headquarters on Congress Street. The deadline has been extended until Nov. 20.
This was the first Massport networking event aimed at “fostering diversity in development.” Kenn Turner, Massport’s director of inclusion, says he expects more of these in the future, maybe two a year — and not just when the authority is putting land it owns out to bid. “This would just become part of the DNA, and how we think about . . . our commitment to diversity,” Turner says.
East Coast Uber exec rides off to a new job
Meghan Joyce has hitched a ride to New York City with Oscar. Oscar Health, that is.
The former general manager of Uber’s East Coast operations has been recruited by Oscar, a New York City health insurance startup, as chief operating officer. She will continue living in Boston, however.
The insurer does business in nine states, although Massachusetts is not among them. (The company was named after cofounder Josh Kushner’s great-grandfather.)
Joyce is filling a role at Oscar that has been unoccupied since 2016. Her job will entail leading the operations of the 1,200-person company while helping CEO Mario Schlosser focus on long-term strategic growth.
Joyce will keep one business link to Boston: She will continue to sit on the Boston Beer Co. board of directors.
Mayor doesn’t shy from hitting up business leaders
It’s become a bit of a formula for Mayor Marty Walsh’s annual speeches at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Aside from his latest update on just how great Boston is, the mayor invariably makes a request of the hundreds of well-connected businesspeople in the room.
One year, it was to put their heads together to combat racism in the business community. Another year, it was helping out Boston Public Schools. This year, the focus was on coming up with solutions to the city’s rapidly disappearing middle-class housing (though Walsh made another appeal for BPS, for good measure).
Jim Rooney, the chamber’s chief executive, couldn’t help but joke with Walsh about this pattern after the mayor finished his speech at the Marriott Copley Place last week.
“I don’t know if I’m going to ask [you] back next year,” Rooney said, “because every year, you give me something to do.”
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