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A role for employers in battling opioid scourge

Eileen McAnneny Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is best known for the critical eye it casts on state finances. But the business-backed group is also using its data-crunching for another purpose: curbing opioid abuse.

President Eileen McAnneny is spearheading an initiative called Mass. CARES in which participating employers agree to take at least four specific actions over the course of the year to become more “recovery friendly.”

Participating companies also will share best practices, conduct self-assessments of their workplaces, and challenge others to get involved. McAnneny kicked off the yearlong initiative at a meeting last week in the Financial District.

The effort is an outgrowth of a study the taxpayers group conducted in 2018 that measured the economic toll that addiction is taking in the state. Among the eye-popping numbers: an annual loss of $2.7 billion in lost productivity because employees aren’t functioning at their full capacity.


McAnneny didn’t want the report to sit on the proverbial shelf. So she started reaching out to business leaders, including members of her board.

“Providing the data is valuable, but it’s even more valuable to use that to effect change,” McAnneny said.

Darren Donovan, managing principal at accounting firm KPMG’s Boston office, jumped at the chance to join a steering committee at McAnneny’s request. He also plans to brainstorm with his Boston counterpart at Ernst & Young, Jane Steinmetz, and other colleagues to figure out specific ways the accounting and consulting sector can help. “That’s what you do when a community is under a crisis,” he said. “It’s everybody’s job to try to respond.”

John Hancock parent Manulife was among the first to participate. Maria Fraga, head of benefits and wellness at Manulife, said the insurance company is already looking at its internal data and identifying any risks that exist. “We are in a prime position to provide employees with the tools and resources they need,” Fraga said in an e-mail. “We know we play a key role in combating this crisis.”


The effort may seem quite different from the regular MTF reports that point out state budget shortfalls and pitfalls. But McAnneny doesn’t see any incongruity.

“Our mission is about furthering the fiscal stability and the long-term economic well-being of the commonwealth,” she said. “If we’re able to reduce the loss of productivity due to absenteeism, I think it could absolutely better position the commonwealth for long-term growth.”

Raising the Barr’s focus and finances

Few Boston nonprofits have grown in the past six years as quickly as the Barr Foundation, funded by Amos and Barbara Hostetter.

President Jim Canales described the growth in a blog post, reflecting on what has happened since he joined Barr in 2014. Grant-making has nearly doubled from the low $50 million range, to $95 million planned this year. The staff has also doubled, from 19 to 38. And the board has expanded from its two-cofounders, Amos and Barbara, to seven positions, including several non-family trustees, Canales among them. (The others are Vanessa Calderon-Rosado, Lee Pelton, and Susan Tierney.)

The foundation’s missions haven’t changed. It still focuses on three core areas: climate change, the arts, and education. The big difference today? The foundation now takes a regional approach, when it used to be Boston-focused.

Spending has increased because of the endowment’s growth, from $1.6 billion in 2014 to more than $2 billion in late 2019, in part from strong investment income.


To keep pace, Barr has hired the search firm of Isaacson, Miller to help fill a newly created position of vice president of administration. This new executive will oversee operations, grants management, and talent development.

At State Street, shares rise as headcount falls

State Street continues to get leaner under Ron O’Hanley’s watch.

The chief executive announced on Friday that automation initiatives have led to four straight quarters of headcount declines, including a reduction in jobs at high-cost locations such as Boston of about 3,400 jobs over the past 12 months.

That’s more than twice State Street’s initial target of 1,500. There were numerous layoffs, most notably at the start of 2019. But a spokesman said more than half the jobs were cut through attrition — that is, not filling positions after people leave. O’Hanley expects to trim another 750 jobs in high-cost locations in 2020, again through a mix of layoffs and attrition.

It was O’Hanley’s first year as CEO, since taking over for Jay Hooley. O’Hanley told investors on Friday that State Street has reduced its total headcount over the past year by 3 percent, from a global workforce of about 40,000.

It’s no doubt unnerving for many employees. Investors seem to like the expense-trimming, though. Shares rose 1.8 percent on Friday. They are up nearly 15 percent since O’Hanley first launched this initiative to pare back high-cost operations a year ago.

Travel app Hopper crosses the Charles

Add Hopper to the growing list of tech companies that have hopped over the Charles into Boston from Kendall Square.


Hopper’s travel-booking app uses data expertise to predict the best times to buy plane tickets for a particular route. The Montreal firm’s second oldest office is here, and its sole US investor is Accomplice, the Boston venture capital firm.

As the company grew, chief executive Fred Lalonde knew he needed more space to accommodate his Cambridge team, where much of the firm’s data science is developed. Lalonde wanted to stay in Kendall but he simply couldn’t find another office that would accommodate his 100-plus employees there. The competition from the biotechs and the West Coast giants such as Google and Amazon was too fierce.

“We literally had no options,” Lalonde said. “It’s absolutely crazy. I’ve never seen a market like this.”

So Lalonde moved his team to 101 Arch St., in the Financial District, a part of Boston that is becoming packed with smaller tech firms. Hopper opened its new Boston office on Tuesday.

The opening coincided with the announcement of Hopper Trees, a program that involves buying carbon dioxide emissions offsets on behalf of its customers. The company will donate funds to plant four trees per flight sold and two trees per hotel room sold, through a partnership with the nonprofit Eden Reforestation Projects. Lalonde said he expects it will cost the company $1 million this year, but it’s a necessary step, especially given the pollution that jet travel causes.

“We’ve always had a sense of unease as our business was growing that we weren’t doing enough about this,” Lalonde said. “There’s no reason to wait for future technology. We’re trying to show leadership here.”


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