The last time I saw Tom Menino was exactly one month before he passed away. He came to an event in the Seaport District at the Fraunhofer clean energy research center. He beamed when he was recognized. He was clearly so proud of everything that was going on in the Innovation District.
Menino's sense of accomplishment is no surprise to EnerNOC CEO Tim Healy.
"He had something that he wanted to get done, he wanted to leave a legacy," he said. "And I think the innovation in the Seaport District has to rank up there as one of the top five."
Healy's energy efficiency company used to be based in Boston's Financial District. But Healy said Menino persuaded him early on to move across the Fort Point Channel to South Boston.
"There just was a kindness and a sincerity," Healy remembered. "He didn’t always get everything right about us, but he always remembered what we were, what we were doing, and how we were supporters of some of his vision. And all of us at EnerNOC are going to miss him, because he was a champion of what we were trying to accomplish, and that resonated with our workforce."
Healy said Menino liked that his company was trying to make Boston a cleaner and greener city. Menino may have been an old-school politician, but he loved seeing all the young workers that Healy was recruiting to the area.
At a demo day for entrepreneurs at Greentown Labs in Somerville Wednesday, director Emily Reichert remembered how Menino helped her startup incubator get off the ground in 2011 in the Seaport District.
"On the day that Greentown Labs opened in Boston," Reichert said, "I have a quote from him here: He said, 'I want this to be a special place in our city. I see young folks here doing all this creative work, and that to me is the future.' "
Greentown Labs has since moved to a bigger space in Somerville. Menino’s success in developing the Innovation District has resulted in a commercial boom that is now pricing out many of those same startups he supported. With tax breaks, he persuaded biotech company Vertex to move from Cambridge to the Seaport. It now anchors a development with new apartments and restaurants.
Luring Vertex is good example of Menino’s work ethic, says Paul Guzzi. The head of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce remembers when Boston was initially turned down to host the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Guzzi says that’s when Menino and another longtime political giant decided it was time to pay a visit to the head of the Democratic Party in Washington.
"I still vividly remember Sen. [Edward] Kennedy and the mayor pounding their hands on the desk," Guzzi remembered. "[They said,] 'We can handle this, and we deserve it.' ”
And they got it. Guzzi says Tom Menino oversaw Boston’s transition to an innovation economy, leaving behind a thriving world-class city that is poised for continued success.
This segment aired on October 31, 2014.