Jobs and the workforce were the focus of the Back Bay Association's 88th annual meeting, held Monday morning at the Four Seasons Hotel on Boylston Street.
At the "networking event of the season," Mayor Thomas M. Menino talked about his summer goals for Back Bay, saying a top priority is using neighborhood resources to help find jobs for the 10,000 Boston-area high school students who will soon be on summer vacation.
“They’re good kids, we just have to give them the right direction,” Menino said.
Menino, along with Back Bay Association chairman and Four Seasons Hotel General Manager Bill Taylor, also presented this year's Heavy Lifting Award to the Liberty Mutual Group for creating 600 new full-time jobs - thanks in part to a $300 million office tower expansion.
The major insurance company considered moving their offices to New Hampshire, and Menino commended them for deciding to keep the corporate headquarters in Boston - where they were founded in 1912.
It was a cold hard financial decision, and this is the best place for us," said Liberty Mutual Chairman and CEO Edmund F. "Ted" Kelly, who accepted the award on behalf of the company. "We all have an interest in maintaining the Back Bay."
He went on to expand on his admiration for the neighborhood, and Boston in general.
“As I have traveled the world, I have found that there is a tremendous respect for Boston," Kelly said. "It stands as a mecca for the world in terms of class, culture, education, and science... The intellectual capital here alone is impeccable. That’s why I am proud of our address in the Back Bay.”
Back Bay and Boston as a Place to Thrive
Keynote speaker Edward Glaeser, a Harvard University economist and author of "Triumph of the City," talked about why he believes cities, and Boston in particular, has persevered and thrived over the course of history.
“For the first time since the 1870's, Boston has grown faster than the state of Massachusetts," Glaeser said. "We choose to be around other people, despite the death of distance. We choose cities."
Drawing paralles to Wall Street, Glaeser explained that the "group of highly successful, educated people" who navigate the stock market choose to work in close, information-heavy quarters similar to a city, as opposed to a big office protected by giant oak doors, which would be comparable to the suburbs or the country.
"Instead they are in bullpens - literally on top of one another, because they know that knowledge is more important than space," he said. "They forego the pleasures of privacy because its more important to know what is going on around them."
He also praised the benefit of human interaction. Despite the Internet and its ability to transport great amounts of information across vast distances, it can't replace the possibilities for random education gleaned from chance encounters and connections that occur in the urban setting.
"Being around skilled people makes you more productive," he said.
As Glaeser wrapped up with a question and answer session, Back Bay Association chairman Gary Saunders made a motion to increase the board size and then nominated and re-nominate new and existing members of the BBA board. All motions passed.
The meeting concluded with a brief presentation by Back Bay Association President Meg Mainzer-Cohen and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, who presented the Back Bay Security Network Award to Detective William Dickinson and Detective Margaret Murphy from the Boston Police Department.