New GM of Seaport Hotel sees sunnier times ahead of city’s pandemic-battered hospitality industry

The Omicron surge puts a December chill on the industry. Now that the variant seems to be subsiding, Accomando expects stronger months ahead. Nonprofits that held virtual fund-raising galas in spring 2021 are moving ahead with in-person events this spring. And there is the promise of some upcoming “citywides” — events so big that they involve most of the city’s major hotels — such as the Seafood Expo North America and the American Academy of Dermatology March meeting.

After an anemic 2020 and a sluggish 2021, consultancy Pinnacle Advisory Group expects demand for hotel rooms to rise 48 percent this year compared with last year (although Boston’s overall occupancy rate will still be below 2019 levels).

“We’re seeing people want to get together again,” Accomando said. “People are really feeling a sense of when things open up, they will really open up.”

Maybe the meetings business will recover in time for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center next door. That project is on track to open in 2024 and will drop the WTC moniker in favor of Commonwealth Pier. The big street-level convention hall will not return. but Fidelity Investmentswhich controls both properties through its Pembroke Real Estate arm, will again host meetings and events at the pier, including at a new third-floor ballroom with harbor views.

“When the final design comes out, everyone will be thrilled,” Accomando said.

Going nationwide from City Hall

As Boston’s chief of health and human services, Marty Martinez used to tell then mayor Martin J. Walsh he was a “nonprofit guy who happens to be working in government” because Walsh pulled him in.

Now, Martinez is headed back to the nonprofit world, to run Reach Out and Read† He takes over for Brian Gallagher as chief executive of the national organization based in Boston that helps physicians incorporate book-reading into their medical practices, particularly for younger patients.

His previous nonprofit chief executive role was at the Mass. Mentoring Partnership, before Walsh recruited him four years ago. Martinez stayed in City Hall under Kim Janeythe acting mayor, last year before leaving in December, soon after Mayor Michelle Wu’s election.

His job changed completely in March 2020, when he suddenly became Walsh’s point person for all things COVID-19.

“I used every single muscle I’ve ever gained, professionally and personally, in those two years fighting COVID,” Martinez said. “Learning so much about health care and the role it plays really opened my eyes, not only to this opportunity [at Reach Out and Read] but to the power of the roles of health care [in society] and clinical providers.”

Born to run a business group

CA Webbthe Kendall Square Association president and a big Bruce Springsteen fan, is about to leave her glory days at the KSA behind.

After significantly elevating the KSA’s profile during her 4½ years as president, she will step down at the end of the month. In a note to members, she said she is looking forward to a “short sabbatical” and time with her daughters.

“Like many working parents staring down the second anniversary of the pandemic, I’m ready for a bit of a break,” Webb wrote.

She’ll remain on boards at MassRobotics and The Boston Foundationand stay active with the Boston Biotech Working Group† This is still her hometown, after all. But she’s not sure what her next full-time gig will be after the KSA. So for now, it’s time for her to say “good luck, goodbye” to the business association.

Greening the grid, one project at a time

to Ken Kimmellthe quickest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New England is to get large-scale offshore wind farms built here.

For that reason, Kimmell has joined Avangrid Renewables as vice president of development for offshore wind, working for Avangrid’s offshore chief, Bill White, in Boston. The two go back a ways: Both were top energy and environmental aides to Deval Patrick when he was governor. Kimmell went on to lead the Union of Concerned Scientistsbefore stepping down about a year ago.

Kimmell’s arrival comes amid a corporate restructuring involving Avangrid and its partner in the Vineyard Wind project, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners† CIP has taken over a lease area development south of Nantucket, while Avangrid took full ownership of two projects near Martha’s Vineyard, Park City Wind and Commonwealth Wind, south of Vineyard Wind. As a result, Vineyard Wind chief executive Lars Pedersen is leaving his job to focus on CIP’s offshore work, and project director Klaus Moeller is taking Pedersen’s place.

Avangrid’s three local wind farms will eventually produce enough electricity for nearly 1.5 million homes. And, if Avangrid has its way, there will be more.

“I’ve landed in the best possible place to make the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time,” Kimmell said.

A taste of India in Burlington

After IT firm athenahealth was sold in 2019, the firm’s then-chief technology officer Prakash Khot launched two ventures: a data security firm in California called skyflowand an Indian restaurant in Burlington called The Treasury

The Andover resident and self-described foodie recently stepped back from his chief technology officer job at Skyflow and taken an role instead; the flights between Boston and Silicon Valley were taking their toll.

But he’s got plenty to keep him occupied at the Treasury, including a visit this week by Indian celebrity chef Harpal Singh Sokhic, who works with the restaurant on a consulting basis. Reservations are booking up quickly for the five nights when he will be in the kitchen, overseeing a “chef tasting menu,” starting on Thursday.

Khot is now weighing his next steps in software: Should he launch another startup, or take a job at an established company? He has no plans to be a full-time restaurateur, at least not yet.

“Both require similar types of creativity,” Khot said. “Obviously the software business has much better returns.”

A new benchmark for pay

Will minimum salaries be the next big thing for employers looking to curb the Great Resignation’s impact?

Patrick Benchfounder and president of Boston public affairs firm Benchmark Strategies, is testing those waters. Last week, he announced a minimum annual salary of $60,000, a move he said drew a positive reaction from around the globe. Multiple employees get an immediate boost on March 1. Needless to say, they’re pretty happy about it.

This isn’t a COVID-era awakening. Bench said he has wanted to do this for several years, almost since he founded the firm in 2014. He waited until Benchmark was successful enough for the annual minimum to be financially sustainable. He said he is doing it to attract, retain, and develop the best talent, at every experience level. (The move echoes the well-publicized decision in 2016 by Dan Pricewho set a floor of $70,000 for all employees at Gravity Paymentshis credit card processing company in Seattle.)

Does this mean Bench will slow down his hiring plans to make up for the extra expense? Apparently not: The firm plans to double its workforce to 20 people within the next year.

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto

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