ML Strategies scores win with GE
Lobbying firm helped facilitate deal with state, city
GENERAL ELECTRIC’S DECISION to relocate its headquarters and 800 jobs to Boston was a big victory for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker, but it was also another win for the well-connected Boston lobbying firm of ML Strategies.
ML, a division of the law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, was hired by GE a week or so before Thanksgiving. General Electric was preparing to pick up stakes in Connecticut, and wanted to make a final decision about where it was going to land by the end of the year. Many cities and states were competing for General Electric, but the hiring of ML Strategies suggests Boston was on a very short list as of Thanksgiving.
“They thought it was such a tight time frame that they needed someone on the ground who could work with the city and the state to get this done,” said Stephen Tocco, the president and CEO of ML Strategies.
ML Strategies is emerging as a lobbying powerhouse in Massachusetts. The company has gained considerable visibility representing Wynn Resorts in its efforts to open a $1.8 billion hotel/casino in Everett. That effort has faced fierce resistance from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, although Walsh has dialed back his opposition recently after losing a court battle related to the project. ML Strategies also has a host of other blue-chip clients, including AECOM, Boston University, the Massachusetts Hospital Association, State Street Bank, Staples, and a variety of energy companies. The firm took in more than $1.2 million in lobbying fees during the first six months of 2015; its fees from GE have not been disclosed yet.
Steven Kadish, Baker’s chief of staff, said ML Strategies was helpful. “They played the role of the owner’s rep and they played the role of overall process facilitator,” he said.
John Barros, the city of Boston’s chief of economic development and a key player in the GE negotiations, described ML Strategies as “essential to the process….They became an instrumental part in the process, helping to set up conversations and work things along. We worked very closely with ML on this.”
Barros said GE officials were shown a number of possible sites for a new headquarters, including locations in Boston, South Weymouth, Waltham, Needham, Cambridge, and Somerville. He said GE officials quickly decided that, if they were going to locate in Massachusetts, it was going to be in Boston.
GE said on Wednesday its new headquarters will be in the Seaport District, but an exact location hasn’t been identified yet. Tocco said Mintz Levin real estate attorneys are now working with GE.
Tom Glynn, who runs Massport and has a long history in state government and the private sector, said the level of cooperation between city and state officials in dealing with GE was unprecedented. “This is the best intergovernmental project I’ve ever been involved with,” he said.
In its press release announcing the move to Boston, GE said it chose the city because of its “business ecosystem, talent, long-term costs, quality of life for employees, connections with the world, and proximity to other company assets.”What received less attention was the financial package the city and state provided. Boston offered $25 million in property tax relief over 20 years. The state offered $1 million in workforce training grants, up to $120 million for public infrastructure work, and $5 million for an innovation center that could be housed in the new GE headquarters or adjacent to it.
Tocco said GE’s selection of Boston will give a huge lift to the city and the state in both a practical and image sense. He said GE’s presence in Boston will probably attract more business to the area and burnish the reputation of the city and state as business-friendly. “You can’t buy that stuff,” he said.