Business grinds to halt in metro Boston
Business ground to a halt across metropolitan Boston Friday, after an all-night manhunt for the marathon bombers that continued into the morning hours and led to a shutdown of all public transportation.
From Kendall Square in Cambridge to the financial district in Boston to commercial districts of Watertown and Newton, companies shut down operations, sending emails and automated calls en masse to workers telling them to stay home. In Watertown, the focus of the search for one of the Marathon bombing suspects, Athenahealth Inc., an electronic health records company, sent out a company wide e-mail notifying employees that its office is closed. It sent out an automated phone alert as well, Athenahealth spokeswoman Amanda Guisbond said.
“Our headquarters are in Watertown, so you can imagine how important it is to get that news to employees fast,” Guisbond said in an e-mail.
In Kendall Square, where a shoot-out Thursday night killed an MIT police officer and spurred the massive manhunt, the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square, home to hundreds of small start-ups and thousands of tech workers, closed down Friday. MIT told its employees to remain at home and stay indoors.
“No one is going down there,” said Alexandra Lee, deputy director of the Kendall Square Association, a local business group.
The Internet infrastructure company Akamai Technologies Inc., one of the biggest employers in Kendall Square, told its Cambridge employees work from home today. Biogen Idec, with 3,000 employees, shuttered its Somerville and Cambridge campuses, and e-mailed workers by 7 a.m., including those who work in Weston, telling them not to come to work.
Genzyme closed its Cambridge and Waltham offices. The firm’s Allston facility, where it makes enzyme replacement drugs for rare diseases, is a 24-hour operation and will remain open using staff that was already on location, a spokeswoman said.
In downtown Boston, financial services companies were telling nonessential workers to stay home. Fidelity Investments said it told employees to work from home.
State Street Corp., which employes about 12,000 in Massachusetts, said in a statement, “Employees in the lockdown areas outside of Boston have been asked to work from home and follow direction from local, state or federal authorities. All other non-essential employees are being asked to work from home. We continue to maintain critical business functions while ensuring the safety of our employees.”
Logan International Airport was “open and operating under heightened security,’’ according to Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman Matt Brelis. He advised travelers to check with their airlines about flight cancellations.
The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority suspended operations at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston and the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in the Back Bay.
The regions two major utilities, Northeast Utilities, the parent company of NStar and Western Massachusetts Electric Co., and National Grid, headquartered in Waltham, told employees who live or work in areas affected by the lock-down to stay home. Northeast Utilities employees who had already arrived at work were being kept inside, said Northeast Utilities spokesman Michael Durand.
“We’ve been communicating with state police about this all morning,” Durand said via e-mail. “Our plan today is to coordinate any response to customer calls in the affected areas with law enforcement. We’re also advising customers who call us today of possible delays in responding.”
Jackie Barry, a spokeswoman for National Grid, said the utility activates its emergency response plan to ensure the safety of its power system. .
“We do have crews available today and we will work with public safety an fire departments if there is any need to respond to any gas emergency in the affected areas we serve,” Barry said.
Banks closed branches in the affected areas, and had skeletal staffs at headquarters offices.Bank of America, with 7,000 employees in Massachusetts, has closed all its branches and administrative offices in the Boston area.
“Our job is to keep our people constantly updated,’’ said spokesman TJ Crawford.
The Whole Foods supermarket chain said it closed stores in Brighton, Newton, Newtonville, Brookline, and Cambridge stores as well as its regional office. The Symphony and Charles River Plaza locations are closed as well.
Mullen is an ad agency with roughly 450 employees at its Boston office. Mullen president Alex Leikikh sent out an agency-wide e-mail telling people to “stay safe and work from home.” The agency followed a similar procedure after the Monday explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, an agency spokesman said.
Hill Holliday, another large Boston ad agency, took similar steps. Chief executive Mike Sheehan sent an e-mail Friday morning saying that Hill Holliday is closed today.
Zipcar, the car-sharing company, said it has notified its members via e-mail that travel is being restricted locally. They urged people to stay home, but said any member in the middle of a reservation who feels unsafe returning a vehicle to its home location should contact the company.
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts, one of the largest trade groups in Boston, said its chief financial officer e-mailed the group’s 45 employees this morning to stay away from their Beacon Street offices, which are closed.
“Our chief financial officer sent a note [about the closure] to us about an hour ago. It just seemed like the wise thing to do because of the scope of activity and because of our location on Beacon,” said executive vice president Chris Geerhan, who said he and others were monitoring media accounts, Twitter, and other social media outlets to check in with member companies and loved ones.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” he said.Beth Healy can be reached at email@example.com.