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April 2, 2015

MCCA's James Rooney to Take Over Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

The next CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce will be James Rooney, who has been executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority since 2003. According to the Boston Herald, Rooney will lead the business group as of July 1.

The South Boston native will succeed CEO Paul Guzzi, who announced his retirement in September after leading the chamber since 1996.

Rooney has been leading the MCCA’s push for a controversial $1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, but Governor Charlie Baker blocked funding in the face of what the Herald calls "a crushing budget deficit." 

As the Boston Globe noted, Rooney’s pending departure raises a host of questions about the convention center expansion proposal. Stalling the expansion could set off "a domino effect," according to the paper. Last year, the Legislature approved a $1 billion bond bill to complete the expansion by 2019, but Baker expressed some skepticism about the project, and his administration is expected to soon decide whether it makes financial sense to take on the additional debt. The bonds would be financed by tourism taxes and fees — the same revenue stream being used to pay off the bonds for the existing convention center.

Delays could also affect development of convention center hotels that are in the works. The Massachusetts Port Authority is looking to build a hotel complex with at least 1,200 rooms but may have to consider a smaller hotel if the expansion falls through.

Even though construction hasn’t started, the expanded center is already being marketed for events. John Murtha, general manager at the Omni Parker House, told the Globe that anticipated revenue could be jeopardized if the expansion doesn’t advance, and noted that he has convention blocks assigned beyond 2019. “Some of those would be in jeopardy if the BCEC expansion does not occur by then,” Murtha said.

Rooney reportedly said he expects to champion the expansion in his new role at the chamber, which has taken a public stance in favor of the project.


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