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Business Manager’s Blog

Michael Monahan

Michael P. Monahan, the Business Manager of Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represents more than 7,000 electrical and telecommunication members in the Greater Boston area.

In addition to the strong and steady leadership he provides to his Local Union on a daily basis, he exudes the same qualities when providing services for the community, whether it is coordinating volunteer efforts for electricians who are donating their skills at various places, such as schools and private homes for disabled individuals, or the installation of wireless capabilities for the City. From his days as a rank-and-file member through his current position as Business Manager, Mike has met every challenge and serves his membership with pride and distinction.

After missteps, Dunkin’ Donuts set for California expansion

Chastened by early mistakes, company takes a 2d shot in the state Starbucks rules

The Boston Globe | By Taryn Luna
August 26, 2014

Dunkin Donuts CaliDunkin’ Donuts, the coffee chain so familiar in the Northeast, is nearing the end of an expansion march across the country to become a true national brand.

The retailer will kick off its California expansion on Tuesday, the first step in a strategy to challenge Starbucks’ stronghold on the West Coast.

The company once operated more than a dozen restaurants in the state but shuttered them by the early 2000s, citing logistical problems and poor relationships with franchisee partners.

Dunkin’ temporarily abandoned its California dreams as the international business grew to more than 3,000 restaurants. Today the chain serves its signature Munchkins and Coolattas at nearly 900 stores in South Korea, but has only three nontraditional stores in obscure California locations: on a Marine base, inside a hotel, and at a highway rest stop.

Now the coffee chain is preparing to take another shot in a market where its toughest competitor, Starbucks Corp., dominates with more than 2,500 stores.

Dunkin’ plans to open its first traditional restaurant in Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday and a second store in Santa Monica in the following weeks.

Three additional restaurants in Long Beach, Downey, and Whittier are expected before the end of the year. Franchisees have signed agreements to open nearly 200 stores by 2020 and the company intends to eventually grow to 1,000 stores in the state.

“We’ve learned a lot about operating out West,” said Nigel Travis, chief executive of Dunkin’ Brands. “We’ve been incredibly impressed with the quality of the franchisees.”

But Dunkin’ had to learn the hard way.

The chain was so eager to enter California in the 1990s that it “hopscotched a lot of the country,” said Grant Benson, vice president of global franchising and business development at Dunkin’ Brands.

The nearest distribution center was in Chicago, and truck drivers hauled products thousands of miles to the California stores. “It left a lot of gaps where we didn’t have a supply chain and any development,” Benson said.

Read more.

The Giant What-If Surrounding the Nashua Street Residences

Curbed Boston | By Tom Acitelli
August 26, 2014

TD GardenIt’s one of the tallest new residential developments in all of Boston and a prime example of a major trend driving the city’s real estate right now. Nashua Street Residences, the gargantuan (for Boston, at least) 415-foot tower behind TD Garden, broke ground earlier this month after years of on-again, off-again planning. It begins life as apartments: To be precise, the Nashua Street Residences at 121 Nashua Street is slated to include 38 floors of 503 studio, 1-BR, 2-BR and 3-BR apartments as well as amenities (including bicycle storage—for wait for it—503 bikes). Tucked into its descriptive documents with the city, however, is one telling caveat.

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James Hook & Co. lines up development

Seafood co. site could be hotel or housing

Boston Herald | By Donna Goodison
August 26, 2014

Seafood Co.A developer representing James Hook & Co. is expected to present plans this fall to convert the Boston seafood retailer/wholesaler’s site — a key underdeveloped waterfront parcel — into new residences or a hotel, according to sources familiar with the proposed project.

SKW Partners is expected to unveil the plans, including options for Boston Harborwalk connections, to the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Planning Advisory Committee at the end of September or in mid-October.

“The city has strongly encouraged them to stay within the (Rose Kennedy Greeenway) guidelines for height (of 175 feet),” said one source. “They’re a bit over 200 feet.”

A third generation of the Hook family manages the business, which got its start in 1925. Its current Atlantic Avenue operations — a retail seafood store with a limited lunch menu that includes lobster rolls — is housed in a small one-story structure after a 2008 fire virtually gutted the approximately 20,000-square-foot site between the old Northern Avenue and Evelyn Moakley bridges. The Hooks, who plan to maintain an expanded presence in the new development, did not return calls.

SKW Partners principal William Zielinski also could not be reached.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority acknowledged preliminary conversations about the site with James Hook representatives. “Any redevelopment proposal would be guided by the municipal harbor planning process, and Hook’s representatives have expressed an interest in presenting to the (Downtown Waterfront) Municipal Harbor Plan(ning) Advisory Committee in the fall,” spokesman Nick Martin said.

The Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan will dictate waterfront zoning. If the city submits the plan to the state by early next year, it would be approved no sooner than next summer, according to Vivien Li, president of the Boston Harbor Association and acting chairwoman of the Municipal Harbor Planning Committee. That would mean any construction at the James Hook site likely would not begin before spring 2016 at the earliest, given the city and state permits needed, Li said.

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Mass. subcontractors get some help with new construction law

Boston Business Journal | By Mary Moore
August 25, 2014

Gregory VasilThe construction industry is in turmoil over a sweeping new law pushed by subcontractors that, at its core, provides subs with favorable treatment when it comes to the timing of their payments from owners and developers.

Among the most contentious parts of the new law, which has angered some members of the developer community, is the reduced amount of money owners and developers can withhold from the subs who are working on their building projects through a practice known as “retainage.” Developers have long argued that withholding money from subs gives them leverage toward the end of a project if problems arise and subs are needed to return to the job and do additional work.

Subcontractors argue that they need more cash in hand to buy material and to keep their businesses running.

The Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts was the driving force behind the legislation, which Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law on Aug. 8. Monica Lawton, CEO of the trade group, disagreed with developers’ assertions that they need the extra retainage funds to maintain leverage over subcontractors.

“They live by their reputations,” Lawton said of subcontractors. “Because they’re not going to get another project with a general contractor if they have a reputation of walking out on a job and not coming back.”

The measure, which establishes a definitive process and timing for payments to subcontractors and for the close-out of construction projects, applies to projects valued at $3 million and higher. Starting in early November when its provisions go into effect, the new law limits the amount a developer can withhold to 5 percent of a subcontractor’s contract. The current industry standard is for developers to withhold 10 percent of the contract.

Subcontractors argue that having 10 percent withheld not only is too much, the money typically is held for too long – sometimes months after a construction job concludes. The new law, to that end, also requires that payment of the withheld funds to come no later than 30 days after the “substantial completion” of a subcontractor’s work.

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Lighting company Osram Sylvania will move HQ from Danvers to Wilmington

Boston Business Journal | By Sara Castellanos
August 22, 2014

LightLighting company Osram Sylvania will move its regional headquarters from Danvers to Wilmington next summer.

The company’s current headquarters are at 100 Endicott St. in Danvers, where the company is working out of 155,000 square feet. The new regional headquarters will be 125,000 square feet at 200 Ballardvale St. in Wilmington.

The new location will “present enormous opportunity for the lighting leader to design the positive changes required to support the needs of the business within the transforming lighting industry,” according to the company.

“This move is essential to building a more agile and collaborative culture, which will help us operate with speed, deliver innovative products that customers love, and generate future growth,” said Jes Munk Hansen, president and CEO of Osram Sylvania, in a statement. “All of that will help us achieve our ultimate measure of success: maintaining and expanding our industry leadership in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing environment.”

The company, which offers various energy-saving lighting products, systems and services for homes, businesses, institutions, automobiles and other markets, employs 675 in Massachusetts and is hiring.

Read more.

Downtown Crossing has become desirable

The Boston Globe | By Vanessa Parks
August 24, 2014

Dowtown CrossingAfter years of effort, it looks like it’s really going to happen this time: Downtown Crossing will be revitalized as a center of commerce, yes, but also as a desirable place to live. Construction of Millennium Tower, a 60-story glass structure with 442 residences, is underway at the area’s most prominent intersection. And next door, in the beautiful 1912 Burnham Building that once housed the original Filene’s, work is underway on a Roche Bros. supermarket.

Both should go a long way toward infusing life into Downtown Crossing. Though it is flooded with people on weekdays, the area typically is quiet at night and on weekends. But once the tower is occupied, more people will be out and about, drawing others in.

Having a supermarket in the area goes a long way toward creating what Craig Caplan calls “a real neighborhood.” Caplan runs The Unique Boutique and leases out other pushcarts to vendors.

“Residents bring so much to the table: as eyes on the street monitoring what’s happening, as a new voice and perspective within downtown’s community of stakeholders, and as people who have made a literal investment in the neighborhood,’’ said Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District .

“Right now, it’s still very much in transition,’’ said Caplan, who’s also the creator of “The REAL Downtown Crossing” Facebook page.

But the change so many have worked so long for is definitely happening. Caplan said workers are staying later and business is bustling at cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Read more.

Downtown Crossing’s Eye On The Street

Banker & Tradesman | By Steve Adams
August 24, 2014

Rosemarie SansoneRosemarie Sansone

Title: President, Downtown Boston Business Improvement District
Age: 69
Experience: Over three decades

The Downtown Business Improvement District does the dirty work of sprucing up Boston’s fast-changing downtown: removing graffiti, cleaning up cigarette butts, removing trash and providing security and directions for visitors to a 34-block area spanning 100 acres. The organization has an annual budget of $5 million, paid by assessments on properties within the district.

Q: How did the recession affect the preparation of the Business Improvement District?
A: When the financial crisis happened, we asked ourselves: do people really want to continue creating this organization? And the answer resoundingly was yes. We wanted to continue with the work that had begun. It took two-and-a-half years to create the BID but it was about having conversations with as many people as possible. There are 350 property owners representing over 600 parcels

Q: What were the needs that stood out when you were creating the BID?
A: We looked at best practices across the country. There were consistent themes of clean and safe and welcoming. We had identified the 40 top assessment property owners in the district to make sure the people who were going to spend the most money were involved. It was very important to reach out to the towers such as 101 Arch St., 1 Boston Place, the Bank of Boston building, and Equity Office Properties. We also wanted the smaller properties to think that the towers would have a say over everything. So we created a steering committee that represented everyone.

Q: How were the boundaries decided?
A: We looked at how people come in and out of the district and lines that made sense. Tremont Street seemed like a natural boundary. There had been a discussion to include Chinatown. At that time, folks said they wanted to wait and see although I can honestly tell you they’re sorry they didn’t join us, because they can see the difference.

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Rx For Growth

Life Sciences Drive Campus Expansions

Banker & Tradesman | By Erin Baldassari
August 24, 2014

Integrated Science CenterNext month, the University of Massachusetts-Boston will cut the ribbon on a new $182-million Integrated Sciences Complex, while Boston University stands before the Boston Redevelopment Authority to ask for permission to build a life sciences center of its own.

Not all of Boston’s 28 colleges and universities are expanding their footprint, but where they are, it’s life science programs that are usually driving their growth.

Institutional heavyweights like Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helped keep the construction industry afloat during the recession, said Massachusetts Building Trades President Francis Callahan. Now, smaller schools like the Wentworth Institute of Technology and Bunker Hill Community College are putting cranes in the air.

“We call them the ‘eds and meds.’ That’s our auto industry in Massachusetts,” Callahan said. “There’s growth in all sectors now.”

Wentworth Institute of Technology will open a 305-bed residence hall this fall, said David Wahlstrom, the institute’s vice president of business. The new building follows a 19,000-square-foot expansion of the school’s Center for Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, which was constructed in tandem with a 48,000-square-foot renovation of its campus center.

The renovation includes a new $3-million manufacturing center where students can practice machining with 3-D printers, automated drill presses and lathes. Although the recession put a damper on construction, Wahlstrom said enrollment stayed strong. The institute introduced new engineering programs, including electrical, mechanical, and biomedical engineering.

“From Wentworth’s perspective, we’re responding to the marketplace,” Wahlstrom said. “Our education is applied. It’s hands-on. So, students are learning in the labs, as well as in the classroom.”

As the biotech and pharmaceutical industries change, so must the institutional spaces where skilled workers are trained, said Boston University senior vice president of operations Gary Nicksa. That is one of the driving forces behind the university’s proposal to build a 145,000-square-foot Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering at 610 Commonwealth Ave. The $100-million project would bring together multiple disciplines under one roof, hosting the type of collaborative research projects students would expect to find in the field.

“There’s a need for replacement space for our laboratories that are coming to an end of their normal life cycles, and it’s also an opportunity to design them in a different way,” Nicksa said. “We’re really developing areas of research where we’re bringing together engineers and life scientists, and we need a different kind of research space that can bring those disciplines together.”

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IBEW Boston Lights the Way With Solar and Wind Powered Street Lights From Clear Blue Technologies

Virtual-Strategy Magazine
August 25, 2014

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103 has installed 19 Clear Blue/Illumient solar and wind powered street lights at their Boston headquarters. These “Smart Off-Grid” lights communicate wirelessly with Clear Blue’s advanced cloud-based software to enable IBEW personnel to remotely control, maintain and operate them over the Internet; change lighting profiles in real time; run diagnostics and optimize power management, to ensure the highest level of reliability and performance.

Local 103Clear Blue Technologies Inc., the Smart Off-Grid company, announced today that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103 has installed 19 solar and wind powered street lights at their Boston headquarters. The lights illuminate the parking lot and pathways at the facility, which now includes a state-of-the-art training center for IBEW members.

The street lights were supplied by Clear Blue’s Illumient division, and their agent Spec-lines (http://speclines.net), a provider of innovative lighting solutions in New England. The lights communicate wirelessly with Clear Blue’s advanced cloud-based software to enable IBEW personnel to remotely control, maintain and operate them over the Internet, change lighting profiles in real time, run diagnostics and optimize power management. This unique Smart Off-Grid capability (https://vimeo.com/99161589) delivers high reliability and performance, while slashing the cost of maintenance by eliminating service calls and enabling proactive maintenance.

“IBEW is focused on being at the forefront of new technologies that support our mission of building better cities and towns for our customers, neighbors and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Michael Monahan, Business Manager of Local 103. “The new off-grid lights are practical, cost-effective, environmentally friendly and they give us remote control and monitoring capability that doesn’t exist with alternatives. They are also a beautiful addition to the Boston skyline, as they can be seen from the Southeast Expressway.”

Read more.

ViewPoint: Where is housing for the middle-income family?

Boston Business Journal | By David Begelfer (CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts)
August 15, 2014

David BegelferThomas Grillo did an excellent job on BBJ’s recent article, “The story behind Greater Boston’s housing bottleneck.”

As the story rightly pointed out, communities have tightened permitting, making it harder to build and meet the demand for housing, in general, and moderately priced and affordable units, in particular. Zoning requirements have become more onerous with local rules and special bylaws, making the development process longer and more unpredictable. Interestingly, the municipalities and planners are crying out that they do not have enough control and want new land-use reforms. However, currently, there is a serious lack of permits issued for housing for families and these changes would actually hinder the production of reasonably priced housing.

Many communities have some of the strictest zoning in the region, with large minimum lot sizes, restrictions limiting multifamily housing, and unworkable cluster zoning ordinances. Opportunities for young families to rent a moderately price apartment or find a reasonably priced starter home are virtually nonexistent. The Massachusetts economy cannot fully expand without the support of its highly talented college graduates. Unfortunately, as the recovery continues nationally, local business leaders are finding it more difficult to attract the best talent when competing with other states. Economic development professionals across the country are already starting to attract young families out of our region and into areas that are more affordable, leaving us, yet again, with the risk of a declining skilled workforce.

The strangest trend to occur in housing production is that children have become society’s “toxic waste.” Many housing proposals that would attract families with school-age kids are denied at the local level. More and more municipalities are fighting the permitting of three- or four-bedroom apartment units, or even requiring 55-and-older residency age restrictions. If it appears that developments will bring children into the community, they are fought aggressively by the local boards. Even towns where the school populations are predicted to decline are reluctant to allow apartments that accommodate two or more children.

Read more.

Booming Rooftop Solar Power Suffers Growing Pains

Reaping benefits from solar panels on a home may be harder than some sales pitches suggest

Scientific American | By David Biello
August 18, 2014

Solar RoofThe home improvement problem started, like so many do, with a trip to Home Depot. There Richard Lindley, a 50-year-old carpenter turned general contractor who lives in Somerville, Mass., ran into a few young men he described as “earnest” and who had what he thought was a “really interesting business model.”

Here’s the pitch he heard: A company, in this case SolarCity, will come to your home and install a $20,000 solar system for you. You pay nothing. SolarCity also gets all the permits and necessary permissions in return for your signature on a 20-year contract to purchase the electricity generated by those newly installed solar panels. Said electricity is sold to you at a price lower than the local utility charges—in Lindley’s case, roughly 11 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity made by sunshine in the first year (with an annual increase of 2.5 percent). Any excess electricity generated is sold back onto the grid, earning you a much smaller bill from the local utility as well.

To Lindley it sounded like a dream come true, especially when he considered the chance to do something good for the environment without having to worry about insuring, maintaining or repairing a solar system. “They’re doing a really great thing with the green energy,” he says, “building an infrastructure based on solar rather than fossil fuel.”

There is a catch though: the coordination of solar company, local utility and homeowner may fail—leaving the homeowner in the lurch.

Solar is booming, thanks to cheap photovoltaics, innovative business models like the one described above and federal and state subsidies. Since 2010 solar installations in the U.S. have increased six-fold—from 2,000 to more than 12,000 megawatts worth. At the same time, the cost of installing solar has fallen by at least 60 percent. Leading the charge are companies like SunRun, SunPower and SolarCity, the latter of which installed Lindley’s system in 2013. SolarCity announced on August 7 that it had installed 1.2 megawatts worth of solar rooftops each day this spring. “Now’s the time to capture the market and grow as fast as we can,” said Chief Executive Lyndon Rive when announcing those financial results.

But as with any boom, the growth may be outpacing the ability to provide good technology and good customer service.
In Lindley’s case the bearded young men who scaled his roof for SolarCity connected the 12-panel photovoltaic system to the wrong electricity meter. As a result, Lindley did not see the nearly 4,300 kilowatt-hours of solar electricity SolarCity estimated his panels would produce annually, nor did he see his electricity bill go down. And his use of electricity seemed to go up, even though it was winter. “Instead of seeing solar in action, what I got was not only a higher electricity bill but SolarCity continued to bill me for the output of the solar panels,” he says.

In other words, Lindley was paying extra to go green, especially since SolarCity reaped all available federal and state tax credits and subsidies (as well as any future “incentives, renewable energy credits, green tags, carbon-offset credits, utility rebates or any other nonpower-system attributes of the system, are the property of and for the benefit of SolarCity” as the contract reads in all capital letters).

Read more.

Energy Dept Drops The Other Shoe On Koch Anti-Wind Power Machine

Clean Technica | By Tina Casey
August 19, 2014

Wind TurbineWeren’t we just saying that the Department of the Interior has pulled a classic deke on the Koch brothers’ efforts to thwart Atlantic coast offshore wind power? Well, we did just say that, and now the other shoe has dropped. No wait, make that two other shoes. The Department of Energy has just released two new US wind power reports that will probably set our friends over at Koch Industries running down the hall with their hair on fire.

Among other things, the new Energy Department wind power reports address one of our favorite lines of argument, which is that future global energy market winners will no longer be trucking mass quantities of fossil fuels around the country and the world. Instead, the winners will be exporting technology that enables communities to harvest sustainable energy locally, from wind as well as solar, biomass, geothermal and other renewables.

Btw pardon us if we seem rather irritated today but we just realized that we missed like five episodes of The Leftovers and nobody told us this was the last season for True Blood so #welcometomyworld.

Great News For US Wind Industry!

We’ve been hammering away at this point for a while now, but it bears repeating. Once you send people to the moon and bring them back in one piece, find a surefire way to prevent polio, and shrink a roomful of processors down to the size of a smartphone, science is trying to tell you that digging fuel out of the ground and schlepping it for long distances is…ummm…how can we put this delicately…not a good idea any more, despite the predilections of some people with deep pockets and close connections (as in thisclose) to the John Birch Society.

The two new wind power reports are intended to boost awareness about growth in the US wind industry and raise support for the beleaguered federal production tax credit for wind power, as explained by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz:

…the continued success of the U.S. wind industry highlights the importance of policies like the Production Tax Credit that provide a solid framework for America to lead the world in clean energy innovation while also keeping wind manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.

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Expected To Be The Solar Market’s Tightest Supply Year In Nearly Half A Decade

Business Insider | By Rob Wile
August 19, 2014

Solar Demand_Supply ChartThe solar panel glut appears to be ebbing.

For the past five years or so, the world has found itself awash in solar panels. Thanks to an initial spurt of European incentives for renewable energy and subsequent production boom out out of China, prices for solar module units went into a multi-year decline.

But the global solar boom has finally brought down supplies, and 2014 looks to be the tightest supply year in nearly half a decade, according to GTM Research.

“The global PV supply chain has rebounded strongly from the overcapacity-induced lows of 2011 to 2013, with robust demand growth from markets such as China, Japan and the U.S. coming into contact with a fitter, leaner supply chain,” GTM’s Jade Jones and Shyam Mehta write. “With 2014 expected to be the PV market’s tightest supply year in nearly half a decade, supply constraints and rising input costs are expected to result in meaningful increases in pricing across the PV value chain.”

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Massive Rooftop Greenhouse in Southie Getting Underway

Curbed Boston | By Tom Acitelli
August 14, 2014

Southie Rooftop GreenhouseA big-time development on more than 28 acres of Southie waterfront at the Boston Cargo Terminal is set to break ground in the next few weeks. The project predates the Great Recession, which threw a hefty wrench into the plans. Now things are a go: three new commercial warehouses, a new run of Harbor Walk and 160 parking spaces.

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The Brayton Point power plant is being sold again, but new owner will still shut it down

Boston Business Journal | Jon Chesto
August 22, 2014

Brayton Point power plantBrayton Point is getting a new owner, but it still won’t be saved from the wrecking ball.

The massive coal-fired power plant on the South Coast will be acquired by Houston’sDynegy Inc. in a $3.45 billion deal for EquiPower Resources Corp.’s plants, a group that includes Brayton in Somerset and four others in New England. Dynegy, which reportedly had been interested in buying Brayton and two sister plants when they were on the market in 2013, is also paying $2.8 billion to buy a group of plants from Duke Energy in a separate but related deal.

EquiPower had already announced plans last fall to shut down Brayton Point, New England’s largest coal plant, by mid-2017. Now that they’re finally getting their hands on the 1,500-megawatt plant, Dynegy executives are saying that they’re going to move forward with that shutdown plan.

On a conference call today to discuss the deals, one analyst asked whether Dynegy would need to prepare for losing about $110 million in annual earnings from Brayton Point. Dynegy CFO Clint Freeland responded by saying the number is “in the ballpark.” But he noted that most of Brayton Point’s income is made in the first half of the year, so the hit essentially wouldn’t be felt at Dynegy until 2018.

The analyst then asked whether Dynegy would try to keep Brayton Point open. (After all, previous owner Dominion spent more than $1 billion on environmental upgrades before selling it off to EquiPower’s parent company last year.)

Dynegy CEO Robert Flexon quickly dismissed the idea of keeping the plant running: “At this point in time, all of our assumptions and diligence have been around following the path that Brayton Point is on.”

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