An American hub of finance and technology was immobilized Friday by a terrorist manhunt that idled or distracted more than 1.5 million workers.
As heavily-armed police and FBI agents zeroed in on a suspect in the Boston marathon bombing, authorities shut down public transit and advised businesses to close and residents to lock themselves in their homes.
The security edict kept Morgan Stanley’s Boston offices dark, most Fidelity Investments workers at their home computers and diners and ticket-buyers away from downtown restaurants and a visiting circus.
For most in Boston’s $1 billion-a-day economy, the damage was probably to be short-lived.
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“The economy doesn’t shut down completely,” said Jim Diffley, chief regional economist at IHS Global Insight in Philadelphia. “A lot of activity that would’ve taken place today takes place tomorrow or Monday.”
That was scant comfort for the Big Apple Circus Ltd., on a limited engagement next to City Hall.
“We went from robust ticket sales to trickling ticket sales,” said Lynn Stirrup, executive director of the circus, which is running from March 26 to May 12. “We are expecting a significant impact overall.”
At some businesses, the day’s drama outweighed the disruption. Several Dunkin’ Donuts stores braved the lockdown so that police and other public safety workers could refuel, according to Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Dunkin’ Brands. The company’s Watertown, Massachusetts, stores provided free coffee and donuts for police officers, according to the company’s twitter feed.
Kurt Schwartz, director of emergency management services for the state, advised people who had made it to work to go home, saying it was safe for them to drive.
“From an economic standpoint it has effects similar to that of being a snow day, however, the psychological ramifications of this are impossible to assess,” said Ward McCarthy, a Boston native and chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York. “They tend to be pretty resilient people up there, but this will be a test of their resolve.”
Technology enabled many companies to ride out the siege. John Reilly, a spokesman for Boston-based MFS Investment Management, said the company was open, but had declared a work-from-home day early this morning after learning the transit system was closed.
MFS activated a computerized system that alerted employees via phone. The firm had a scheduled test on Monday, the day of the bombing, and almost all employees have the ability to work from home.
The MFS office is located about four blocks away from where the marathon bombing took place. It also has some people working from a backup facility in Marlborough, which can accommodate as many as 250 people.
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