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Chambers will try to close skills gap


Boston chamber starts coalition to promote skills gap of Mass. students

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is launching a new statewide coalition to promote policies that can address persistent skills gaps between what employers need and the training that students in Massachusetts are receiving. More than 20 business groups, primarily local and regional chambers, have signed on with the Greater Boston Chamber’s initiative, dubbed the Massachusetts Business Coalition on Skills. The coalition aims to develop a list of employer-defined essential skills, and work to incorporate those skills in public school and community college curricula. The group also wants to increase the capacity of the state’s vocational and technical schools, and spur public incentives such as grants or tax credits to encourage employer training programs. The effort was set in motion before the COVID-19 pandemic, but chamber officials say the need remains pressing as policy makers try to help reinvigorate the economy. “If talent is our competitive advantage, we need to align government, education, and business on how to nurture that [talent],” said Jim Rooney, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber. “How do we do it in a way that allows us to rebuild and recover from the COVID years, and how do we do it in an equitable way? . . . Our employers need human capital, trained for the jobs of the 21st century.” — JON CHESTO



AIM Foundation funds research into hydrogen fuel

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Foundation is helping fund research at the University of Massachusetts Lowell into the use of hydrogen as a supplemental or replacement low-carbon heating fuel in the state. The AIM/UMass Lowell study will identify regulatory, legislative, technical, and market obstacles to hydrogen production and adoption in the state, and also assess the economic impact and environmental benefits of using hydrogen as a fuel source. AIM said the contribution is in “the high five figures.” The hope is to build a partnership between AIM, its foundation, and the energy experts at UMass Lowell. The foundation and UMass Lowell researchers teamed up once before, in 2019, on an energy grid storage report. — JON CHESTO



Entercom changes its name

The second-largest radio-station owner in the United States doesn’t want you to think of it as a radio company anymore. Entercom Communications is changing its name to Audacy, a rebrand it hopes will make its sleepy radio company sexy to a younger generation of podcast-hungry consumers and advertisers. The company’s stock symbol will change to AUD as of April 9. In the last couple of years, Entercom has acquired a trio of podcasting companies, including Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Studios, two of the leading producers of high-quality podcasts. On Tuesday, Entercom will announce plans to produce audio programs exclusively for its own app, a major departure from its recent strategy. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Home prices continue to rise

US home prices increased at the fastest pace in seven years in January as the pandemic has fueled demand for single-family houses even as the supply for such homes shrinks. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 11.1 percent in January from a year earlier. That’s the biggest gain since March 2014. Prices rose in all 20 cities, and the 12-month increase was larger for all cities in January than in the previous month. The biggest price gain was in Phoenix, where home prices jumped 15.8 percent, followed by Seattle, with a 14.3 percent gain, and San Diego, at 14.2 percent. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Maker of Fortnite accuses Apple of “monopolistic” moves

Epic Games submitted a complaint Tuesday about Apple’s alleged “monopolistic practices” to the UK competition watchdog, which is investigating the iPhone maker over concerns it has a dominant position in app distribution. The move by the maker of the popular video game Fortnite is the latest salvo in its bitter battle over Apple’s App Store. Epic Games has also filed legal challenges in the United States and Australia, and an antitrust complaint in the European Union against Apple. The game-maker’s complaint accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior and setting strict rules on app distribution and payments in alleged violation of UK. rules. Apple said it wasn’t surprised by Epic’s UK complaint “as we have seen them use the same playbook around the world.” — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Volvo to offer six months of paid leave to parents

Beginning next month Volvo Cars will roll out a Swedish version of paternity leave, or ’'pappaledighet,’' across its 40,000-strong global workforce. Starting in April, all employees irrespective of gender or location will get at least 24 weeks parental leave that covers 80 percent of their base pay. It’s an initiative that aims to create a ’'culture that supports equal parenting,’' according to Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson. In Sweden, the government compensates parents with almost 80 percent of their pay checks for up to 480 days per child. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Consumer confidence in March highest in a year

US consumer confidence surged in March to the highest reading in a year, helped by increased vaccinations and more government economic support. The Conference Board said Tuesday its consumer confidence index rose to 109.7 in March, the best showing since it stood at 118.8 in March of last year as the pandemic was beginning to hit the United States. The index stood at 90.4 in February. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Bank of America adds $250 million to racial equality effort, focusing on Asian Americans

Bank of America pledged an additional $250 million toward its push to advance racial equality, adding programs that advocate for Asian Americans to its existing initiatives. The lender will commit $1.25 billion over five years, expanding an earlier pledge of $1 billion over four years, to support investments that address racial justice and advocate for equality for people and communities of color, including those of Asian descent, the bank said Tuesday in a statement. It allocated an immediate $1 million to advocacy and engagement efforts with the Asian American community, including a grant to Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a nonprofit group. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Volkswagen to be known as Voltswagen in US in nod to electric vehicles

German automaker Volkswagen is zapping new life into its business with a focus on electric vehicles and a new name for its US operations: Voltswagen of America. The rebrand, which is meant to represent VW’s commitment to electric transportation, will take effect in May, the company announced Tuesday. It will be preceded by the arrival of the ID. 4, the auto giant’s first long-range, electric SUV, at dealerships across the country this month. — WASHINGTON POST



Walgreens to launch bank account for customers

Walgreens wants customers to think about it for more than medicine and snacks: It wants to be their bank, too. The drugstore chain will debut a new bank account for customers that will offer rewards tied to its loyalty program, Walgreens Boots Alliance said in a statement on Tuesday. The accounts will be established at MetaBank and also come with a Mastercard-branded debit card, Walgreens said. Walgreens said it would offer the bank account online and at its nearly 9,000 stores in the second half of the year. — BLOOMBERG NEWS