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Boston ad agency expands into Canada

Steve Connelly is president of Connelly Partners ad agency in Boston, which purchased VRX Studios ad agency in Vancouver.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File 2013


Connelly Partners buys Canadian company

Boston ad agency Connelly Partners is broadening its international horizons again, this time with the acquisition of an agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Boston company, led by president Steve Connelly, has completed the purchase of VRX Studios, which specializes in photography and other visual content for the hospitality sector. VRX got its start by providing content for the travel website Expedia, and it has held long-term partnerships with some of the biggest names in the hotel industry. The deal brings nearly 20 people into Connelly Partners, which will now have a full-time staff of roughly 140. Connelly negotiated the deal completely virtually, all via video, with a goal of ramping up its travel/tourism practice. VRX will keep its name and home base in Vancouver. The financial terms were not disclosed. Connelly also has an office in Dublin, through the acquisition in 2018 of an Irish firm. — JON CHESTO



Herb Chambers opens Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Allston

Herb Chambers Cos. has opened a new Jaguar Land Rover dealership at its former Honda-Infiniti dealership on Commonwealth Avenue in Allston. The four-story, 200,000-square-foot dealership opened earlier this week, with roughly 60 employees. (The Honda dealership is now on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, and Infiniti has gone to Route 9 in Westborough.) Auto magnate Herb Chambers also controls a Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Sudbury. Chambers initially considered opening a Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Dorchester, but opted for the Allston location, in part because of its proximity to existing BMW and Porsche dealerships. The Somerville-based dealership group is made up of 60 auto dealerships, many at shared locations, with more than 2,000 employees and annual sales that exceed $2.7 billion. — JON CHESTO


Verizon wins 5G contract in Europe

Verizon has won its first industrial 5G deal in Europe, beating out local telecommunications companies and marking an early win in a push to sell the wireless systems to global businesses. Verizon will build and run a private network for Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd. in Southampton on the south coast of England, and the network will run on equipment from Finland’s Nokia Oyj, the company said in a statement on Thursday. Verizon and ABP declined to share the financial terms of the deal. New York-based Verizon opened a showroom in London last year and spoke about its hopes to muscle in on 5G enterprise deals beyond the United States. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



California hopes that giant batteries will prevent blackouts this summer

With summer’s heat approaching, California’s plan for avoiding a repeat of last year’s blackouts hinges on a humble savior — the battery. Giant versions of the same technology that powers smartphones and cars are being plugged into the state’s electrical grid at breakneck speed, with California set to add more battery capacity this year than all of China, according to BloombergNEF. It will be the biggest test yet of whether batteries are reliable enough to sustain a grid largely powered by renewables. Last year, when the worst heat wave in a generation taxed California’s power system and plunged millions into darkness in the first rolling blackouts since the Enron crisis, many blamed the state’s aggressive clean-energy push and its reliance on solar power. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Record number of small businesses need workers


A record share of US small-business owners reported unfilled positions in March, and firms are starting to boost wages to attract talent, a report by the National Federation of Independent Business showed Thursday. Some 42 percent of firms had job openings last month, and 56 percent of owners reported adding workers or trying to hire in March. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed are planning to create jobs in the next three months, the second-highest reading since 2018. The data, out a day before the government’s monthly employment report, underscore how a loosening of business restrictions and a pickup in economic activity are encouraging firms to hire. Even so, an overwhelming number of small businesses are having trouble finding qualified applicants to fill open positions. More than 90 percent of owners looking to hire reported few or no “qualified” applicants for the jobs they were trying to fill last month. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Pakistan lifts ban on TikTok

Pakistan’s media regulatory agency on Thursday reinstated access to the Chinese video service TikTok, after a court banned it weeks ago and urged authorities to ensure that it carried no “vulgar” content. The court in Peshawar had issued the ban on March 11 following complaints about the alleged presence of “immoral and indecent content” on the popular social media app. On Thursday, after consulting with the media agency, it repealed it. At the hearing, senior agency official Tariq Gandapur said that contact had been established with TikTok to ensure those who share obscene content are blocked. The app, owned by China’s ByteDance, has been downloaded almost 39 million times in Pakistan. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Construction fell in February, largely due to weather

US construction spending fell in February after several months of steady gains, likely because of unseasonably cold weather and winter storms in the south. The Commerce Department said Thursday that spending on building projects slipped 0.8 percent in February, after a 1.2 percent gain in January. The drop was driven by lower spending on apartments, hotels, hospitals, and educational facilities. Public construction spending also dropped sharply, declining by 1.7 percent. State and local government budgets have come under strain during the pandemic, as tax revenue has fallen amid widespread unemployment and lower business revenue. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Supreme Court loosens ban on robocalls

The US Supreme Court limited the reach of the decades-old federal ban on robocalls, rejecting a lawsuit that accused Facebook of repeatedly sending unwanted text messages. The unanimous ruling puts new curbs on the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Facebook contended that law doesn’t cover texts that go to a wrong number. Facebook was appealing a lower court decision the social-media company said would put businesses at risk of massive damage awards for relatively small transgressions. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Empty office space in Manhattan at a 30-year high

The amount of office space available in Manhattan is at the highest level in at least 30 years. The availability rate jumped to 17.2 percent in the first quarter, according to a report Thursday by Savills. Much of that was driven by a surge in sublease space, which reached 22 million square feet, 62 percent higher than before the pandemic, the real estate services firm said. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Rates continue to inch up

Mortgage rates in the United States rose for a seventh straight week. The average for a 30-year loan was 3.18 percent, up from 3.17 percent last week and the highest since June, Freddie Mac data showed Thursday. The 15-year fixed-rate average was unchanged at 2.45 percent. — BLOOMBERG NEWS