Talking Points

Talking Points

R.I. has a good jobs report, Flexion has a suitor, and Amazon’s next push

Fall River-03/23/2017- A view from above of the million-square foot Amazon distribution warehouse that opened last fall. John Tlumacki/Globe staff(business)

John Tlumacki/Globe staff

A view from above of the million-square foot Amazon distribution warehouse that opened last fall in Fall River.

Welcome to the Talking Points newsletter, where we recap the day’s business news and give you an exclusive dispatch from Globe reporter Jon Chesto. Here’s the edition for Thursday, March 23.

Chesto Means Business

Positive state of mind: Rhode Islanders are finally getting used to good economic news. Gone are the days when the state vied for the dubious title of Highest Unemployment Rate in the Nation.

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We learned on Thursday that our neighbor’s jobless rate last month fell below the national average for the first time since 2005. (The two rates were tied in January.) The Ocean State added 5,900 jobs in the past year. More than one third of those materialized last month.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo tells me her ambitious efforts to stoke job growth are paying off. She points to new tax incentive programsshe shepherded through the state legislature in 2015, her first year as governor, and her emphasis on state-subsidized workforce training. And she cites the state’s $4.8 billion road-and-bridge repair initiative known as RhodeWorks (to be funded in part by new tolls on big trucks), saying it is helping fuel growth in the construction sector. 

Sure, there have been missteps, like the aborted “Cooler & Warmer” tourism campaign. And some sectors such as education and financial services have been shedding positions.

But the wins far outnumber the losses: GE DigitalVirgin PulseAgodaJ&J. Now comes word that eMoney Advisor wants to open a software development office in Providence, creating up to 100 jobs.

Business leaders rave about Raimondo, a venture capitalist-turned-politician who will cajole just about anyone to move there. The new state funds are important. But Raimondo also knows from her VC experience what it takes to close a deal.
 Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at jon.chesto@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

Executive Summary

Flexing some muscle: A Burlington-based biotech with a promising treatment for knee pain  is reportedly being pursued by French drug giant Sanofi Inc.

News that Flexion Therapeutics Inc. has a possible deal with Sanofi sent its stock surging by early afternoon up 36 percent. By today’s close, it was still up 33 percent.

According to a report in FiercePharma, the purchase could be worth $1 billion to Flexion. The company has developed a treatment for osteoarthritis in the knee that is time-released, providing relief over several months.

Check this out: It’s no secret that Amazon is working on technology that will allow shoppers to pick up groceries and have them automatically added to a credit card without checking out at a register. An Amazon Go store is being tested in Seattle now.

But how many people knew that some of the technology being used for the innovative stores is being worked on in nearby Hudson?

The work is being led by Jeremy De Bonet, with a team estimated at 20 employees. Amazon’s behind the scenes technical work is so secretive that a spokesman won’t even confirm it exists and employees have signed non-disclosure agreements.

Banking on changes: Santander Bank has been told to clean up its act again, this time as it relates to auto loans.

An enforcement agreement was released Thursday by the Federal Reserve giving the bank two months to improve board oversight and hire senior management to make sure its auto lending meets federal consumer protection laws.

The bank has also been cited this year for its poor community-lending efforts. For its part, Santander officials say they are working to strengthen their banking practices.

Work it on out: The Massachusetts job market continues to hum, according to data released Thursday.

The unemployment rate in February ticked up slightly to 3.4 percent from 3.2 percent the month before. But the rise came as more people decided it was a good time to start looking for a job. Nationwide, the unemployment rate is at 4.7 percent.

Massachusetts employers added 10,100 jobs in February, with the biggest gains in education and health care. Manufacturers added about 600 jobs after having cut jobs for the previous 12 months.

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No longer cleared for takeoff: Virgin America is no more. The carrier, which was known for its cabin design and in-flight entertainment, was purchased by Alaska Airlines. The new owner plans to adopt some of the things passengers loved about Virgin America, but will fly under the Alaska Airlines name.

Line Items

Investors sold on bots:
DataRobot raises $54 million -- Boston Business Journal

Iger continues as Disney CEO: 
Contract extended as for replacement is ongoing -- Wall Street Journal

Eaton Park hedge fund closing:
Down year drop prompts decision to cash out -- Bloomberg

Your Web data for sale?:
US Senate thinks it should be -- Business Insider

In the shameless cross promotion department: If you didn't catch Fast Forward today, you missed some of the funny, insightful, and challenging questions being asked of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Don't let that happen tomorrow. Stay ahead of the action with Fast Forward — the Globe's look at upcoming news and events with your morning coffee.   Sign up here.

ICYMI

It's an age-old question:It seems some Hollywood types don't like having their ages plastered all over the Internet for the rest of us to view.

As reported in today's Globe, California has passed a law attempting to help the egocentric actors and actresses from being outed online.

The law seeks to bar the popular movie website IMDb from sharing that information with eager fans. The idea behind the law is that ageism is alive and, well, it can hurt an actor's career.

The law attempts to get around the First Amendment by framing it as a defense against age discrimination.

Since it went into effect, actors and actresses have requested that their ages be taken down from the IMDb site, but a federal judge has issued an injunction.

Hmmm, wonder who will play the roles in the movie version of this court drama.
 

This Talking Points newsletter is compiled by George Brennan. Follow George on Twitter at @gpb227If you liked what you've read, please tell your friends to  sign up.
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