Talking Points

TALKING POINTS

Massachusetts lost more than 20% of its solar jobs last year

ENERGY

Massachusetts lost more than 20% of its solar jobs last year

Massachusetts remains ranked No. 2 in the country for solar jobs, but its heft is slipping significantly. The state lost 21 percent of its jobs in the solar industry last year, with the number dropping to 11,530 at the end of the year, according to a report from the Solar Foundation. That marked one of the biggest percent declines of any state in the country. (The United States saw a 3.8 percent decline.) Possible factors in Massachusetts include: uncertainty about changes in solar incentives; caps in some parts of the state on new net metering credits; and concern over a new charge on solar users imposed by Eversource. The report prompted a coalition of pro-solar groups to send a letter to Governor Charlie Baker, seeking his assistance in supporting the industry. — JON CHESTO

ENERGY

Businesses want state leaders to keep natural gas
in the forefront

Some of the state’s biggest business associations have signed on to a new group, the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy, to encourage state leaders to keep natural gas on the front burner as an important energy source. The group sent a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Harriette Chandler, and Governor Charlie Baker, urging them to promote policies to expand the state’s natural gas supplies and buttress the electricity grid. The group pointed to a recent report from grid overseer ISO New England that showed the ISO could be forced to implement rolling blackouts because of a shortage of gas on cold winter days. The coalition’s members include Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Mass. Business Roundtable, and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, among others. The group is getting funding from Eversource, National Grid, and Enbridge — the three companies behind the Access Northeast pipeline expansion project in New England. The three partners halted the federal permitting process for the controversial project last year but remain hopeful about reviving it, possibly in a different form. — JON CHESTO

COFFEE

Dunkin to phase out foam cups by 2020

Foam cups at Dunkin’ Donuts will soon be history, removing what the company estimates will be a billion of them each year from the waste stream. Dunkin’ said Wednesday that the polystyrene foam cups will be completely phased out from its stores globally by 2020. Because foam packaging decomposes slowly, ends up in oceans and can harm marine life and other animals that ingest it, there has been push to ban its use. Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc., based in Canton, joins other chain restaurants trying to diminish its footprint. McDonald’s said last month that it would use only recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its soda cups, Happy Meal boxes, and other packaging by 2025. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

BABY FOOD

Gerber chooses
boy with Down Syndrome as its ‘spokesbaby’

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One-year-old Lucas Warren’s contagious smile won over executives at Gerber baby food who have made him their ‘‘spokesbaby’’ this year. Lucas is Gerber’s first spokesbaby with Down syndrome in the company’s 91-year history. His photo was chosen out of more than 140,000 submissions. He will receive $50,000, and the Dalton, Ga., boy’s image will be featured in the company’s social media posts. Lucas’ mom, Cortney Warren, says she hopes this will bring help increase the acceptance of special needs kids. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOYS

Hasbro had lower sales during important holiday season

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Toymaker Hasbro Inc. delivered a surprise sales drop for the critical fourth quarter as it struggled with lagging sales of ‘‘Star Wars’’ toys and the woes of Toys R Us. The results, announced Wednesday, underscore the challenges toymakers face as they wrestle with a shift in buying habits. Parents are increasingly spending more of their money for toys online at sites like Amazon. And kids are more interested in mobile devices than traditional toys. The bankruptcy last fall of Toys R Us is also putting pressure on toymakers. Toys R Us announced that it was closing 182 locations after struggling through the holiday season. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

WEIGHT LOSS

Weight Watchers plans annual revenue of more than $2b by 2020

Weight Watchers International Inc. is aiming to keep its Oprah Winfrey-fueled momentum going into the next decade. The company announced plans to top $2 billion in annual revenue by 2020, up more than 50 percent from its estimated sales last year. Weight Watchers also is working to remove artificial ingredients from its products and will offer free memberships to teens this summer, part of a bid capitalize on growing demand for weight-loss services. Winfrey, who joined Weight Watchers’ board in 2015 and became the face of the weight-loss program, has helped lead a dramatic recovery in the company’s membership and share price. But the 54-year-old business still faces heavy competition from fitness apps and other emerging technology. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

HEALTH CARE

Enrollment in Obamacare drops slightly, despite Trump’s best efforts to kill it

President Trump has frequently been accused of trying to undermine Obamacare, his predecessor’s signature health law. New data show that by at least one measure he didn’t do a particularly good job of it. Enrollment in individual health-insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act fell 3.7 percent in 2018 to 11.8 million, from 12.2 million a year earlier, according to data compiled by the National Academy for State Health Policy, which calls itself a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of state health-policy makers. That’s a far smaller drop than some health policy watchers had foreseen, after the Trump administration halved the enrollment season and cut marketing and enrollment-assistance efforts. Trump himself declared the law “dead.” The decline was concentrated in states where the federal government runs the Obamacare markets. In those 34 states, enrollment dropped 5.3 percent. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

SAFETY

Harley-Davidson recalls more than 250,000 motorcycles

Under pressure from US safety regulators, Harley-Davidson is recalling more than 250,000 motorcycles worldwide because the brakes might fail. Documents posted Wednesday by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say the recall covers more than 30 models from the 2008 through 2011 model years. Harley says deposits can form on brake parts if the fluid isn’t changed every two years as specified in the owner’s manual. That can cause a valve in the antilock brake control unit to stick. The agency began investigating problems in July of 2016 after getting 43 complaints including three reports of crashes and two injuries. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

FAST FOOD

Chipotle hopes new menu items will boost sales

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Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. says adding new items to a menu that’s barely changed in 25 years will help turn around struggling sales. The problem is finding the right one. Founder and chief executive Steve Ells said that the burrito chain may try salads and grains, as well as more traditional Mexican fare like nachos and adult-size quesadillas. Ells spoke on a conference call after Chipotle reported that customer traffic fell in the fourth quarter and has remained down this year. — BLOOMBERG NEWS