The week in business


Union Square project leaders offer sweeteners to neighborhood

The developers behind the long-planned redo of Union Square in Somerville might finally be making peace with their new neighbors. The real estate firm US2 and negotiators for the Union Square Neighborhood Council said last week that they have agreed in principle on a broad package of community benefits tied to the 15-acre project — including affordable housing, hiring rules, and public space. If the broader council — whose members include people who live or work in Union Square — votes to approve the deal, it could kick-start more than $1.5 billion worth of development around a new MBTA Green Line station on the east side of Somerville. Neither party would discuss terms of the deal until it is made public at a meeting later this month, but they said it will spell out US2’s obligations across a wide range of areas, including union labor rules, workforce training, and opportunities for small businesses. It has been hammered out in a series of closed-door meetings over more than a year. Negotiators said they were hopeful the agreement would address an array of concerns residents of the fast-changing neighborhood have about the project. The neighborhood vote, which may come in early fall, could also free US2 to start building — more than five years after the Chicago company won development rights for Union Square. — TIM LOGAN


Acacia to be acquired by Cisco Systems in $2.6b deal

Acacia Communications Inc. said Tuesday that it would be acquired by networking giant Cisco Systems Inc., a $2.6 billion deal that will end the Maynard-based company’s bumpy ride since going public three years ago. Cisco’s $70-a-share offer marked a 46 percent premium to Acacia’s closing price on Monday. But Acacia is selling for 40 percent less than its peak price of $123 in September 2016. Acacia’s products are used to increase the speed and capacity of switches that send and receive data over fiber-optic networks. After its founding in 2009, the company’s sales rose steadily as telecom companies built out their light-based fiber networks to handle the surge in data created by Internet and corporate data traffic. A spike in sales to China pushed Acacia’s revenue to a peak of $478 million in 2016, the year it went public, but revenue dropped more than 19 percent in 2017 as China’s buying binge ended. Acacia was dealt a painful blow in April 2018 when the US government banned sales to China’s ZTE Corp. for violating terms of an export-sanctions settlement. ZTE accounted for about a third of Acacia’s revenue at the time. The ban was lifted in July, but the damage was done, with Acacia’s revenue falling another 12 percent in 2018. — LARRY EDELMAN



Merrimack Valley businesses still struggling in wake of gas explosions

When Cesar Gil opened Mi Cocina Restaurant and Bakery in Lawrence, he spent four years cultivating a base of customers to his Dominican takeout restaurant. Then one day in September, a series of gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley forced Gil and hundreds of other business owners to close, many for weeks, and his restaurant hasn’t been the same since. “I lost a lot of guests,” Gil said through a translator at his restaurant Tuesday afternoon. “Right now, it’s not like before. It’s not too bad, but I can tell.” The plight of Gil and other business owners affected by the Sept. 13 disaster has prompted local officials to develop a marketing campaign to persuade customers to support shops and businesses affected by the disaster. Dubbed “Rock the Register,” the marketing campaign will include newspaper, magazine, television, and radio ads promoting shopping at small businesses. Officials are also pressing Columbia Gas to speed up payment of claims from businesses. Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said many businesses still are not seeing the same level of customers they had before the incident, and some have not yet received full payouts from Columbia Gas, the utility whose construction work triggered the explosions and fires that damaged buildings, forced evacuations, and killed one person on Sept. 13. — ALLISON HAGAN



Lyft, restaurants team up to offer cheaper fares to late-night workers

Last call may signal the end of the party for Greater Boston’s nightlife revelers. But service workers — those who tend bar or run restaurants — still have a long night ahead of them to close the establishments. And without reliable late-night public transit options, getting home is often a difficult and expensive endeavor.  For several months, though, the ride-hailing service Lyft has been piloting an effort to help service workers save money on fares. Since mid-April, in a first-of-its-kind partnership, the company has teamed up with restaurateur Garrett Harker to test a subsidized ride program at three of Harker’s restaurants. About 70 employees at Eastern Standard and the Hawthorne in Kenmore Square and at Branch Line in Watertown pay a base fare of $3.50 for a shared ride home from work. The restaurant group and Lyft subsidize the rest. (Regular riders in Boston pay a minimum of $5 per ride, including a base fare of at least $2.10, plus time and mileage charges.) This summer, the ride-hailing service is expanding the program citywide on a trial basis, in partnership with restaurants. “Our employees come from all over the Greater Boston area, most often by public transit,” said Eli Feldman, the project manager at Branch Line who first approached Lyft about creating a partnership. “Ultimately, one of the biggest challenges we face with restaurants is helping our teams get home late.” — JANELLE NANOS



Industry angered by Baker proposal to rein in drug prices

The state’s booming biotech industry has long enjoyed a tight — some would say coddling — relationship with Beacon Hill. Massachusetts has invested hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to help life sciences companies grow. Suddenly, the relationship is more complicated. A proposal by Governor Charlie Baker to curb drug prices paid by the state Medicaid program has biotech leaders up in arms. As state lawmakers meet behind closed doors to hash out a final version of the plan, they are also grappling with this question: How does Massachusetts hold accountable an industry that it helped to build? Baker’s plan, announced in January, is among the most aggressive in the country to target drug pricing. It would give state officials more power to demand that companies negotiate lower prices. If a company doesn’t negotiate, state officials could publicly set a target value for its drug and subject the company to more oversight from the state Health Policy Commission — including public disclosure of price information. And if the commission determines a drug price is unreasonable or excessive, it could ask the attorney general to investigate under state consumer protection law. If approved, these rules could apply to about 200 of the most expensive drugs in the state Medicaid program — including those developed by Massachusetts companies that have benefited from public incentives, according to public records obtained by the Globe. The governor tucked drug pricing controls into his state budget plan; lawmakers are negotiating their budget now.