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Bracing for an Eversource rate hike, the attraction of Editas, and more





OK, we’re just going to ignore what’s going on outside and think happy thoughts — like, hey, it’s only 20 days until the Red Sox play for real. And as we wait, here’s latest from Jon Chesto and a roundup of the day’s top business stories for Tuesday, March 14.

Chesto means business

They don’t want to take a hike: The big Rate Shock of 2007 took its toll in the Berkshires. Paper mills were already struggling. But a huge jump in electric rates that year contributed to mill closures and  hundreds of lost jobs.

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Now, Onyx Specialty Papers president Pat Begrowicz is bracing for another one: This change could cause the electric bills that her Lee factory pays to Eversource to rise 55 percent, from $775,000 in 2016 to $1.2 million in 2019.

State regulators will start public hearings next week as they review Eversource’s plans to raise distribution rates by $96 million over two years. Begrowicz expects to attend a nearby hearing in April, as an Onyx executive and as chair of a local industrial group. Eversource wants to collect an extra $60 million in Eastern Massachusetts, and $36 million in the western part of the state.  

Many in Western Mass. could get hammered, considering its smaller population. Begrowicz estimates ratepayers in her region would face an increase that’s more than three times the size, on a per customer basis, to the increase in the eastern communities.

Eversource officials say the rate increase is necessary for maintaining the company’s power line network, to ensure the lights stay on and machines keep humming. And the company is studying the potential impact of spreading the rates across all its customers in the state, a possible alternative to dividing them into two regions.

High electricity prices throughout Massachusetts already hold back manufacturers, and the Berkshires continue to struggle as the Boston area booms. That’s why Begrowicz is leading the charge now to muster support among what’s left of her region’s industrial economy — before it gets any smaller.

Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at jon.chesto@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

Executive Summary

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Success is in the genes: Editas Medicine said Tuesday that it will collect $90 million in an upfront payment from Irish drugmaker Allergan PLC.

The deal gives Allergan the opportunity to license up to five experimental eye drugs, including one that targets a rare disorder that can cause children to go blind.

Cambridge-based Editas has had a string genome-editing collaborations that include working with a subsidiary of Allergan. The company may also be eligible for additional development and commercial milestone payments if its drugs are successful.

Look, a pink padded cell… err, a cubby: A Boston company is promoting a “cozy workspace, designed to promote focus and creativity.”

The pink cubby covered in cushions was designed by Dyer Brown for Criteo, a tech company that works with online retailers to personalize ads for consumers.

Providing such comfortable workspaces can help attract and keep staff. Think of it as a place to get away from the distractions of phones and co-workers to get some “heads-down” work done.

Boston deals Down Under: Two Boston-area companies are part of deals announced this week in Australia.

From the Los Angeles Business Journal: The Australia and New Zealand operations of Framingham-based Staples were purchased by Platinum Equity, a private equity fund in Beverly Hills that recently raised $6.5 billion. Staples sold off its European operations in 2016 and last week’s release of its US financials showed continued struggles for the office supply retailer.

In a separate deal, Boston-based investment firm Gordon Brothers is expanding its global footprint by opening an office in Sydney, according to Yahoo Finance.​

Trending Pick

Checking out: Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based retailer that sells high-end clothing, is considering a sale. Speculation has centered on Hudson’s Bay, which recently purchased Saks.

Line Items

Markets continue their slide:

Oil glut, interest rate speculation fuel selloff — Wall Street Journal

Fake news could cost Facebook:

Germany takes aim at social media `hate speech’ — Financial Times

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Debt piles up faster than snow:

Student loan defaults are on the rise — Washington Post

Can Microsoft cut some Slack?:

Tech giant looks to cut into message service with Teams — Business Insider

ICYMI

Fear grows for farmers: Typically, they’re worried about keeping cows fed, barns clean, and tractors in working order on dairy farms.

But as the Globe reported this morning, there is mounting fear on dairy farms that migrant workers will be rounded up and deported under the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented residents. It’s a concern for the workers, but also the farmers who will find it difficult to replace the labor done by the migrant workers.

Some workers fear leaving the farms even to shop, worried they’ll be apprehended and deported by authorities working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to Pew Research, 26 percent of farm workers are undocumented, but experts suggest that number grows to 75 percent on dairy farms because of the year-round nature of the business.
 

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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