Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Google is hitting the road — literally — for user feedback

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is about to embark on an old-school search, swapping its Internet algorithm for a custom-built van that will cruise across the U.S. to find out how people use its online services and react to new features.

The white van emblazoned with Google's colorful logo is scheduled to pull out Monday on a six-week road trip and help the company break out of its Silicon Valley bubble. The van will make multiday stops in seven states, stopping near colleges, libraries, parks and more in hopes of finding out how average Americans are using the company's digital offerings.


Sticky lawsuit: $400M dispute lingers over Post-it inventor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Alan Amron holds 40 U.S. patents, but he's most interested in an invention for which he gets no credit: the Post-it Note, which was made into a worldwide success by the 3M Company.

Amron says he invented what he called the Press-on Memo in 1973, a full year before 3M developed what later became known as the Post-it Note. Although Amron settled a previous lawsuit against 3M, he's suing again in federal court saying the company breached its previous agreement not to take credit. Now Amron wants $400 million in damages — and something even more important to him: credit.


Alba's Honest Co. lashes out over ingredients report

NEW YORK (AP) — Honest Co., co-founded by movie star Jessica Alba, is denying a news report that said its laundry detergent contains an ingredient that Honest promised its customers it would never use.

The Wall Street Journal said it tested the detergent at two laboratories and found it had sodium lauryl sulfate. On its website, Honest Co. promises that it doesn't use SLS because it can cause skin irritation.

The company fought back Friday saying that its detergent contains sodium coco sulfate instead, an ingredient it says is a "gentler alternative." The company said it conducted said the Journal's article is wrong and "reckless."


US rig count drops 9 this week to all-time low of 480

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by 9 this week to 480, a record low and another sign of the continuing economic woes in the oil and gas industry.

At the recent boom's height in 2014, the count had climbed to 1,931. But it has steadily fallen since then as oil prices plunged. The rig count is seen as an important indicator of the strength and stability of energy prices and the health of the oil and gas industry.


Ford establishing subsidiary to invest in new mobility

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. said Friday that it is establishing a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary to build and invest in new mobility options like car-sharing and ride-hailing services.

Ford Smart Mobility LLC will be chaired by former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett, who has been a member of Ford's board since 2013. Hackett resigned his board seat Friday to lead the new company. Ford Smart Mobility plans to name a CEO in the near future.

The company will operate in Palo Alto, California, and Ford's hometown of Dearborn, Michigan.


GM buys software company to speed autonomous car development

DETROIT (AP) — With hopes of speeding development of self-driving cars, General Motors has acquired a small software company that's been testing vehicles on the streets of San Francisco.

The Detroit automaker says it purchased Cruise Automation, a 40-person firm that was founded just three years ago.

The move, coupled with GM's in-house research, should help the company in its race with Google and others to have autonomous cars start transporting people on public roadways.

GM wouldn't give a timetable for rolling out the technology, but said it would happen as soon as the company can demonstrate that the cars are ready.


ACA co-ops lose millions in 2015; some expect 2016 profits

The Affordable Care Act's health insurance co-ops absorbed deep financial losses last year, and 2016 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for these nonprofit alternatives to traditional insurers.

Officially called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, these still-fledgling insurers were devised during the ACA's creation to inject competition into insurance markets. But they have struggled from the start to build a customer base from scratch and deal with higher-than-expected expenses, among other problems.

Heading into their third full year of operation, the co-ops are adding customers and improving their coverage, but they also face the end of some government programs designed to support insurers as they build business on the ACA's public insurance exchanges. They will have to determine soon whether their businesses can stand on their own and compete with more established carriers.


Obama addresses annual technology festival in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — President Barack Obama asked tech enthusiasts to use new tools and innovation to "tackle big problems in new ways."

Obama says activists and industry leaders need to keep looking for new ways to partner with government to bring in new ideas. He is urging activists to use technology to increase voter registration and turnout.

Obama spoke at South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. He is the first sitting U.S. president to attend the tech festival.


SEC accuses Oregon firm of running Ponzi scheme

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has sued an Oregon company and its top executives on accusations they operated a $350 million Ponzi scheme.

The SEC says executives from Aequitas Capital Management told clients they were using their money for investment purposes but executives instead used the money to fund their lucrative salaries, repay prior investors and pay expenses, including a private jet and golf outings.

The suit filed Thursday in Portland comes a month after Aequitas announced layoffs and hired a consulting firm to wind-down the business.


FDA expands use of Pfizer drug for rare form of lung cancer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration expanded approval of a Pfizer drug to treat a small subset of lung cancer patients with a rare mutation.

The agency said Friday that Xalkori capsules are now approved for patients with the ROS-1 gene mutation, who make up about 1 percent of U.S. patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.

The twice-a-day drug is part of a new generation of medications that fight disease by targeting specific genes found in certain patients.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 218.18 points, or 1.3 percent, to 17,213.31. The S&P 500 gained 32.62 points, or 1.6 percent, to 2,022.19. The Nasdaq composite climbed 86.31 points, or 1.9 percent, to 4,748.47.

U.S. crude added 66 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $38.50 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 34 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $40.39 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 0.5 cents to $1.444 a gallon, heating oil rose 0.2 cents to $1.218 a gallon and natural gas gained 3.4 cents to $1.822 per 1,000 cubic feet.