Economy & Business

90.5 WESA explores the regional economy, as well as covering the issues that ordinary Pittsburghers face in their working lives.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

The same sectors that caused the economy to lag in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2016 could be the sectors that keep the region on pace with the national economy in 2017.

PNC Financial Services Group Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman said though the region saw growth in technology, health care and financial services jobs, other industries saw losses and the region trailed behind national trends.   

“We lost jobs, obviously, in the energy sector,” he said. Additionally, local unemployment rates rose from 5 to 6 percent in 2016, he said.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is staking its claim to more than $23 million in federal funding that Verizon turned down to expand high-speed internet service to rural customers in the state.

The Federal Communication Commission's Connect America Fund provides funding to telecommunications providers to build new network infrastructure or upgrade existing broadband networks in regions that lack it. Companies that take the money must agree to offer fast internet speeds as well as meet other targets.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is a pretty good place to talk about why reliable infrastructure matters, said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Matt Rourke / AP

As the state legislature and governor contend with a mounting structural state deficit of more than two billion dollars, the topic of government spending—and the need to make it more efficient—has become inescapable around the Capitol.

Katie Meyer / WITF

The state Department of Banking and Securities has issued a progress report on a year-old program intended to educate Pennsylvanians about financial risks and management.

Katie Meyer / WITF

More than 500 people employed at three of Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation offices are losing their jobs right before Christmas.

The reason was political, and has erupted into a partisan battle.

But behind the scenes at the Altoona, Lancaster, and Allentown UC centers, the furloughed employees and state officials are working make sense of the situation.

The news of the layoffs came November 16th, after the GOP-led Senate declined to vote on a funding bill that had been supported by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania Seeks Safer Ways To Buy And Sell Online

Dec 13, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

Allentown’s Mayor Ed Pawlowski and Police Chief Keith Morris announced recently that people who are engaging in internet-based sales and purchases can now conduct their transactions at a designated parking spot in front of the police patrol station at 10th & Hamilton Street. The idea is to provide a place where people can buy or sell items with a heightened level of safety.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

 

 

The Supreme Court is upholding the broad reach of a federal law prohibiting bank fraud.

The unanimous ruling on Monday came in the case of a California man who illegally siphoned about $307,000 out of a Taiwanese businessman's Bank of America bank account.

Justice Stephen Breyer rejected Lawrence Shaw's claim that the law applies only when a defendant intends to cheat the bank itself — not a bank customer. Breyer said the bank has property interests in the customer's account and that Shaw misled the bank to steal the customer's money.

PPG Industries

 

 

Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries will cut its workforce by about 1,700 jobs, or about 3.6 percent of its 47,000 workers worldwide, company officials said Friday.

Spokesman Mark Silvey said the cuts will be spread across all geographic regions so there "is expected to be minimal overall impact to any specific region."

PPG is a Fortune 500 company founded in Pittsburgh in 1883 by John Pitcairn Jr. and John Baptiste Ford. Once known for plate glass production, they're now a global supplier of paints and specialty coatings in more than 70 countries.

Ryan Loew / for Keystone Crossroads

 

Deckhands Jeremy Groves and Dustin Frazee  descend from the towboat D.L. Johnson to inspect their cargo: a single barge of coal. They circle the barge, walking along its edges — the gunnels — to make sure everything looks okay. 

Virginia State Parks / Flickr

 

Pennsylvania counties and municipalities mishandled millions of dollars meant to offset the negative effects of the Marcellus Shale gas boom, according to a report published Tuesday by the state Auditor General.

DA's Office Among 500K Hit By International Cybercrime Group

Dec 5, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

 

A state prosecutor's office in Pennsylvania was among hundreds of thousands of victims of a now-shuttered international cybercrime operation, paying nearly $1,400 in a bitcoin ransom to free up its infected computer network, authorities disclosed Monday.

US Census Bureau / Pittsburgh Today

The most recent data from the U.S Census Bureau show that while poverty in the Pittsburgh region dropped in 2015, it’s still higher than it was before the recession.

In 2015, 12.3 percent of those living in the Pittsburgh region had an income below the poverty level of $24,300 for a family of four. That’s down from the post-recession high in 2013 of 12.8 percent, but higher than it was when the regional benchmarking group Pittsburgh Today started tracking the number in 2005.

Keith Srakocic / AP

 

 

Going back to school is starting to look a lot different. 

Ninety-six percent of students at Pennsylvania College of Technology entertain job offers in their final semester. It's an enviable statistic, one that the college is very proud of, said Tracy Brundage, vice president of workforce development and continuing education. 

“Our tagline is ‘degrees that work,’” she said.

But employer interest isn't limited to graduates of the Penn State affiliate's two- and four-year degree programs.  

Mike McCune / flickr

Retailers will rake in millions of dollars today as the Christmas shopping season officially begins.  However, Black Friday is not what it used to be.

“Black Friday has really lost its luster in a sense," said Audrey Guskey, a marketing professor at Duquesne University.  "Cyber Monday is the shining star for Christmas this year.”

Brett VA / Flickr

Hundreds of independent Pittsburgh businesses will participate in this year’s Small Business Saturday initiative. Created by American Express in 2010, the day seeks to draw attention to the importance of shopping at locally-owned stores during the holiday season and all year long.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Layoff notices are going out to more than 500 Pennsylvania state employees because of a dispute over additional state funding for unemployment compensation services.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said roughly 520 employees will have received the notices by Tuesday.

The employees' last day on the job will be Dec. 19, when the Wolf administration plans to close unemployment compensation service centers in Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster.

Richard Drew / AP

While stock markets initially dropped overnight after it became clear that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, they recovered throughout the day on Wednesday. Those fluctuations support the view of one Pittsburgh economist, who says we should take a “wait and see” approach to the economy.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Three years ago, Joel Johnson was thinking about getting out of contracting for a “more rewarding career,” but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. After a discussion with his brother Justin, they decided to focus on 3-D production.

They noticed that when it came to 3-D production tools, there was a gap between the stuff a weekend crafter would use and the machines a manufacturer would use.

Bon Secours

UPMC is continuing its overseas growth with an announcement this month that it's opening a second cancer center in Ireland. The health care provider opened the Whitfield Cancer Center in Waterford, Ireland 10 years ago. The second effort will be a joint venture with Bon Secours in Cork, Ireland.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A team of graphic designers and marketing consultants are working their way through five neighborhoods to help local entrepreneurs.

The group Up To Know Good is spending its third year setting up pop-up storefronts in less-affluent neighborhoods. This week Up To, as its known for short, will pop up in the North Side and the Hill District the following week. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Hazelwood’s Almono site has its first a street – well, kind of.

Developers of the environmentally contaminated site, which is planned to become a hub for new housing, young workers and tech businesses, just got the money needed to finish its first infrastructure project. The three foundations that own the site, the Heinz Endowment, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation received a $9.5 million loan needed to finish the site’s first completed street.

T-Mobile Fined $48M Over Slowing 'Unlimited' Data Plans

Oct 19, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

T-Mobile, the country's No. 3 wireless carrier, will pay $48 million for not clearly telling customers how "unlimited" data plans weren't really, well, unlimited.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that T-Mobile had a policy to slow down the speeds of customers who were the heaviest data users. But the company didn't let customers know how much data used would trigger the lower speed.

The FCC says T-Mobile started doing a better job with disclosures in June 2015.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

About 15 years ago, most chambers of commerce would likely say cutting edge corporate research was happening in suburban business parks, according to Bruce Katz, a centennial scholar at the Brookings Institution.

But that same research today is more often happening in urban locations.

Katz called those new urban research cores “innovation districts.”

A collection of mayors from across the country stopped in Pittsburgh Monday to explore ways to grow their own innovation districts using the Steel City as a model.  

PA Towns Fear Financial Devastation After Top Court Decision Cutting Casino Tax Revenue

Oct 10, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt a bad hand to communities that host casinos.

Municipalities including Chester City, Bensalem Township and Erie County stand to lose millions in revenue after part of the state's gambling code was declared unconstitutional on Wednesday.

Mount Airy, LLC, a small casino in Mount Pocono, sued the state Department of Revenue, arguing that the gambling code's "local share assessment" provision unfairly burdened some casinos.

Lawmakers On Spot To Revive Intensely Political Casino Tax

Oct 2, 2016
Cliff / Flickr

Pennsylvania lawmakers are on the spot to revive intensely political provisions for local governments and institutions to share casino revenue.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says the Legislature could vote as early as October to pass a new revenue formula that's designed to pass constitutional muster.

But the Allegheny County Democrat says it'll surely take longer and become more complicated if lawmakers widen their focus to include an expansion of casino gambling or to change the distribution of the local casino revenue.

How The Steel Industry Uses Billions Of Gallons Of Pennsylvania Water

Sep 30, 2016
Sarah Collins / PublicSource

Atop a forested hill in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, the smells of cooked coal and hot steel blend over the molten glow of a blacksmith forge.

That’s the work station for blacksmith Dennis Gilkey, a wiry 66-year-old with neatly cropped white hair and a bushy mustache. He was a farrier for 25 years, the work that coiled his fingers with arthritis. Gilkey began learning the blacksmith trade in 2001. It is less taxing on his body than shoeing horses, he says.

Andy Boenau / Flickr

 

More than in any other major Pennsylvania city, Pittsburgh’s young adults are living on their own instead of moving in with mom and dad.

Pittsburgh ranked 13th out of America’s 600 largest cities for the percentage of young adults aged 18 to 34 living alone, according to new data released Thursday in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 1-year American Community Survey. Pittsburgh also ranked 45th in terms of the percentage of young adults living with roommates.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review will produce its last print edition and become a free, digital-only publication, the paper’s parent company announced Wednesday.

Print operations will cease Nov. 30. The company's Pittsburgh newsroom will continue publication online from its North Shore offices led by senior editors Luis Fabregas, Jeremy Boren and Rob Amen.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

 

A federal appeals court has reversed an earlier ruling clearing the way for a proposed merger between PinnacleHealth System and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction sought by the Federal Trade Commission and Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

Hershey and Pinnacle said in a joint statement Tuesday that they were disappointed and would carefully review the decision.

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