Economy & Business

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

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Gisele Fetterman, founder of 412 Food Rescue and Braddock’s free store, and wife of Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, was an undocumented immigrant for 10 years. She said she lived in New York City with her mother and her brother and dreamed of becoming a citizen one day.

The thing she looked forward to most? Jury duty.

Fetterman shared her immigration story Tuesday evening at an event she and her husband hosted at their home, meant to highlight the economic contributions of immigrants in the Pittsburgh region.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Ketchup maker and packaged food giant Kraft Heinz has withdrawn a $143 billion offer to buy Unilever, backing away after the mayonnaise, tea and seasonings maker rejected the bid as too low.

The companies announced the decision Sunday in a joint press release, saying that Kraft Heinz has "amicably" abandoned the offer.

The deal would have combined Kraft Heinz brands such as Oscar Mayer, Jell-O and Velveeta with Unilever's Hellman's, Lipton and Knorr. The merged company would have rivaled Nestle as the world's biggest packaged food maker by sales.

Schell Games

The video game industry brought in $79 million in revenue in Pennsylvania in 2015, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

Employment grew at a rate of nearly 5 percent that year and the industry directly and indirectly supported 1,200 Pennsylvania jobs at game developers, publishers and retail outlets.

A new report from the ESA, titled “Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2017 Report,” details growth in the industry nationwide.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

When Alhena Torres turns on her car, a gentle rumble of pop music spills out of the speakers. She used to listen to the news while she drove, but after the first few weeks of the new administration in Washington, she says music has felt like a better option.

“Sometimes I’m just sad and disappointed,” she said, pulling up Google maps on her phone and plugging in an address.

Torres drives all around Pittsburgh for work, a cleaning business she started in 2015.

“I like organizing and fixing things,” she laughed.

What's Next For Boscov's After Retail Titan's Death

Feb 14, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

Albert Boscov was the public face of a department store chain he built from a single corner store in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, to a regional powerhouse with locations in seven states and more than $1 billion in annual sales.

After his death Friday at age 87, Boscov leaves behind a chain with devoted customers and a tremendous amount of civic goodwill. But the century-old company still faces the headwinds that are buffeting the industry. Analysts say Boscov's long-term prospects are uncertain.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A new partnership between Carnegie Mellon University and one of the world’s largest business service firms could eventually result in smarter computer aided accounting.

Amy Scott

In a lab at Reading Area Community College, 18-year-old Benjamin Eckenrode stands in front of a blue wall rigged with pistons, pumps and gauges. It’s a pneumatic troubleshooting system, designed to teach students how to identify and solve problems with manufacturing equipment.

“This piston is supposed to go down and actually pick up a ball, but it is not,” he said.

Eckenrode’s assignment is to figure out why the piston isn’t moving. The high school senior is taking this college class as part of a program to prepare more young people for careers in the technical trades.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Pittsburgh workers’ groups delivered petitions to Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey Monday, asking him to oppose the nomination of President Trump’s nominee for labor secretary.

Last week, Andy Puzder’s confirmation hearing was delayed for the third time, while he completes the required ethics paperwork.

AP

Pittsburgh's tallest building is for sale, and the U.S. Steel Tower could go for a sky-high price.

Real Estate Alert, a trade publication that first reported the listing, says the 64-story, triangular office building could fetch $350 million. The current owner, 601W Cos., a New York holding company, paid $250 million for the building in 2011.

The owners have spent $60 million upgrading the building and boast two major tenants, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has corporate offices there, and U.S. Steel.

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. 

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