Economy & Business

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

After Decades Of Decline And Disrepair, Conneaut Lake Park Is Turning A Profit

Aug 14, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

Conneaut Lake Park Manager Matthew Briggs uses words like "wonderful" and "incredible" to describe the Crawford County park's season so far this summer.

With 24,382 ride, water park and combination wristbands sold through the first half of the season, through July 10, sales are up 51 percent from the same time in 2016. And sales then were up from 2015.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania's largest health system, says it has reached a deal to acquire Pinnacle HealthSystem of Harrisburg.

It's expected to be completed Sept. 1 if it meets regulatory approval.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the two health systems have been working on the deal since March.

Gas Severance Tax Won't Have Big Impact On Pennsylvania, Says Research Group

Aug 10, 2017
Tim Lambert / WITF

A natural gas severance tax has been a hot-button issue in Harrisburg for nearly a decade, but the plan recently approved by the state Senate is unlikely to have a major impact–  either in terms of government revenue, or drilling company investment decisions, according to research from the nonpartisan environmental economic think tank, Resources for the Future.

Kathleen J. Davis

A $600,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will be used to help clean up some of Pittsburgh’s forgotten former industrial sites.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle accepted the grant Friday the Foundry in Lawrenceville, a luxury apartment complex built on the site of a former brownfield site.

The money will help officials clean up the old sites, which can sometimes contain hazardous material and prevent future development. The Foundry’s site was cleaned up with the help of a previous EPA grant.

90.5 WESA
Kathleen J. Davis

VisitPITTSBURGH predicts the Steel City's upcoming event and conference schedule should pump millions of dollars into the local economy in the coming year. 

The tourism nonprofit announced their fall lineup Thursday at the Marriott City Center.

The lineup has a variety of events, including the Pittsburgh Irish Festival Sept. 8-10, Doors Open Pittsburgh Oct. 7-8 and the PNC Broadway series, which opens October 17. There are also holiday-themed events planned like ScareHouse and A Very Pittsburgh Christmas. 

Elise Amendola / AP

A franchise that already controlled two Coca-Cola bottlers in Pennsylvania has snapped up 11 more in the state and West Virginia.

The Erie Times-News reports Abarta Coca-Cola Beverages, of Pittsburgh, has bought Erie's Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Abarta plans to keep all 104 workers there, which supplies Erie, Crawford, Forest, McKean, Potter and Warren counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Gene J. Puskar / AP, File

GE Transportation plans to end most locomotive production at its century-old plant in northwestern Pennsylvania, eliminating about 575 jobs.

GoErie.com reports the work is being transferred by the end of 2018 to Fort Worth, Texas, where workers aren't union members.

The Lawrence Park Township plant, just outside Erie, currently employs more than 2,5f00 workers. Locomotive prototypes will still be produced there.

Richard Simpson, a GE Transportation executive, says the company has to put work at its most competitive location, which doesn't include Erie.

perzsonseo.com / Flickr

The way people buy things—both in Pennsylvania, and around the country—is changing.

Online shopping is on the rise, and sales in physical stores have correspondingly declined. But what hasn’t changed much in Pennsylvania is how it taxes sales. And that’s losing the commonwealth money.

Pennsylvania ended the last fiscal year with revenue from its 6 percent tax around 2 percent below projections—a blow that contributed to its substantial budget shortfall.

Kathy Willens / AP

A major toy manufacturer plans to hire about 400 new workers to staff a new distribution center in eastern Pennsylvania.

Mattel has opened the 1 million-square-foot center in the Gateway Logistics Park area of Jonestown.

The company will package popular toys including Barbie and Hot Wheels brands at the center, which will also handle Mega Brands and, eventually, Fisher-Price. The company says the center will employ as many as 400 during peak season.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate remained the same in June, as payrolls crept higher.

The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 5 percent last month, the same as in May. The national rate was 4.4 percent in June.

The household survey found that the civilian labor force, employment and unemployment were all relative stable last month.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, one of the worst deals the U.S. has made. But the head of the country’s largest industrial union isn’t convinced his administration is doing enough to renegotiate the terms.

LM Otero, AP File

A new initiative aims to better prepare unemployed immigrants in Allegheny County for the American workforce.

Personseo / flickr

Nearly 53,000 businesses in the Pittsburgh region are owned by women, according to recent federal data, and one local organization hopes to continue to bolster female entrepreneurship. 

Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship is opening a new 3,000-square-foot hub with four new informational classes.

The Annual Performance Review Gets A Reboot

Jul 13, 2017
Erika Beras

As a lawyer at a big firm and other companies, Chris Arnold remembers those nights before his annual performance reviews well, if reluctantly.

“Night sweats. Shakes. Terror,” he said. “It was a lot of anxiety.”

That’s because Arnold didn’t know what to expect. Would he get a raise, make partner or be greeted with a nasty surprise? Turns out that type of backward-looking assessment of someone’s performance didn’t work so well for companies either.

Alex Popichak / 90.5 WESA

In 1892, the country’s largest trade union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, took on the world’s largest manufacturing firm, the Carnegie Steel Corporation. Carnegie’s plant manager Henry Clay Frick increased production demands, but refused to increase wages. Frick eventually locked workers out of the facility spurring a strike.

Only about a fifth of the workers at the Homestead Works Steel Mill were skilled workers represented by the union. But the nearly 3,000 workers agreed to strike for better wages and working conditions.

PA Gearing Up For Automated Medical Marijuana Grows

Jul 6, 2017
Franklin Labs, LLC

Pennsylvania is barreling towards a high tech medical cannabis industry, driven by automation, aeroponics and a lot of start-up capital.

Passed in April 2016, the law instituting the state's medical marijuana program puts growing a new industry from scratch on a tight timeline. The first dispensaries are slated to sell prescription cannabinoid oils, sprays and creams by early 2018, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

whitneybee / Flickr

Authorities say more than 100,000 chickens died in a fire that destroyed a barn at a commercial egg farm in Tyrone Township.

The blaze at Hillandale Farms was reported around 5:45 a.m. Saturday. Tyrone is about 29 miles southwest of Harrisburg.

A Heidlersburg Fire Company captain said flames were visible above the roof of the 600-foot barn by the time fire crews arrived.

Firefighters concentrated on keeping the blaze from spreading to other buildings. Three first responders were treated at the scene, two for dehydration and one for a laceration.

Bill Gardner / 90.5 WESA

The language on the controversial black and yellow Sprint advertisement that blankets part of Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington has been changed, amid legal battles over the sign’s permit.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

An independent bookstore chain in Pittsburgh is opening its third location on the South Side this week.

Amazing Books owner Eric Ackland still has quite a few bookshelves to fill. The 4,600-square-foot space on East Carson Street is about five times larger than his Downtown and Squirrel Hill locations.

“Most people assume a third store is evidence of great success,” he said. “In our case, thank God we’re seeking it out, but we need to thrive and we need a location to grow into.”

Mike Mozart / Flickr

UberEATS and McDonald's are beginning food delivery from 44 of the fast-food chain's Pittsburgh-area restaurants.

The companies ran a pilot program testing the McDonald's home deliveries at more than 200 Florida restaurants in January and have since expanded to other areas including Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and Columbus Ohio.

Uber CEO Kalanick Resigns Under Investor Pressure

Jun 21, 2017
Evan Agostini/Invision / AP, File

Travis Kalanick, the combative and embattled CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber, has resigned under pressure from investors at a pivotal time for the company.

Uber's board confirmed the move early Wednesday, saying in a statement that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident "while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber's history." He will remain on the Uber Technologies Inc. board.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Zoning, permitting, licensing and inspections aren't necessarily the stuff entrepreneurs dream of as they begin to plan their business. Navigating all the steps of setting up shop can be confusing, said Henry Pyatt, Pittsburgh’s small business and neighborhood redevelopment manager.

“For most business owners, you only ever have to do it once in your life,” he said. So, “nobody ever gets good at it, because you only do it once and you never practice and you never do it again.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The number of people unemployed in Pennsylvania is up slightly over the past month, increasing by 8,000.

The state Labor and Industry Department issued seasonally adjusted data Friday showing the Pennsylvania's jobless rate rose one tenth of a percentage point to 5 percent in May, up from 4.9 percent in April.

It's the second month in a row the figure has increased. The national rate is 4.3 percent, down by one tenth of a point from the prior month.

PIZW / Flickr

The bright purple airplane landing at PIT on Friday inaugurates year-round, nonstop service to Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s just one of several new destinations added to the airport this year.

While Pittsburgh will never be the hub it was throughout the 1990s, the goal is to make it really work for the region, said Alyson Walls, airport communications manager.

Zeevveez / Flickr

A contentious bill to prohibit municipalities from taxing or banning plastic bags has passed the legislature, and now faces a potential veto at the hands of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Several manufacturers of the plastic used for disposable shopping bags are based around Pennsylvania, and employ over a thousand people. The Republican sponsors of the bill say that’s the main reason they’re supporting it.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

A deal that is expected to grow the region’s biotech sector has been inked by established biotech firm Helomics and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

“We did a survey… and one of the things we recognized is the scientific community [in Pittsburgh] is missing an incubator where diagnostic people, pharmaceutical people and biotech people can get together,” Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse President and CEO James Jordan said.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Pennsylvania's state treasurer and auditor general are warning lawmakers that the state government's worsening long-term deficit may require it to borrow money from an outside lender to prop up routine budgeted operations.

Wednesday's letter to lawmakers says the state may need to borrow as much as $3 billion while its main bank account has a negative balance for eight months between July and next April.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh is taking steps to promote and grow the region's life sciences industry, which includes medical research, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and information technology.

Vice Chancellor for Economic Partnerships Rebecca Bagley said, despite being among the top five recipients of National Institutes of Health funding, the university has struggled to commercialize the technologies its researchers develop.

Keith Srakocic / AP

PPG Industries is retreating from its attempt to take over AkzoNobel after repeated refusals to negotiate by the Dutch chemicals company.

There has been an aggressive push to consolidate in the industry because of falling revenue and thin margins.

DuPont and Dow are attempting to complete a $62 billion merger. Swiss specialty chemicals maker Clariant and Huntsman Corp in Texas recently announced their intent to become a single company with a market value of almost $14 billion.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Airport Authority has handed out more than $2 million in grants to small airlines to entice them to expand service at Pittsburgh International and the head of the authority says more can be expected.

The largest of the grants was made a year ago to California-based OneJet, which since then has expanded service from its original two cities to a total of seven.

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