Economy & Business

Economy & Business news from 90.5 WESA.

The University of Pittsburgh is combining resources to spark innovation and increase support for entrepreneurial initiatives on and off campus.

Pitt Thursday launched the Innovation Institute, which consolidates the existing offices of Technology Management and Enterprise Development as well as the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Flickr user mknobil

The housing market in southwestern Pennsylvania continues to strengthen, according to numbers released by West Penn Multi-List.

In October, the number of residential homes placed under agreement increased 15.07 percent; new listings increased 8.69 percent, and average days on the market decreased 4.82 percent over the previous month.

Jerry Wong / flickr

Lost and stray animals are finding their way to better homes, according to a recent trend at animal shelters.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, fewer pets are landing in animal shelters and the number of euthanized dogs and cats has decreased. What has emerged is a trend toward adopting these unwanted animals, instead of going to a pet shop or breeder.

Three years after the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began divesting from companies taking part in “scrutinized activities” in Iran or Sudan, it has not resulted in a loss of investment revenue but rather a net gain.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development welcomed their new chair at the organization’s annual meeting Wednesday evening.

Morgan K. O’Brien, CEO of Peoples Natural Gas, chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and current vice chair of the conference, will take over as chair on Jan. 1, 2014.

O’Brien said he looks forward to continuing the mission of the conference to improve the quality of life in the greater Pittsburgh region.

START UP USA

Many Americans dream of owning their own business, but too often statistics and a fearful economy stop their progress- not Gary Bredow.

He started his own production company after quitting his desk job and he now hosts the public television program, START UP, where he talks with American entrepreneurs.

PA’s Got a Bad Debt Grade

Nov 1, 2013
images of money / flickr

According to a new report by the National Consumer Law Center, Pennsylvania gets a failing grade when it comes to protecting low-income families from debt collectors.

This is due, in part to outdated laws that have not been changed since the 19th century says Robert Hobbs, Deputy Director of the National Consumer Law Center who worked on the report.

Gas Prices At Lowest in Two Years

Nov 1, 2013
Flickr

Gas prices in Pittsburgh are lower than they’ve been since 2010. According to Gregg Laskoski, Senior Petroleum Analyst at GasBuddy.com, prices could stay low throughout the holiday season.

Right now gas in Pennsylvania is roughly $3.40, down from $3.70 just a couple years ago, reports Laskoski. He attributes the price drop to the changing of the seasons.

Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Senator has authored a bipartisan letter to the White House that he hopes will put money in the hands of needy families who need help heating their homes.

Sen. Bob Casey’s letter calls for the expedited release of heating assistance funds for seniors and low-income families through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.)  The Democrat said he has recruited 40 members of the Senate as co-signers calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to release the funds. 

PNC

While many Americans quickly moved on from October’s partial government shutdown and near-default, it seems the nation’s high net worth individuals are less ready to forget about it.

Getting your utility service shut off anytime can be a hardship, but a state lawmaker says having the plug pulled on a Friday can be even more problematic.

State Senator Michael Stack (D-Philadelphia) is proposing legislation to counter a House-passed measure that would permit utility companies to terminate service for delinquent customers on a Friday.

One of western Pennsylvania’s iconic businesses is back up and running in a permanent location.  The ribbon was cut today for the new Wendell August forge in Grove City Pennsylvania following a devastating fire in March of 2010.

Governor Tom Corbett was on hand for the event and heaped praise on the company’s tenacity. 

“You have shown great resolve and I want to thank you for that,” Corbett said. “Not only have you recovered from the fire of 2010 but I understand you are expanding.”

More than 700,000 international students enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2011-2012, up 31 percent over the last decade. Pennsylvania business and faith leaders met with members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation today to discuss immigration reform and how it can benefit the state.

When an agreement was reached to end the partial government shutdown, President Obama called on Congress to make immigration reform a top priority.

Rebecca Harris

Temporary art installations are all the rage—while they’re around. This past summer Pittsburgh has seen a host of exhibits including the “yarn-bombing” of the Andy Warhol Bridge and, of course, the Rubber Duck Project.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the economic impact of these visiting art projects.

Alberto D'Ottavi / flickr

Density, diversity, and networking. Author and Brookings Institute Vice President Bruce Katz says thoughtful utilization of these terms have helped Pittsburgh thrive after the shock of an economic recession. He credits the city’s comeback to civic-minded citizens and policy makers who understood the power of a diverse economy, a dense business district and an effective team of networking leaders. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

On a typical weekday in October about 70 visitors will wander in and out of the Fort Pitt Block House in Point State Park, since Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duck has been floating in the Allegheny River that number has grown by nearly 600 percent.

“It’s just been crazy,” said Block House curator Emily Weaver who has seen weekend visitation shoot through the roof.  “It’s been a lot like having the Three Rivers Regatta here every week.  It’s just been crazy.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A large crowd gathered outside of the Shop n’ Save in the Hill District on ribbon cutting day Thursday; many of the people have waited a long time for a full-service grocery store in the neighborhood and now they have one.

“This is not something that’s been a day or a week in waiting, or even a month or a year, this is something that’s been decades in the making and it’s finally come to fruition,” said Michael Jasper, chairman of the Hill House Association Board.

Looking at America’s economy today, Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich has pointed to the decline of unions as a contributor to the stagnation of American wages.

When unions are strong, is the economy strong?

Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center says job growth and America’s recovery from the great recession have been too slow. With the decline in unions over the past few decades, he says wages have been flattened and even declined since the recovery began.

Early Unions Collectively Bargained For Their Safety

Oct 16, 2013
U.S. Office of War Information / wikipedia

America’s earliest unions of the 19th century were connected to craft and trade guilds. But with factory workers facing terrible working conditions such as 12+ hour work days, and 7 day work weeks in cramped, dangerous spaces, their only choice was to come together to collectively bargain for their safety.

When Crystal Eastman, Co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union visited Pittsburgh in the 1920’s, she reported 526 industrial related deaths in Allegheny County within one year.

According to Dr. Charles McCollester, a former professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and author of The Point of Pittsburgh, about 3,000 mining industry workers died each year, between 1890 and 1920.

The Future State of the Unions

Oct 16, 2013
White House Photo, PD / wikipedia

In recent decades, America has seen a sharp decline in union membership. In the 1950’s, 35 percent of American workers were members of a union, today that number is down to 11 percent.

According to labor author, commentator and speaker Philip Dine, President Reagan’s crackdown on unions in the 1980’s demonstrated that the old rules of collective bargaining no longer applied.

While Senate leaders were announcing details of a last-minute agreement Wednesday to avert a threatened Treasury default and reopen the government after 16-day partial shutdown, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was saying the deal is just a starting point.

Casey said he is pleased that the proposal called for the Treasury to have authority to continue borrowing through Feb. 7, and the government would be open through Jan. 15, but he would prefer that the deadline be pushed back through the end of 2014 as had been included in an earlier proposal. 

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Fear and fright have become big business.  Young “hauntreprenuers” thrive during the Halloween season by enticing thrill-seekers to commercial Haunted Houses and families to Halloween attractions

Business contributor Rebecca Harris says the Halloween attraction industry appeals to 18-34 year olds looking for a fright and the big corporation looking to grab the young market.

Gasoline prices fell this week three cents compared to last week to land at $3.45 a gallon and the price could slip as low as $3.10 by Christmas, according to AAA East Central Senior Vice President Bevi Powel. 

Last year at this time the price stood at $3.89.

Powel links the slide in prices to a trio of key factors, saying “Winter blends of gasoline are little bit cheaper to manufacture, demand is always a little bit lower after the summer driving season, and we have not had one hurricane effect the production in recent months.”

glindsay65 / Flickr

Pittsburgh may be known as the city of bridges, but it also holds many different conventions.

The reason for the popularity of Pittsburgh for conventions comes down to accessibility, maximum capacity, pricing, availability, and external attractions according to business contributor Rebecca Harris.

Good news for Pittsburghers: more people are joining the workforce and they’re getting paid more.

At a 1.3 percent growth, Pittsburgh had the second highest increase of weekly wages compared to the same quarter last year, only behind Cincinnati, which had a 1.4 percent growth.

This is according to Pittsburgh Today, a regional analytical organization that compares the city to 14 benchmark areas around the country with categories ranging from arts and environment to government and economy.

The Pittsburgh Foundation was taking donations for local nonprofit organizations Thursday down to the last second — literally.

More than $5.8 million was donated to about 700 nonprofits as part of the Day of Giving, down roughly 18 percent from last year.

The annual event, now in its fifth year, tries to highlight the region’s charitable initiatives.

The National Labor Relations Board has filed another complaint against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, claiming four workers have been fired for union activity.

UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps says, "The NLRB has not determined that UPMC has violated any labor laws and any representation that a violation has been found is false." She says the hospital network, which dominates western Pennsylvania, is looking forward to presenting its side.

The “buy local” movement gets a lot of attention for efforts to get communities to shop locally and buy local food, but buying local can also extend to industry. That’s the message of the second annual Buy Pittsburgh First Expo.

A room full of politicians, entrepreneurs and robots - this was the scene Thursday at the Innovation Works AlphaLab as Governor Tom Corbett announced the launch of Innovate in PA.

With the program, the commonwealth will auction $100 million in deferred tax credits to insurance companies.

These companies will then use the credits to raise funds that will go towards start up technology-related businesses - the Ben Franklin Technology Development Partners, three Life Sciences Greenhouses and the Venture Capital Investment program.

Increase In Pennsylvania’s Poverty Rate

Sep 23, 2013
marsmettnn / flickr

Despite being below the national average of 15 percent, the Census Bureau recently reported a slight increase in Pennsylvania’s Poverty rate. Up from 13.8 in 2012 to 13.9 in 2013, almost 1.8 million Pennsylvanians are considered to be living below the poverty line.

A tenth of a percent may seem paltry but a retrospective look at the past twelve years determines a full 3 percent increase. Associated Press reporter Kevin Begos believes that the economy just isn’t growing the way people hoped it would. There simply aren’t enough jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people looking to support themselves and their families.

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