Economy & Business

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

Robots Are Big Business in the Burgh

Sep 23, 2014
oomlaut / Flickr

In a November 1999 article the Wall Street Journal dubbed Pittsburgh “Robo-burgh.” The city is one of a handful of locations in the U.S. leading in the development of robotics technology. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of robotics.

How to Negotiate That Raise

Sep 23, 2014
Jen R / Flickr

Conversations about money are never easy. They’re especially difficult in the workplace when it comes to negotiating your salary. This month independent career consultant Sasha King guides us through the dos and don’ts of salary negotiation.

A state lawmaker says Pennsylvania regulators are coming up short when it comes to enforcing a 2010 state law intended to target companies that misclassify their workers as independent contractors.

State Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) said there is room in the economy for independent contractors, but, “there is obvious abuse of the classification which denies employees rights, benefits and protections accorded under labor laws.”

Median household income in the Pittsburgh metro was up in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

“For Pittsburgh, we see that the 2013 median household income was just over $51,000, the poverty rate was 12.8 percent and a little over 7 percent of the people in the metro area did not have health coverage,” said Ed Welniak, chief of the Income and Statistics Branch of the Census Bureau.

Casino Report Details Minority, Female Hiring

Sep 18, 2014

Of the nearly 20,000 employees at the ten casinos and two resort casinos in Pennsylvania, 44 percent are female and 31 percent are racial minorities, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

The percentage of women employees is approximately 2 percent greater than the previous year, while the percentage of minority workers is about the same.  At the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh 40 percent of its 1,774 workers are women, 26 percent are minorities.   

A business incubator in Pittsburgh has landed a nearly $1 million grant to help attract new investors. 

The $800,000 federal grant was awarded to Innovation Works to support its fairly successful AlphaLab program.

AlphaLab brings early-stage businesses into its workspace on the South Side where it provides the entrepreneurs with a small cash investment, goal-specific education, key mentorship opportunities, and an entrée into the Pittsburgh high-tech community.

How to Encourage Women in Bio Sciences?

Sep 16, 2014
Women in Bio--Pittsburgh

Next week Pittsburgh’s Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs Rally (P.O.W.E.R.) will host a conference promoting leadership for women in life sciences. Susan Catalano, chapter chair of Women in Bio Pittsburgh, and Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, talk about the economic breakthroughs that are being made by women in these fields.

Viral Story Sparks Questions on Employment Law

Sep 15, 2014

The revelation of her cancer diagnosis has resulted in a Hopewell woman being laid off by her employer, a Beaver County oral surgeon. She was informed of her layoff via a letter which has been posted online and gone viral. We’ll address the employment issues this situation raises with attorney Allison Feldstein.

Flickr user Stephen Grebinski

If you work in one of Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods, there’s about a 50-50 chance that you work in health care or social assistance industries.

But chances are, if you work in the East End, you don’t actually live there. And if you live there, you probably don’t work there.

From 1990 to 2012, the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in America tripled from 577,000 to more than 2.0 million, and to address the growing population a new accelerator program at Duquesne University will focus on minority entrepreneurs.  

“Really what an accelerator means is that, you’re going to intervene and offer services that are really going to… accelerate the growth of that business, beyond what they might be able to do alone,” said SBDC Director Mary McKinney.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh Thursday voted to terminate a contract with the Buncher Company for possible redevelopment of the Produce Terminal in the Strip District. The URA then voted to negotiate with two separate entities over the next 90 days about possible development.

One of those is McCaffery Interests of Chicago.

90.5 WESA

This week WESA and the Allegheny Front are airing a special series on hydraulic fracturing and state politics – specifically the money spent on lobbying.

We’ll speak with Allegheny Front reporter Reid Frazier and WESA Morning Edition Host Josh Raulerson whose investigation looks at the influence this money is having on Pennsylvania’s oversight of the natural gas boom.

The Pittsburgh Penguins say they should be able to begin developing the 28 acres that once held the Civic Arena in the next six to nine months thanks to a deal that city leaders believe will positively impact the entire Hill District and Uptown.

Discussing the State of Working Pennsylvania

Sep 3, 2014

Good news for the commonwealth: recent statistics have shown an increase in job growth and a decrease in the unemployment rate. However, according to a recent report from the Keystone Research Center, Pennsylvania falls below other states when it comes to job growth.

A Closer Look into Pittsburgh's Bad Driver Rankings

Sep 2, 2014
Ik's World Trip / Flickr

In a report issued by Allstate Insurance company ranking the nation’s 200 largest cities for driver safety Pittsburgh came in at 187. Is there money to made from this ranking and if so by whom? Contributor Rebecca Harris will answer those questions in this week’s business segment.

Flickr user el Neato

Exactly one month after McCandless Town Council approved a plan to construct a 150,000 square foot Walmart Super Center off McKnight Road, a group of 15 residents has filed an appeal to that decision with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

The appeal, filed Thursday, seeks to overturn the development’s approval on the grounds that the public was not able to review the plan before Town Council took a vote, according to attorney Dwight Ferguson.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A recent decision by the International Trade Commission regarding South Korean steel tubes may have an effect here in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The ITC voted recently to impose duties on steel pipes and tubes from South Korea and five other countries, which were found to be “dumping” their products into the U.S. market.

“Dumping” refers to the practice of selling a product in another country for less than it is sold in the country where it is manufactured. It also includes the practice of selling a product for less than it cost to make.

Pennsylvania is doing slightly below average when it comes to economic performance. That's according to left-leaning policy group Keystone Research Center, based in Harrisburg. Center economist Stephen Herzenberg noted that job growth, thus far in 2014, is better than 2013.

Cyberattacks Under Investigation

Aug 28, 2014
Margaret Philbin

U. S. Attorney David Hickton’s interest in cyber crimes is getting noticed by the Justice Department. Hickton and his team have investigated the Pitt bombing threats and the PNC denial of service attacks. Their recent work has resulted in the indictment of Chinese military hackers. David Hickton joins us to explain why the Western PA Attorney’s office could be a model for cyber crime units across the country.

With new reports of cyber crimes targeting JP Morgan Chase and other financial institutions, Hickton talks about how we can protect ourselves from hacking.

David Brossard / Flickr

In an increasingly global job market how do you attract and maintain the best talent? What if that talent isn't local but global? 

Those were some of the questions posed at the Governor's Jobs 1st Summit held here in Pittsburgh.

Immigration attorney and former U.S. diplomat Kamana Mathur joins us to discuss the challenges employers face in attaining and keeping talent from around the world.

The Business of School Lunches

Aug 26, 2014
Lance Cheung/USDA / Flickr

Whether they brown bag it or purchase the cafeteria offering, lunch can be one of the most important parts of a student’s day. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of school lunches.

Bob Mrvos jokes you could golf in the corridors of The Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal – it's just so empty.

"My wife and I were on vacation and flew into LAX and stayed there for a couple weeks and we came back through Chicago," he said. "You walk through those airports and you can barely get through the hallway there’s so many people. And when you land in Pittsburgh, it's like the airports closed."

The Natrona Bottling Tradition

Aug 20, 2014
Marcus Charleston / WESA

Whether it’s called soda or pop, consumers can’t get enough of the sweet, carbonated beverage. Here in Pittsburgh the Natrona Bottling Company has been making its brand of specialty beverages for quite some time. In fact, this year marks the company’s 110th anniversary. Vito Gerasole, the “Sultan of Soda,” explains that Natrona’s dedication to product -- rather than profit -- is what makes its drinks so distinctive. For instance, Natrona still puts its sodas in glass bottles, and it uses real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

“Basically, we want to give you a good quality product that was produced 110 years ago. Our machinery is 70 years old. … No other soda producer uses this style of carbonation. … This is our defining factor.”

The Business of Buying Into a Franchise

Aug 19, 2014
Mike Mozart / Flickr

Can you be an entrepreneur if you buy into a franchise? What should you know if you’re considering opening one? Contributor Rebecca Harris answers those questions this week as she looks at the business of franchises.

How does one even begin to buy into a franchise? Harris has some advice.

Youth employment has been on a decreasing trend since 2000 and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (3RWIB) believes that educators and employers could work to get young people more engaged.

The number of 16-24-year-olds who work summer jobs in the region has decreased by 55 percent, and the level of youth employment overall has decreased by 39 percent in the past 14 years. Also, one of eight young people in the region does not work or go to school.

Pennsylvania's jobless rate is up slightly but remains better than the national figure. The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday the seasonally adjusted rate last month was 5.7 percent, up one tenth of a percentage point from June.

“There’s nothing to be alarmed about,” said Sara Goulet, a department spokeswoman. “It’s a very, very small uptick and we do see those periodically. It’s the natural ebb and flow of the employment situation.”

The U.S. rate is currently 6.2 percent.

Gov. Tom Corbett announced Thursday that the state is investing $7 million to turn a 195-acre brownfield site at Pittsburgh International Airport into an international trade hub.

The site, which is federally-designated for international trade, is expected to include 1 million square feet of office space, 90,000 square feet of research and development space and a 400-room hotel and convention center.

The “Pittsburgh International Airport World Trade Center” is expected to bring more than $200 million in private investment, as well as create 7,000 jobs—1,200 in construction.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has been described as “hip,” “organic” and “authentic” by a slew of travel publications over the past few years, but what does all this recognition mean for the city and its residents?

It means money and a boost in the economy, according to Craig Davis, CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH, Susan Corbett, the First Lady of Pennsylvania, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

They gathered Tuesday at PNC Park, voted one of the best views in the country, in recognition of Pittsburgh being named as a “Top 10 All-American Travel Destinations” by the Travel Channel.

The Growing Business of Childcare

Aug 12, 2014
Kirsten Jennings / Flickr

The cost of childcare has a significant impact on parents from all income ranges. Last year the New York Times reported the day care costs for middle-class New Yorkers can easily equal from $25,000 to $30,000 per child.

Contributor Rebecca Harris says childcare services are becoming so necessary because of the increase of households with dual incomes; both parents are working. However, Harris does not see this as a bad thing for children as they are growing up.

“Quality child care tends to lead to positive outcomes, even during the teenage years. Children that receive high quality childcare within the first two years of life, they secured higher measures of cognitive and academic achievements when they were 15 years old.”

Pennsylvania women have the opportunity to take part in the commonwealth’s first Business Plan Competition for women, where they will make pitches in front of a panel of judges for a cash prize.

Women own about 7.8 million businesses in the United States, according to the National Women’s Business council.

“They play a really integral role in our economy at the local, state and national level,” Ashley Mostek, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, said. “They’re job creators; they’re an important part of our economy on all levels.”

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