Economy & Business

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

While the rate of job growth in Pennsylvania sits dead last among states in the U.S., the numbers in Pittsburgh are a bit more optimistic, according to recent studies by the Keystone Research Center and PittsburghTODAY.

The Greater Pittsburgh area added 7,500 jobs from September 2013 to September 2014, a 0.6 percent increase. Pennsylvania, ranked 50th for job growth since January 2011, lost 9,600 jobs in September alone.

Coping and Investing in a Volatile Market

Oct 21, 2014
Perpetual Tourist / Flickr

The American economy has experienced gradual improvements in the 6 years since the 2008 market collapse. But for many investors, memories of those economic losses are still raw.

Throughout the last month, the volatility of global politics has affected the stock market with disconcerting spikes and dips.

Financial planners such as Paul Brahim, Chairman and CEO of BPU investment firm and a member of the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Financial Planning Association, are faced with concerned investors who want to know what they’re in for. He joins us to talk about the causes of the latest market volatility and how best to react.

The Business of Fair Trade with Rebecca Harris

Oct 21, 2014
12 5 12 Ten Thousand Villages POTD - Penn State / Flickr

Fair trade is a win-win proposition for nations and their citizens. According to contributor Rebecca Harris there’s a great deal of it available here in the city. This week Ms. Harris looks at the business of fair trade. Harris explains that fair trade means there’s an ethical partnership between consumers and producers around the world intended to create equity.

Principles include a minimum price for farmers’ goods, pre harvest credit, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, avoiding chemicals and GMOs, and so on. The latest trends in fair trade, Harris explains, include stores like Ten Thousand Villages, more fairtrade products in mainstream apparel stores, and so on. But in order for the fair trade movement to grow, consumer demand needs to expand. 

The Pittsburgh region is at the top of a list of similarly-sized metro regions when it comes to home ownership. That’s according to a report from Pittsburgh Today, a nonprofit research organization housed at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Among our 15 benchmark regions, the homeownership rate in Pittsburgh is the highest of all the regions,” said Doug Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today, “and homeownership is a general sign of stability, investedness in the place that you live.”

The Future of Pittsburgh's Volunteer Economy

Oct 17, 2014
ccbarr / Flickr

Pittsburgh is home to 7,500 non-profit organizations and about 300,000 people work in the sector. Many of these organizations also rely on volunteers in order to fulfill their missions. In recent years, for-profit businesses have increased their reliance on volunteer labor as well.

Peggy Outon, Executive Director of Robert Morris University’s Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, joins us to make sense of the volunteer economy, and talk about the future of volunteering.

The Business of Halloween Candy

Oct 14, 2014
Rebecca Harris / WESA

If you’re trying to avoid sweets, October may not be the best month to test your resolve. With Halloween right around the corner, contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of candy.

Corporations large and small, along with service providers, local activists, leaders and education officials are gathered in Pittsburgh for the first Disability Employment Summit, sponsored by the PNC Financial Service Group.

“Knowing that there’s a high unemployment rate with people with disabilities in this region,” said Amanda Snow, with PNC, “there are a number of opportunities and current openings, so how do we match those up?”

The 10 colleges and universities that make up the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE) represented approximately 32 percent of the city’s gross domestic product in FY 2012-13, according to a report released by PCHE.

“We have contributed close to $9 billion into the regional economy and we’re supporting more than 70,000 jobs in the City of Pittsburgh, which is one out of every four jobs,” said Paul Hennigan, PCHE chair and president of Point Park University.

After a particularly rough winter, the real estate market in southwestern Pennsylvania began to heat up this summer, and according to a September report from the West Penn Multi-List, Inc., the numbers are continuing to strengthen.

The number of new home listings in September (3,327) increased 8.83 percent in comparison to the number from September 2013. Residential homes placed under agreement and average home sale price also increased, a sign that houses are moving and the market is healthy.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Corbett announced Friday that U.S. Steel is keeping its headquarters in Pittsburgh and expanding its Mon Valley Works operation.

The announcement came as state officials fanned across Pennsylvania to mark National Manufacturing Day.

U.S. Steel employs some 4,300 people in the Pittsburgh region. In an effort to keep them headquartered in the steel city, Corbett says the state has committed up to $30.7 million in grants for expansions and improvements.

The Impact of Partner Violence in the Workplace

Oct 2, 2014
Michael Lokner / Flickr

October is domestic violence awareness month. NFL players, domestic violence and how the league is addressing the issue has been garnering a lot of headlines. These stories also exemplify how domestic violence can spill over into the workplace.

We’ll look at the impact this deadly issue has on places of employment with Patricia Cluss, a psychologist and the director of Standing Firm, which educates employers about the cost of partner violence in the workplace.

Cluss, who favors the term “partner violence” rather than “domestic violence,” emphasizes that such violence has significant implications for work life, but because of the sensitivity of the issue, many people try to avoid the issue. 

Future Fair: Tips to Finding the Right Career Path

Oct 2, 2014

The once traditional path of graduating from high school, going to college or work and getting on with your life is no longer the standard way of doing things.

Students today face a number of challenges when it comes to determining a life-path. How to make better informed decisions in a changing educational and economic marketplace is the goal behind the Future Fair.

We’ll learn about this upcoming event from State Representative Dan Miller and Gene Natali Jr., author of the financial planning book "The Missing Semester." Miller stresses that Future Fair is about pairing young people up with good choices for their future -- especially choices that will allow them to remain in SWPA.

Survey: Workforce Issues Could Slow Region's Economy

Oct 2, 2014

Small business owners in southwestern Pennsylvania are on the whole optimistic about the region’s economy, and more than a third of them expect to see their sales increase in the coming quarter.  The projection comes from the latest PNC survey, which looks not only at Pennsylvania but also at the other areas where the bank has operations.

“Pennsylvania small businesses continue to increase their plans to hire over the next six months,” said PNC Economist Kurt Rankin.  Twenty percent of those surveyed plan to add new full-time employees.

Ground has been broken for the fourth building at the Pittsburgh International Business Park in Moon Township.

The new building, on Cherrington Parkway, has no announced tenants yet, but that’s not a concern, said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“We broke ground over the last couple of years on three of them that are now full,” he said. “They are full with tech companies, engineering companies and mortgage service companies.”

Pittsburgh: A Top Real Estate Buyer’s Market

Sep 30, 2014
erjkprunczyk / Flickr

According to the Real Estate Firm Zillow, Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s top 10 buyer’s markets. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of residential real estate.

For an industry that is struggling to find workers, this Friday is especially important.  

On National Manufacturing Day, plants in Pennsylvania will host open houses, career workshops and public tours in an effort to recruit future employees.

Manufacturers are facing a skilled labor shortage. Employers are struggling to keep up with retirement rates and increased needs for production, said Tom Reed, managing director of marketing and communications for Catalyst Connection.  

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Another shuttered downtown department store will soon be turned into housing, parking and retail space but unlike some of the other projects launched by Millcraft Investments, this one will start with demolishing the structure.

400 PPG workers from throughout the country have packed up their bags to begin work at the company's new regional headquarters in Cranberry Township.  The architectural coatings office celebrated its grand opening Thursday.

Scott Sinetar, Vice President of Architectural Coatings for the U.S. and Canada, said the creation of the new headquarters is the result of PPG Industry’s 2013 acquisition of AkzoNobel’s North American decorative paints business.

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.   

Pittsburgh Incubator Lands $800K Federal Grant

Sep 17, 2014

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.

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