Economy & Business

Economy & Business news from 90.5 WESA.

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Walk around town these days and you’re just about as likely to see someone sporting a Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt as you are someone in Steelers garb.

Much of the Bucos team gear has been purchased this season as the Pirates won more games than they lost for the first time in 21 years and won back the hearts of fans that can’t remember the last time they had a reason to cheer on the home team in September. 

Mal810 / Flickr

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced plans to charge a $10 monthly access fee to users of its digital content. The Post-Gazette joins a growing number of newspapers to put their content behind a paywall.

Point Park University Director of Communications, Steve Hallock says people in the newspaper industry have been trying for years to figure out how to monetize their internet content. In other markets, such as Toledo, OH, paywalls have been successful. But with Pittsburgh’s competitive newspaper market Hallock says the Post-Gazette is a test case to watch.

The Village Theater Company did not have enough money to break ground on the new cinema in Sewickley by its goal of June, but a new date can be set thanks to gaming revenues.

The state will award nearly $6.6 million in gaming revenues to 19 community and economic development projects in Allegheny County.

According to the Corbett administration, the projects will provide new opportunities for quality housing, business growth and job creation.

The $350,000 allotted to Brian Dugan, president of Village Theater Company, will go toward building a nonprofit movie theater.

The sixth annual Gaming Diversity Report from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board shows the number of minorities working in casinos continues to grow.

Statewide, 31 percent of the 16,644 casino employees are minorities. That’s up slightly from last year’s 30 percent. Diversity also continues to grow among management, executive and professional positions.

“This year we have 2,733 individuals; 63 percent are males, 37 percent are females and 21 percent are minorities, which is a good number,” said Mozelle Daniels, director of diversity for the Gaming Control Board.

Raul Valdes-Perez / Ganador Press

Raul-Valdes Perez was co-founder, chairman, and nine-year CEO of Vivisimo. He's also the author of Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work. He claims the secret to his success is simple: ask for advice when making decisions and you will be more successful.

According to Perez people who need help should ask: What is the task at hand? Do we have enough knowledge and experience to do this confidently? What area of the task do I need help with? Who can help me? How can I reach out to them?

Market on Broadway IGA / Facebook

As the Hispanic population in the Pittsburgh region grows, businesses touting authentic Latin food are flourishing.

These stores bring culture and exposure to the region, says business contributor Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University.

They’re also providing area grocery stores with Latin American and Mexican items to fill the ever-increasing demand. 

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner has found what she believes to be a discrepancy in tax reassessment breaks between commercial and residential properties.

The controller’s office released information Monday showing commercial properties are receiving significantly bigger tax reassessment breaks than homeowners.

Wagner said there seems to be an inconsistency between how commercial properties were reduced and how residential properties were reduced at the assessment hearings.

Twenty-three trade representatives from 23 countries including Australia, Brazil and China are in Pittsburgh on Monday as the 12th annual Pennsylvania International Week made its stop in the city.

The touring business conference is at Two Chatham Center and will move to Heinz Field Tuesday morning.

Peter O’Neill, executive director for the state Center of Trade Development, said this month is the best time to make new business connections.

Pittsburgh Housing Market Continues Upward Trend

Sep 12, 2013

More homes sold in the Pittsburgh area last month than a year ago, and they were scooped up more quickly — at higher prices.

That’s according to the West Penn Multi-List which reports that in the 13-county region, 3,817 residential homes were sold last month, up 14.7 percent from August 2012. Those homes were on the market for 72 days compared to 82 days a year ago, and the average sales price rose 2.6 percent to nearly $178,000.

When it comes to retirement, are you a planner, a procrastinator or an avoider?

PNC’s third annual Perspectives on Retirement Survey finds 42 percent of people ages 35-70 consider themselves to be on track for retirement. Those are the planners.

Pennsylvanians who received a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) crisis grant last year might warm up at the news that they are receiving an additional $200.

“It turns out at the end of the LIHEAP season last year, we had enough money that we felt the need to kind of return it to those people who had the greatest need,” said Anne Bale, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare.

Bale said the extra $200 will be sent directly to the crisis-clients’ utility companies.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of protestors sat down in the middle of Fifth Avenue in Oakland outside of UPMC Presbyterian Saturday, singing “Amazing Grace” and calling on the healthcare giant to make some major changes.

Christoria Hughes, 56, works in the dining hall at Presbyterian for $12/hour, and said the rally wasn’t just about the employees of UPMC.

In the wake of Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper’s indictment on counts of conspiracy and theft of public funds, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner wants to increase transparency in county funds.

She and County Manager William McKain are auditing “off-book” accounts with the goal of bringing them under the county’s centralized accounting and banking system.

She called the accounts “historic relics” from the county’s former row office structure.

Two months into the new fiscal year, Pennsylvania’s revenue collections seem to be lagging just a little behind, with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s General Fund bringing in $3.7 billion— 0.1 percent below estimate.

In August, corporation tax, inheritance tax and realty transfer tax all fell below the state’s projections. Only sales, cigarette, alcohol and table game tax revenues were above estimates.

Lululemon Athletica / flickr

As obesity rates rise in the United States, so too do the amount of citizens annually attempting to diet. Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, says studies show at any one time, America has an estimated 108 million people on diets.

She notes that most are women, most make four or five attempts per year to diet and an overwhelming majority are trying to lose weight by themselves, without a plan or program.

Somenametoforget / Flickr

Startup incubators provide entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their ideas in an affordable space, with resources, mentoring and sometimes funding. They’ve sprung up all over Pittsburgh, especially in East Liberty. 

The Thrill Mill and its incubator space, the Hustle Den, is one of the new kids on the block. And while many incubators are focused on technology, Thrill Mill is supporting some diverse innovators.

For Bobby Zappala founder of the Thrill Mill, it all started when he moved back to Pittsburgh from Washington D.C. in 2006. He says he and his friends wanted to connect with other young people who had interesting business ideas. He says they host regular gatherings which became very popular.

A group of municipal officials thinks prevailing wage is unnecessarily taking money away from taxpayers.

The officials called for prevailing wage reform at a recent House Labor and Industry Committee hearing.

Under the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act, the pay rate is required for construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration or repair work that costs at least $25,000.

Just ahead of Labor Day, the left-leaning Keystone Research Center is calling on the state to spend more to support public sector jobs and on the private sector to pay their low-wage workers more. 

The Harrisburg-based think tank’s State of Working Pennsylvania report shows the state’s strong employment position immediately following the recession has begun to falter.

The Business of Labor Day

Aug 27, 2013
Curtis Publishing / Wikipedia

More than 34 million Americans are projected to travel 50 miles or more this Labor Day weekend. This brings big profit opportunities for  businesses throughout the country.

Since its inception in 1882, the holiday has been marked by icons like Rosie the Riveter, barbecues and family gatherings.

Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, says Labor Day weekend travelers will spend an estimated $800 on dining, shopping and gifts.

A student group at the University of Pittsburgh has been successful in its effort to get the school’s administration to sign on to a program aimed at guaranteeing workers rights wherever official school apparel is manufactured.

“As soon as I found out for sure I jumped up and down for like a good two or three minutes,” said Joe Thomas, co-founder of the Pitt chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy.

State Treasurer Rob McCord is urging parents to open a Pennsylvania 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) before Sept. 1 to take advantage of last year’s lower cost per college credit.

529 plans are offered by states that include tax-free earnings growth and withdrawals.

UPMC employs more than 55,000 people in the Pittsburgh region, but according to the group Pittsburgh United, the wages the health care giant pays its service workers are weakening the middle class.

According to a report released Thursday by Pittsburgh United, UPMC’s service workers earn between 8 and 30 percent less than the lowest sustainable family wage.

Barney Oursler, executive director of Pittsburgh United, said UPMC employs as many as 32,000 low wage service workers.

City and state officials gathered Wednesday to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking of The Gardens at Market Square development in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Business of Couponing

Aug 20, 2013
The Coca Cola Company

Always one for quirky trivia, Essential Pittsburgh business contributor Rebecca Harris fills us in on the origins of the now ubiquitous coupon. Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the coupon’s future. Though 80-90% of the coupon market still lies in print, the online coupon market is exploding. This is especially true when it comes to smartphones, with the mobile market projected to be $46 billion by 2016. Harris says, the advent of personalized coupons means mass coupon printing is no longer necessary. “You don’t have to be a huge retailer,” she says, to enjoy the benefits of the mobile coupon craze.

Small brewers across the U.S. will have reason to hoist their mugs if legislation giving them a tax cut passes.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is pushing to pass the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, which would cut excise taxes for small breweries — those that produce fewer than 2 million barrels of beer per year.

Small breweries currently pay an excise tax of $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels of beer they brew each year, and $18 per barrel above that.

Alex Abboud / Flickr

Global ketchup manufacturer H.J. Heinz Company recently announced a layoff of 350 employees in the Pittsburgh region. This follows a $28 billion acquisition by investment consortium Berkshire Hathaway and their affiliate 3G Capital.

The company has not yet disclosed how much the layoffs will save them. Pittsburgh Business Times manufacturing reporter Justine Coyne says cutbacks are not unusual during an acquisition, but because of Heinz’s historic connection with the city, many locals are hurting.

The Business of Beauty Salons

Aug 13, 2013
Bryan Costin/Flickr

The state of hair can tell us a lot about the state of the economy, says business contributor Rebecca Harris. According to Harris, beauty salons are not only a big business, employing close to 2 million people in a $50 billion market, the recent growth of the beauty industry gives us an idea of the extent of America’s economic recovery.

Flickr user roeyahram

Food company H.J. Heinz Co. is eliminating 600 jobs across the U.S. and in Canada, including 350 in Pittsburgh.

Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen says in a statement that employees were notified of the cuts Tuesday morning, about two months after the company was sold to private investors. Mullen says Heinz regrets the impact on Heinz employees and is offering enhanced severance packages.

Mullen says the cuts will better position Heinz for growth in a highly competitive global food market.

The hot July temperatures this year reflected the sizzling housing market in Western Pennsylvania — with increases across the board.

According to the West Penn Multi-List Inc. residential real estate report, the number of homes under agreement during July this year was 4,104 compared to 3,392 homes in July 2012, an increase of over 20 percent.

George Hackett, President of the West Penn Multi-List Inc., said this is partly because of the improved economy.

Fast Growing Occupations

Aug 6, 2013
Rebecca Harris / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

When business contributor Rebecca Harris looked at the US News and World Report’s list of the top 100 best jobs for 2013, she noticed the effect that the aging baby boomers were having on the economy. The rapid rise of healthcare related jobs reflects this trend. Another important shift in the economy can be seen in the advent of the Chief Listening Officer position in some companies. She says this job’s rise to prominence shows that “before social media, business was really a one way communication...now when consumers talk, businesses have to listen.”

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