Economy & Business

Economy & Business news from 90.5 WESA.

Regional Home Sales Up in 2012

Jan 17, 2013

West Penn Multi-List Inc. recently released 2012 home sales data for the Pittsburgh region showing that sales were up 10% over 2011. George Hackett, President of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services in Pittsburgh and West Penn Multi-List said people are feeling more confident.

"Just the attitude of people thinking that real estate is better - you know for a long time all you heard was negative stuff - now all you hear is positive stuff, and because of that, that is as encouraging as anything," said Hackett.

Red Kettle Campaign is $270K Short

Jan 14, 2013

Think about walking in or out of a store during the holiday season.  It almost seems incomplete without a bundled-up, bell-ringer standing next to a red, Salvation Army donation basket.

The question is:  keep moving or be charitable.  Western Pennsylvanians did more of the latter in 2012 compared to 2011, but the region's Red Kettle Christmas Campaign still came short of meeting its goal by $270,000.

$350K Grant for Facelift for Downtown Pittsburgh

Jan 14, 2013

A grant that's going to a downtown Pittsburgh nonprofit might kick start the area's aesthetic makeover.  Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation awarded the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) with $350,000. PDP decided to use the funds for the Paris to Pittsburgh Facade Grant Program, which provides a 50% matching grant of up to $30,000 to downtown business owners interested in revamping their business' exterior.

Visitors to the Pittsburgh area contributed $5.3 billion to the local economy in 2011 (the most recent year for which the study was conducted), according to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.  Overall spending by visitors to Allegheny County was up 8.9 percent over 2010.

“The money that we are supplying into the local economy is a substantial amount, and that helps to provide government services for people here locally, provided through people that don’t live here,” said Craig Davis, President and CEO of Visit Pittsburgh.

More than ten months after the economic protest group Occupy Pittsburgh abandoned its encampment in a downtown green space, the small park known as Mellon Green is still entirely fenced off to the encircling sidewalks.

According to BNY Mellon spokesman Ron Gruendl, the global financial firm is hoping to reopen its park in the spring.

The U.S. had its hottest year on record last year. That heat, combined with the relatively dry winter that came before, has brought a historic drought.

From forest fires and low crop yields, to infrastructure and recreation, the drought has been costly, with early estimates putting the cost at between $50 billion and $80 billion.

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Goes Local

Jan 11, 2013

When the subject of wine comes up, it usually has to do with grapes grown on the French Riviera, stateside in southern California, or even along route 79 heading towards Erie.

“[State wineries] are a robust part of the economy,” said Stacy Kriedeman, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PCLB).  “The commonwealth has more than 150 wineries, according to the Pennsylvania Winery Association, and that infuses more than $2 billion into the economy. So it’s a very valued sector of the agricultural community.”

Young Bucks Carry on Traditions at the PA Farm Show

Jan 10, 2013

The Pennsylvania Farm Show features more than 6,000 animals and many of them were reared and are being exhibited by people not long out of high school.  For many visitors to the farm show, meeting the newest crop of farmers is as exciting as checking out their animals.

Jon Kubala, a 21-year-old from Adams County, sits calmly on the hindquarters of a huge Texas longhorn steer.  It only looks dangerous to an outsider but not to the human who knows the animal best.

$1.2M Low Interest Loan Heads to Westmoreland County

Jan 8, 2013

The Regional Industrial Development Council (R.I.D.C.) is hopeful a new 1.24 million dollar loan from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development will help move the nearly empty former Sony plant in Westmoreland County back to full capacity. 

The funds come with a 1.5 percent interest rate and R.I.D.C President Don Smith said it will be used to build out another 26,000 square feet of space for Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), which wants to expand its operations. 

Inspectors are slowly putting turbines that make up the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm in Blair and Cambria Counties back on line after a large section of a blade fell from one of the generators. The blade failed Friday night.

The facility is managed by Infigen Energy, which is the Dallas-based U.S subsidiary of an Australian company. Infigen Vice President of U.S. Commercial Operations David Smith said there had been some “winter weather” in the area before the blade failed but it had passed.

Gas Prices Up in Pittsburgh, Hold Steady Nationwide

Jan 8, 2013

Looking for a cheaper tank of gas? You might want to fill up in the Rockies.

Average gas prices in Pittsburgh rose two cents in the last week, while lower prices are outside the Northeast, according to GasBuddy.com.

Patrick DeHann, the website’s Senior Petroleum Analyst, said the average Pittsburgh price for gas is $3.51 a gallon, compared to the national average of $3.26.

He said the increase is due to oil prices making advances and tight oil reserves.

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A new state department is reporting it saved $84 million for the commonwealth since March.

Butter Sculpture Shows PA Agriculture Pride

Jan 4, 2013

Another year, another Pennsylvania Farm Show: the butter sculpture has been unveiled at the 97th annual agricultural extravaganza beginning Saturday.

The 2013 butter sculpture is an array of Pennsylvania-produced agricultural products – among them, chicken, wood, wine, and mushrooms.

Dairy Princess Maria Jo Noble of Bradford County was on-hand for the unveiling, but she didn’t get an early look at what one presenter called the “buttery masterpiece.”

Thousands of Homes in PA Without Heat

Jan 2, 2013

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) says too many homes are headed into the coldest part of the year without heat from a utility service. 
This year there appear to be about 15-hundred fewer homes without gas or electric services compared to last year’s survey.
And that count may be inflated as some homes are double-counted because they have neither gas nor electric services.

But the observed lack of utility services in nearly 16-thousand households could lead people to resort to potentially unsafe heating sources.

A public-private economic growth organization in Pittsburgh is hoping an additional $100,000 in grants to small businesses in Homewood will help jump-start the micro economy.  Urban Innovation21 has attracted national attention for its mission to ensure that the region’s rapidly growing innovation economy is inclusive and benefits all communities.

The Pittsburgh region has begun to rebound from the economic downturn but many neighborhoods have yet to see unemployment and other economic indicators recover. 

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A 12-year, multi-million dollar investment from PNC Bank and $230,000 contribution from ACTION housing will allow a a major renovation of a YMCA facility in downtown McKeesport.

Pittsburgh Hotel Occupancy Rates Highest in 20 Years

Dec 31, 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, VisitPittsburgh is reporting a record-setting year when it comes to hotel room occupancy in the region.  The rate is expected to come in at 70 percent, which is higher than it has been since the region’s tourism agency began tracking the number 20 years ago.

“It compares against the national average of 60 percent and the average of our competitor set of about 63 percent,” said VisitPittsburgh President Craig Davis.  The competitor set includes cities like Columbus, Baltimore, and Charlotte.

Retail Workers Bear Brunt Of Sluggish Holiday Sales

Dec 30, 2012

Several large retailers took a leap of faith on what they thought would be a gangbuster holiday season, and they hired more seasonal workers this year than last.

Sales during the two months before Christmas weren't all that stunning, however, and that's meant fewer opportunities for seasonal workers, and some of them worked vastly fewer hours than they expected.

Female Employment Strong, but in Few Industries

Dec 27, 2012

A Pittsburgh-based study is showing females in the region tend to pursue careers in a select number of fields, while men are represented in more industries.The analysis is part of Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board's (TRWIB)  research on various segments in the labor industry.

The data show Pittsburgh-area women, who make up nearly half the workforce in the region, are employed primarily in the healthcare, retail, education, and hospitality sectors. 

2013 Will Be Good But Not Great According to PNC

Dec 27, 2012

Pittsburgh received praise in 2012 for being among a handful of large and midsized cities that had recovered from the economic downturn, but PNC Financial Services Chief Economist Gus Faucher thinks the local economy will lag a bit in 2013.

“I think that we will see job growth of about 1 percent in 2013… But I think it’s going to be below the national average,” said Faucher.  “I would expect that the U.S. job growth is going to be closer to around 1.5 percent in 2013.”

Tax Increases v. Budget Cuts, Who Wins in PA?

Dec 26, 2012

New analysis by the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) shows that proposals to end tax breaks for high-income earners would have very little impact on taxpayers in most Pennsylvania counties.

Marcellus Shale No.1 in Production in 2012

Dec 26, 2012

This year was one of new records and new questions for the boom in Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

Previous doubts about the size of the vast resource were mostly put to rest, as data showed that the Marcellus became the most productive natural gas field in the nation, even though well drilling slowed substantially.

Region's Economy Looked Good 2012

Dec 26, 2012

The Pittsburgh region continued its “ahead-of-schedule recovery” in 2012 according to PNC Financial Services Senior Economist Gus Faucher. 

“Employment in Pittsburgh is now above where it was prior to the recession and it’s one of the few places in the country where that’s true,” said Faucher.  The recession officially began in December 2007.

Pittsburgh’s economy did not fall as fast or as far as other areas of the country, making it easier to rebound.  Faucher said there were a few sectors, including professional business services, which fueled the region’s growth.

Privatizing the Pennsylvania Lottery might have Governor Tom Corbett believing it will boost profits, but it could put programs that benefit senior citizens at risk.  In a new report, the left-leaning Keystone Research Center details how services for the elderly could suffer if the commonwealth rushes into a deal.

These days it seems nearly everyone is trying to save money where they can. Energy provider Direct Energy says some people may not be aware that some everyday things in their homes are causing their electricity and gas bills to go up.

“An energy zombie is actually anything that mindlessly eats away at your energy bill,” said Direct Energy Spokeswoman Bethany Ruhe, “these are things you may already know about, you may not know about, but if you don’t pay attention to them – boom – you have higher electricity bills.”

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<strong> UPDATED: 12:03 12/20/12 </strong>

Pittsburgh-based EQT Corporation announced it is selling its natural gas transmission business, Equitable Gas, to Peoples Natural Gas for $720 million. The deal also includes 200 miles of Pennsylvania pipelines and storage pools, and long-term commercial contracts for EQT to provide gas transmission and storage services to Peoples.

Gun Sales Up in PA

Dec 20, 2012

Pennsylvanians are lining up to buy firearms in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings, but dealers say gun owners' anxiety over a potential gun-control crackdown was driving up sales before the Sandy Hook massacre.

At Staudt's Gun Shop in Harrisburg, owner Joe Staudt says he sold out his usually large stock of semi-automatic weapons by Wednesday.

Dick's Suspends Some Gun Sales

Dec 18, 2012

Coraopolis-based Dick’s sporting goods has suspended sales of “modern sporting rifles” nationwide in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut.   Dick's Sporting Goods also said it is removing all guns from display at its store closest to Newtown.

Police say the 20-year old gunman fatally shot his mother in their home and then killed 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. He then killed himself.

Highmark To Open A Medical Mall in Wexford

Dec 13, 2012

You can walk into any gas station or grocery store and find an array of national-brand sodas. At Village Candy in Sewickely you will find a soda case – but you won’t find Pepsi, Sprite, or Mountain Dew. The small store stocks different sodas from around the world.

 “We have bacon soda, we have something called Leninade, we have black lemonade” said owner Doug Alpern.

Craft sodas aren’t quite on the same playing field as craft beers.

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