Economy & Business

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

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

The House Republican plan to fill a $2.2 billion shortfall in the Pennsylvania budget is looking to take more than $350 million from state-supported transit.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Pittsburgh plans to compete for the new site of AmazonHQ2, a second headquarters location announced by the Seattle-based company early Thursday.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The Airmall at Pittsburgh International Airport opened Tuesday to daily non-passengers for the first time since security was tightened at airports nationwide after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"It's nice, it's for the economy to be able to come here and shop," said Elizabeth Township resident Shelli Ruggier, who came to pick up her grandson from a terminal. "We're just happy we can get to a gate and greet family members, rather than them getting off and not knowing anybody."

Struggling To Stay In Appalachia After Coal Layoffs

Sep 5, 2017
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

 


Dave Hathaway is a coal miner in Greene County, in the very southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. Apart from a brief stint living in Colorado as a child, he’s lived his whole life there, and he’s never really thought much about leaving.

Paul Sancya / AP

Pennsylvania's minimum wage hasn't risen from $7.25 per hour since 2013. It's the only state in the region that hasn't seen an increase in three and a half years, and where the minimum wage is still under eight dollars.

Mark Humphrey / AP

The devastation from Tropical Storm Harvey along the Gulf Coast is starting to have a ripple effect on gasoline prices across the country.

The storm has taken about 14 percent the nation’s refining capacity offline. The national average price of gasoline has started to rise, as major refineries in the Houston area have shut down.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with the online price-tracking firm GasBuddy, said Pennsylvania’s average of $2.55 per gallon will probably go up by about 10 to 15 cents.

John Miller / 90.5 WESA

One of President Trump’s signature campaign speeches was at a scrap aluminum plant near Pittsburgh in January 2016.

“We are going to put American steel -- and aluminum – back into the backbone of our country,” he said at the speech in Monessen, Pa. “This alone will create massive numbers of jobs, high-paying jobs.”


Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The Airmall at Pittsburgh International Airport is accessible to non-flyers for the first time since stringent security was enacted following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Airmall, a collection of shops and restaurants, has been off-limits to all but ticketed passengers except on special occasions.

When the airport opened in 1992, the Airmall was touted as a major feature and attracted non-flying shoppers, because prices in its businesses are audited to ensure they're not higher than those charged by similar outlets elsewhere in Allegheny County.

John Miller / 90.5 WESA

Amid Uber's self-driving cars and vans ferrying bread and vegetables to trendy restaurants, a plaque on Smallman Street in the Strip District celebrates the invention of the modern process used to make aluminum by a young engineer named Charles Martin Hall. 

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said Wednesday he supports a NAFTA rewrite but he's concerned President Donald Trump's closed-door meetings won't take workers' needs into consideration.

"During the re-negotiations, it's really important and urgent that workers' voices be heard so the labor movement in the United States, Canada and Mexico will work together to advance workers rights," Gerard said.

U.S. Factory Jobs Are High-Tech, But The Workers Are Not

Aug 16, 2017
John Minchillo / AP

Herbie Mays is 3M proud, and it shows — in the 3M shirt he wears; in the 3M ring he earned after three decades at the company's plant in suburban Cincinnati; in the way he shows off a card from a 3M supervisor, praising Mays as "a GREAT employee."

But it's all nostalgia.

Mays' last day at 3M was in March. Bent on cutting costs and refocusing its portfolio, the company decided to close the plant that made bandages, knee braces and other health care supplies and move work to its plant in Mexico.

After Decades Of Decline And Disrepair, Conneaut Lake Park Is Turning A Profit

Aug 14, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

Conneaut Lake Park Manager Matthew Briggs uses words like "wonderful" and "incredible" to describe the Crawford County park's season so far this summer.

With 24,382 ride, water park and combination wristbands sold through the first half of the season, through July 10, sales are up 51 percent from the same time in 2016. And sales then were up from 2015.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania's largest health system, says it has reached a deal to acquire Pinnacle HealthSystem of Harrisburg.

It's expected to be completed Sept. 1 if it meets regulatory approval.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the two health systems have been working on the deal since March.

Gas Severance Tax Won't Have Big Impact On Pennsylvania, Says Research Group

Aug 10, 2017
Tim Lambert / WITF

A natural gas severance tax has been a hot-button issue in Harrisburg for nearly a decade, but the plan recently approved by the state Senate is unlikely to have a major impact–  either in terms of government revenue, or drilling company investment decisions, according to research from the nonpartisan environmental economic think tank, Resources for the Future.

Kathleen J. Davis

A $600,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will be used to help clean up some of Pittsburgh’s forgotten former industrial sites.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle accepted the grant Friday the Foundry in Lawrenceville, a luxury apartment complex built on the site of a former brownfield site.

The money will help officials clean up the old sites, which can sometimes contain hazardous material and prevent future development. The Foundry’s site was cleaned up with the help of a previous EPA grant.

90.5 WESA
Kathleen J. Davis

VisitPITTSBURGH predicts the Steel City's upcoming event and conference schedule should pump millions of dollars into the local economy in the coming year. 

The tourism nonprofit announced their fall lineup Thursday at the Marriott City Center.

The lineup has a variety of events, including the Pittsburgh Irish Festival Sept. 8-10, Doors Open Pittsburgh Oct. 7-8 and the PNC Broadway series, which opens October 17. There are also holiday-themed events planned like ScareHouse and A Very Pittsburgh Christmas. 

Elise Amendola / AP

A franchise that already controlled two Coca-Cola bottlers in Pennsylvania has snapped up 11 more in the state and West Virginia.

The Erie Times-News reports Abarta Coca-Cola Beverages, of Pittsburgh, has bought Erie's Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Abarta plans to keep all 104 workers there, which supplies Erie, Crawford, Forest, McKean, Potter and Warren counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Gene J. Puskar / AP, File

GE Transportation plans to end most locomotive production at its century-old plant in northwestern Pennsylvania, eliminating about 575 jobs.

GoErie.com reports the work is being transferred by the end of 2018 to Fort Worth, Texas, where workers aren't union members.

The Lawrence Park Township plant, just outside Erie, currently employs more than 2,5f00 workers. Locomotive prototypes will still be produced there.

Richard Simpson, a GE Transportation executive, says the company has to put work at its most competitive location, which doesn't include Erie.

perzsonseo.com / Flickr

The way people buy things—both in Pennsylvania, and around the country—is changing.

Online shopping is on the rise, and sales in physical stores have correspondingly declined. But what hasn’t changed much in Pennsylvania is how it taxes sales. And that’s losing the commonwealth money.

Pennsylvania ended the last fiscal year with revenue from its 6 percent tax around 2 percent below projections—a blow that contributed to its substantial budget shortfall.

Kathy Willens / AP

A major toy manufacturer plans to hire about 400 new workers to staff a new distribution center in eastern Pennsylvania.

Mattel has opened the 1 million-square-foot center in the Gateway Logistics Park area of Jonestown.

The company will package popular toys including Barbie and Hot Wheels brands at the center, which will also handle Mega Brands and, eventually, Fisher-Price. The company says the center will employ as many as 400 during peak season.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate remained the same in June, as payrolls crept higher.

The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 5 percent last month, the same as in May. The national rate was 4.4 percent in June.

The household survey found that the civilian labor force, employment and unemployment were all relative stable last month.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, one of the worst deals the U.S. has made. But the head of the country’s largest industrial union isn’t convinced his administration is doing enough to renegotiate the terms.

LM Otero, AP File

A new initiative aims to better prepare unemployed immigrants in Allegheny County for the American workforce.

Personseo / flickr

Nearly 53,000 businesses in the Pittsburgh region are owned by women, according to recent federal data, and one local organization hopes to continue to bolster female entrepreneurship. 

Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship is opening a new 3,000-square-foot hub with four new informational classes.

The Annual Performance Review Gets A Reboot

Jul 13, 2017
Erika Beras

As a lawyer at a big firm and other companies, Chris Arnold remembers those nights before his annual performance reviews well, if reluctantly.

“Night sweats. Shakes. Terror,” he said. “It was a lot of anxiety.”

That’s because Arnold didn’t know what to expect. Would he get a raise, make partner or be greeted with a nasty surprise? Turns out that type of backward-looking assessment of someone’s performance didn’t work so well for companies either.

Alex Popichak / 90.5 WESA

In 1892, the country’s largest trade union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, took on the world’s largest manufacturing firm, the Carnegie Steel Corporation. Carnegie’s plant manager Henry Clay Frick increased production demands, but refused to increase wages. Frick eventually locked workers out of the facility spurring a strike.

Only about a fifth of the workers at the Homestead Works Steel Mill were skilled workers represented by the union. But the nearly 3,000 workers agreed to strike for better wages and working conditions.

PA Gearing Up For Automated Medical Marijuana Grows

Jul 6, 2017
Franklin Labs, LLC

Pennsylvania is barreling towards a high tech medical cannabis industry, driven by automation, aeroponics and a lot of start-up capital.

Passed in April 2016, the law instituting the state's medical marijuana program puts growing a new industry from scratch on a tight timeline. The first dispensaries are slated to sell prescription cannabinoid oils, sprays and creams by early 2018, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

whitneybee / Flickr

Authorities say more than 100,000 chickens died in a fire that destroyed a barn at a commercial egg farm in Tyrone Township.

The blaze at Hillandale Farms was reported around 5:45 a.m. Saturday. Tyrone is about 29 miles southwest of Harrisburg.

A Heidlersburg Fire Company captain said flames were visible above the roof of the 600-foot barn by the time fire crews arrived.

Firefighters concentrated on keeping the blaze from spreading to other buildings. Three first responders were treated at the scene, two for dehydration and one for a laceration.

Bill Gardner / 90.5 WESA

The language on the controversial black and yellow Sprint advertisement that blankets part of Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington has been changed, amid legal battles over the sign’s permit.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

An independent bookstore chain in Pittsburgh is opening its third location on the South Side this week.

Amazing Books owner Eric Ackland still has quite a few bookshelves to fill. The 4,600-square-foot space on East Carson Street is about five times larger than his Downtown and Squirrel Hill locations.

“Most people assume a third store is evidence of great success,” he said. “In our case, thank God we’re seeking it out, but we need to thrive and we need a location to grow into.”

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