Economy & Business

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

Federal Grant To Increase Business Exports

Oct 15, 2012

Small companies in Pennsylvania are set to get some help in growing their exports.

This Sunday, thousands of people of all ages and occupations are expected to gather at the Washington County Fairgrounds for the region's first Roughneck Fest celebrating Pennsylvania’s growing natural gas industry. Events including cook-offs, arm-wrestling, and a boxing match will help raise money for the PA Firefighter’s Athletic League.

While the festival was designed with the image of the Roughneck worker in mind, festival coordinator Pam Blaker said it will be a day for everyone to enjoy.

New Loan Program To Spur Downtown Retail

Oct 11, 2012

Pittsburgh has space in historic downtown buildings, but not enough retail to fill it. A new loan program propelled by the city hopes to change that.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation today announced the launch of a new loan initiative that hopes to spur more retail ventures and further the economic growth of the Golden Triangle.

Ravenstahl said every great American city needs a strong urban core.

Finding Funding To Repair Crumbling Locks and Dams

Oct 10, 2012 Wrap_Charlee Song_SOC.mp3

The Fifth Annual Sustainability Conference this Friday will address solutions to the region’s vital waterway infrastructure needs, with presentations from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, and the new SWPA Water Innovation Consortium, among others.  

Tom Corbett Receives High Marks In Fiscal Policy

Oct 9, 2012

The fiscally conservative Cato Institute today released its biennial Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors and Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett received an “A."

According to the report, Corbett scored well because he has been a “frugal budgeter” who has reduced spending to a figure lower than when he entered office.

Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies for Cato, said he was impressed by Corbett’s steep reduction of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.

Interest Rate Swaps: Increased Risk, or Revenue?

Oct 8, 2012 Wrap_Mary Wilson_SOC.mp3

State lawmakers are considering changes to a Pennsylvania law aimed at curbing risky financing among municipalities and school districts.

Pittsburgh International At 20

Oct 1, 2012

20 years ago today the state-of-the-art Pittsburgh International Airport opened for business.   The late Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Foerster greeted passengers at 5:30, the morning of October 1st, 1992.  US Air Flight 620 was the first to land at the new airport. 

Pittsburgh Region's Workforce Aging Fast

Sep 28, 2012

Job Growth Slows, But Up Overall in Recent Years

Sep 26, 2012 Growth Wrap_Emily Farah_SOC.mp3

Jobs grew by 1.1% in the Pittsburgh region over the last 12 months, but that figure is below the 1.3%  growth average of 15 benchmark cities.

Douglas Heuck, Director of Pittsburgh Today, says Pittsburgh is breaking its pattern of being at the bottom of the list.   Over the past four years, Pittsburgh is the only one of the 15 regions that reported growth in jobs.  The others all had a net loss over that period.

Several dozen people gathered in Pittsburgh City Council Chambers Tuesday morning to demand that The Council pass a bill commonly known as "ban the box" legislation.

The bill would prohibit any criminal background inquiries on initial job applications for both public and private employers in the city, deferring those questions until the interview process. The measure was introduced last year by Council Finance Chair Ricky Burgess, but it is still awaiting a legal opinion from the city law department.

Big Surge in Exports From Pittsburgh

Sep 24, 2012

Exports from the Pittsburgh metro area jumped by 24.7% from 2010 to 2011. That's the word from the U.S. Department of Commerce which said the value of exports from the region rose by $3 billion last year to $15.2 billion, making Pittsburgh the 22nd largest metro area exporter in the nation.

Lyn Doverspike, director of the department's U.S. Commercial Service in Pittsburgh, said the increase in exports is partly due to an improving economy but more so it's cyclical.

A Visit To A Shale Conference

Sep 22, 2012

The Marcellus Shale Coalition has just wrapped up its annual natural gas drilling conference.
   When energy companies get together, the major speeches make it into the news, and so do the protests outside.
  But what else goes on at these conventions?

Sure, there are the speeches from politicians and CEOs.  And there are technical panels with names like, take a deep breath: A Geochemical Context for Stray Gas Investigation in the Northern Appalachian Basin.  But the main action at this gathering of natural gas drillers takes place in the exhibit hall.

August Unemployment Numbers Show An Upward Trend

Sep 21, 2012

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate jumped to 8.1% in August, up from July’s 7.9 figure.

The 8.1% matches the national rate but Scott Meckley, Industry and Business Analyst for the Department of Labor and Industry, said  the commonwealth's jobless rate has been below the U.S. rate for  for 51 consecutive months.

Although to finally be trending up is attention grabbing, the Pennsylvania rate and National rate have always moved in concert with each other and have been roughly the same, according to Meckley.

On the same day Governor Tom Corbett praised the Marcellus Shale industry and called fracking opponents “unreasoning,” PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center released a study that outlines the costs of development to citizens including the costs associated with contaminated water, health care, and infrastructure.

Corbett: PA Is "Reaping a Bounty" From Drilling

Sep 20, 2012

Governor  Tom Corbett today attacked anti-drilling activists at a Marcellus Shale industry conference in Philadelphia.  Corbett praised drillers for creating thousands of jobs and he called fracking opponents “unreasoning.”

"Our opponents agree that we can land a rover on Mars, but that can’t bring themselves to think that we can safely drill a mile into our own soil," said Corbett.  "After all the predictions of disaster and the fearful warnings of people with no understanding of the industry, Pennsylvania is reaping a bounty.

Energy Jobs Present Opportunity and Challenge

Sep 19, 2012 Jobs.mp3

The Pittsburgh region will see a growth in energy-related jobs by 2020, according to a workforce analysis presented today by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD) and the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh, but training workers to fill them will be a challenge.  

$9 Million Renovation of Drake Well Museum Completed

Sep 19, 2012

The Marcellus Shale drilling boom is bringing a lot of changes to Pennsylvania. But the drilling itself isn't one of them: the state hosted the world's very first oil well in 1859 in Titusville.

A $9 million renovation of the Drake Well Museum was recently completed.  Some of the museum's more popular exhibits profile the extremes that drillers went to in order to get the oil out of the ground.

StateImpact Pennsylvania's Scott Detrow took a trip to the refurbished museum which tells the story of the first oil rush.

Gaming Report On Diversity, Donations And Jobs

Sep 17, 2012

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board says diversity hiring is rising at the 13 casinos across the state.

The board's annual Diversity Report indicates a year-to-year progression in diversity hiring.  Director of Diversity Mozelle Daniels said casinos have done an excellent job of minority hiring.

“This year we’re at 29.7 percent, or I should say 30 percent, last year we were at 25.4, and [in 2010] we were at 17 percent,” Daniels said.

While goals, or quotas, are illegal to set Daniels said, the casinos wouldn’t need them.

It’s no secret that women get paid less, on average, than men. However, a new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds women are also recovering more slowly from recession job losses than men. The Women and Girls Foundation in Pittsburgh commissioned the study, which found that by end of 2011 women in Pennsylvania had regained 12% of total recession job losses while men had gained 62% of their job losses.

CONSOL Energy Inc. announced starting today it has temporarily shut down the Buchanan Mine in southwestern Virginia.  The company is also considering a partial or complete idling of the Amonate Mining Complex in southern West Virginia.  According to a statement from CONSOL, a decision is expected soon.

A Trip To The Northern Province

Sep 4, 2012

Poland has the same kind of shale gas deposits found throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Poland’s government hopes to tap into their deposits to fulfill the country’s future energy needs but, like in the United States, it comes with a great deal of controversy. 

Economy Improving While Wages Shrink

Sep 4, 2012

Over the last decade, Pennsylvania’s economy grew. However, the average PA family is now earning less than they would be at the turn of the 21st century.

This new information comes from the left-leaning Keystone Research Center’s annual State of Working Pennsylvania report.  According to the report, the state's economic growth could have supported a rise in living standards for all Pennsylvania workers, but a disproportionate amount went to the top one percent of earners.

A new website will allow Allegheny County property owners to estimate their 2013 real estate tax bills under the county's court-ordered property reassessment.

Given a property's address and reassessed value, "PropertyTaxEstimator.Net" calculates next year's tax bill based on projected municipal and county millage rates.

Pittsburgh’s second ward, which includes portions of downtown and the Strip District, is number 2 on a list of the top 35 areas for home sales and home price appreciations over the last decade. Several other areas of the city also made the list.

“Communities like North Side, Lawrenceville, Southside,” said RealSTATs Vice President Daniel Murrer, “it was really good to see the appreciation going on in the city of Pittsburgh, and a lot of that we attribute to investors going into rundown properties, gutting them, then selling them for a higher price.” to Begin Collecting PA Sales Tax

Aug 30, 2012

Beginning Saturday, Inc. will start collecting Pennsylvania sales tax on orders that are shipped to the state, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The online retail giant had previously refused to register to collect Pennsylvania's 6 percent levy on its orders. But a spokesman said the company reversed itself because a state directive requiring it takes effect Saturday.

"We believe that customers (in Pennsylvania) will continue to come to Amazon because we offer the best prices with or without sales tax," said the spokesman, Scott Stanzel.

Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Prepares For Layoffs

Aug 21, 2012

Faced with a two to two-and-a-half million dollar deficit for 2012-13, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is making cuts in programs and getting ready to layoff some of its 180 employees at its offices.

Diocesan spokesman Reverend Ron Lengwin says the 2011-12 budget was 23.2 million dollars but the 2012-13 spending plan is 21 million.  Lengwin said they began trimming costs earlier this year, "but we've reached the point now that in order to balance our budget it will be necessary to reduce from our excellent workforce."  

Coal Summit Calls on Legislators

Aug 17, 2012

A bi-partisan and multi-faceted summit on the coal industry Friday in Pittsburgh allowed government officials, workers, and corporations to comment on the issues surrounding the burning coal for electricity.  Everything from jobs to clean coal technology was discussed.  There was no clear general consensus, but all seemed to agree coal remains a large industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says a national energy policy should work towards clean coal burning.

PA Unemployment Rate Up For 2nd Straight Month

Aug 17, 2012

Despite staying under the national rate of 8.3 percent, Pennsylvania’s jobless rate jumped from 7.6 percent in June to 7.9 percent in July. Over the past four months, the number of jobs in the state has decreased, following a two month increase in February and March. The unemployment rate was down 0.2 percent from July 2011.

The State Department of Labor and Industry reported 10,000 more people were looking for jobs in July while resident employment was down 10,000. The number of unemployed residents rose by 21,000. The labor force was up 110,000 above July 2011’s level.

As many Pittsburghers were reminded in July, inclement weather can cause major power outages, which also results in problems for the state’s electric distribution companies (EDCs). Three reports released by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) detail the corrective actions being taken related to severe weather in 2011. Jennifer Kocher, Press Secretary for the PUC, said collectively, the reports were centered around the storm-related power outages. Report Web.mp3

With a national focus on union-related policies in recent years, including Wisconsin’s recent recall election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wanted to examine state laws and how they relate to labor unions.