Economy & Business

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

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.

National Bid-Rigging Scheme Settlement Pays Out

Jul 25, 2012

Pennsylvania is set to receive approximately $11.5 million in restitution as part of a multi-state bid-rigging case involving major financial institutions. These large-scale companies marketed and sold municipal derivative investments, which are primarily used by government agencies and non-profit groups to reinvest the proceeds of tax-exempt bonds until funds are needed.

US Trade Rep Touts Pittsburgh for Export Potential

Jul 20, 2012

The White House brought its message of increasing US exports and decreasing outsourcing to Pittsburgh Friday with a stop at Pittsburgh International Airport and a meeting with Steel Workers Union leadership. United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, said by focusing on those two goals more jobs will be created in the US.

Kirk said it is important to focus on Pittsburgh's success and potential. "Last year for example, Pennsylvania business exported almost $41 billion. That's a 118 percent increase over 2002. 217,000 [PA] jobs are supported by exports," said Kirk.

Small businesses have been called up to the big leagues as they now have the opportunities to compete for state contracts as heavy hitters. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced new efforts to provide equal footing for self-certified and veteran-owned small businesses to bid on procurements.

Troy Thompson, Press Secretary for the Department of General Services, said the Small Business Procurement Initiative will give companies with 100 or fewer employees and meet maximum revenue requirements a chance to prove they are capable of being prime contractors.

Midwest Drought Might Drain Pockets in PA

Jul 19, 2012

The drought in the Midwest is bad enough to cause economic ripple effects across the country, including noticeable price hikes in Pennsylvania grocery stores in coming months, according to PNC economist Kurt Rankin.

"The drought may not affect western Pennsylvania directly, although I haven't had to cut the grass quite as much this summer," Rankin said, "but we will see the price increases."

Pennsylvania's Debt Downgrade has Wide Impact

Jul 18, 2012

Pennsylvania's recent debt downgrade means it may cost the state more to borrow money, because investors will want to pay less for taking on riskier debt, but the effect of the lower score might be more political than financial.

The drop from Aa1 to Aa2 by Moody's Investor Service is likely to have a small effect on typical investors who invest in state bonds, but analysts are taking note of the major reason given for the change: ballooning pension costs expected to hit the state in increasingly large waves over the next several years.

A new poll released by the American Alliance of Manufacturing finds a majority of likely voters list jobs and, more specifically, manufacturing jobs, as a top priority. 53% of those surveyed rated manufacturing as most important to the overall strength of the American economy.

"Voters are hearing more about manufacturing from a variety of sources, but they feel little is getting done. Manufacturing is seen as a critical and irreplaceable part of the economy and our place in the world," said Mark Mellman, CEO of the Mellman Group.

Governor Tom Corbett toured the US Steel Clairton Plant on Monday, taking the opportunity to praise the pro-business aspects of the new state budget.

Corbett said until the current budget year, companies had been paying more in taxes the more employees and property they'd had in Pennsylvania.

Labor Activists Rally Against Outsourcing

Jul 10, 2012

Toting signs reading "Bring Jobs Home," several dozen labor activists crowded the lawn of the United Steelworkers building on Monday to demand passage for U.S. Senate Bill 2884.

The bill would end tax incentives for companies that move their workforces overseas. Under the legislation, tax credits would be given to companies who move jobs back to the United States.

United Steelworkers International Secretary Treasurer Stan Johnson said the U.S. has lost about six million industrial jobs over the last decade.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An estimated 150,000 American veterans are homeless or become homeless upon returning from overseas, and an advocacy group said the government is not doing enough to alleviate the issue. The Circle of Friends for American Veterans (COFAV) reported 150,000 are without shelter with only 1/10 of 1% of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) $130 billion budget supporting homeless veterans.

An estimated 150,000 American veterans are homeless or become homeless upon returning from overseas, and an advocacy group said the government is not doing enough to alleviate the issue. The Circle of Friends for American Veterans (COFAV) reported 150,000 are without shelter with only 1/10 of 1% of the Department of Veteran Affairs' (VA) $130 billion budget supporting homeless veterans.

Community Leaders Want UPMC Unions

Jun 20, 2012

Faith and community leaders in the region are calling on the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center not to thwart unionization of its employees. They claim the health system is currently violating workers' rights. They held a demonstration outside UPMC Shadyside Wednesday afternoon.

Reverend David Thornton, pastor of the Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, said the goal is to press UPMC to work towards justice and equity for its workers.

The commonwealth is looking to return approximately $133 million in unclaimed property to residents, businesses, and organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is part of about $1.8 billion the Pennsylvania Treasury currently holds.

Treasurer Rob McCord said everyone should inquire if they are owed money. "Almost all of us had some little bank account somewhere, or a forgotten or uncashed check, or contents of the safe deposit box of some relative that maybe passed a decade ago, and you'd be amazed at how long that unclaimed property lingers," McCord said.

Small businesses are important to the national economy, and a new study released by the Fiscal Policy Institute [PDF] shows an increasing number of foreign-born business owners in Pittsburgh and across the country.

In the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, U.S.-born small business owners represent 2.5% of the U.S.-born labor force, while foreign-born small business owners make up 3% of the foreign-born labor force.