Economy & Business

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

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“Stand up, get down, Pittsburgh is a union town!”

That was one of the chants shouted by protesters who circled the Allegheny County Courthouse Tuesday ahead of a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearing for the Rivers Casino, which is operated by Rush Street Gaming, LLC.

The board is considering whether to renew the North Shore casino’s license, a process undertaken every three years.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Hormann Flexon makes high-speed roll-up doors for commercial buildings. The company, located west of Pittsburgh, has doubled in size over the past three years and recently moved into a new building. Company President, Mark Haley, attributed the growth to shrinking lead times; Hormann Flexon delivers a custom door in two to three weeks, significantly faster than their competitors, he said.

  Native Pittsburgher Jim Joseph knew he couldn’t go to a bank to meet his needs, “to check the box, so to speak,” on small land improvements that would tip the scale for companies excited to lease portions of his 80-acre, West Virginia property for distribution plants or manufacturing work.

It’s a catch-22, he said. His company, Trimodal Terminal, can’t renovate its rail access or install water and gas lines without cash, and he doesn’t qualify for a loan if the land isn’t up to code.

Mayor Bill Peduto is in Cuba this week along with Pittsburgh-area manufacturing leaders in the hopes of establishing Pittsburgh as a trade partner with the island nation, should Congress lift the embargo between the two countries.

The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania has been working to expand the Pennsylvania Housing Trust Fund statewide; the organization will continue that work following the release of a report that shows a person would have to make $15.12 an hour in wages to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate in Allegheny County.

The problem, according to Alliance Executive Director, Liz Hersh, is that many people don’t make that much money.

Faros Properties

A New York developer unveiled plans Thursday to reinvent long-dormant Allegheny Center Mall into a commercial hub for technology and innovation.

Dubbed Nova Place, the 1.2 million square-foot former retail complex was redesigned to accommodate offices for new and existing tenants, a conference center, gym, parking, restaurants, coffee shops and other facilities. Demolition has already begun, owner and Faros Properties managing partner Jeremy Leventhal said.

Fourteen hours after the polls closed and voters decided Bellevue would no longer be ‘dry,’ the first liquor license application was submitted in more than 80 years.

Specialty Group, a liquor license broker and lender for restaurants and bars, submitted the application on behalf of Grille 565 on Lincoln Avenue. Ned Sokoloff, the company’s president and CEO, said the Liquor Control Board received the application by 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed Pennsylvania budget has a detractor: the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP).

The group, which represents all of the state's hospitals, takes issue with a $166.5 million reduction to hospital Medicaid payments. HAP's Vice President for Research Martin Ciccocioppo said the reduction is significant for a program that already doesn't cover the costs hospitals incur.

Millennials Wanted As Boomers Expected To Leave A Crater In The Job Market

May 20, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

Max Inks attended Pennsylvania State University for three years before he dropped out, a decision prompted by his underwhelming performance in classes toward an electrical engineering degree.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Popular lore credits "world’s skinniest building" to the Sam Kee Building in Vancouver, B.C. The building measures 4-foot-11 on the ground floor and 6 feet on the second floor to accommodate overhanging bay windows.

But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Monday that record keepers might want to reconsider, because Pittsburgh’s Skinny Building at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Wood Street measures just 5-foot-2 on each of its three floors.

Peduto called the structure, which was built in 1926, “our own unique, quirky little building.”

Nearly 1,450 new residents moved Downtown since 2010, according to a report released through the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership on Thursday.

Based on 2010 census data, the 4th annual State of Downtown report shows more people are opting to live, work and play in and around the Golden Triangle. Residential and office occupancy rates are both up, with higher attendance to cultural events and more options for dining and retail.

The report found 12,604 residents lived in the area in 2014, up 261 since the year prior.

Courtesy ZENO Group

Back in the 1910s, rail companies had a problem. The lanterns on their trains were very hot, and when they went through colder climates, the glass globes would burst. Scientists at Corning Glass were charged with creating a heat-tempered glass that could withstand the fluctuations in temperature.

According to Pyrex brand manager Mike Scheffki, scientist Jesse Littleton brought home a casserole-sized piece of the glass for his wife Bessie to try out in the kitchen.

Around 2,000 young people have applied for the Learn and Earn program, which connects teens and young adults to six-week paid summer internships, but employers don’t seem as interested.

The open enrollment period for the initiative ended Friday, but according to 3 Rivers Workforce Investment Board CEO Stefani Pashman, only about half of the companies, nonprofits and government agencies needed for the project have signed up.

Flickr user GSCSNJ

72 percent of working moms say they would still work if they didn’t have to, according to a new poll released today by the staffing company Express Employment.

That’s only slightly lower than working fathers: 80 percent said they would still work even if they didn’t need the money.

Deb Gray, franchise owner of the Pittsburgh West Express office, said the number of mothers in the workforce has increased drastically over the last sixty years, including mothers-to be.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department held a public hearing in Harrisburg Monday on a request Highmark made to transfer $175 million dollars in the form of a grant to Allegheny Health Network.

Highmark requested the grant in March for capital investments.

It's been two years since the Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved the creation of the Allegheny Health Network, bringing together what was the West Penn Allegheny Health Network and Highmark and forming the region’s second biggest health care provider.

The Pennsylvania horse racing industry received more than $242 million from slot machine revenue in 2014, but interest in the sport is waning, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Gaming Control Board.

Last year, 11 percent of the $2.3 billion generated by slot machines went to the Pennsylvania Horse Development Fund, which establishes racing prizes, in-state breeding incentives, as well as health and pension benefits for horsemen and their families.

courtesy BLK SHP

A traveling team of thinkers, artists and executives arrives in Pittsburgh this week in search of ideas for remaking the U.S. economy.

Members of the Austin-based BLK SHP group — pronounced “black sheep” — are traveling the nation by bus, meeting with entrepreneurs and community leaders, also known as "shepherds," in 20 towns and cities.

In planning the “Rediscovering America’s True North” tour, project director Alexa Clay sought out Rust Belt communities and other formerly industrial areas that are bouncing back from the recession through creativity and grass-roots innovation.

Speaking to reporters outside a Braddock union hall Friday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said he opposes so-called "fast-track" legislation which, in a few weeks, is up for a vote in Congress. 

The Trade Promotion Authority Legislation, or "fast-track," legislation would allow President Obama to submit trade agreements to Congress for up or down votes without amendments. Those opposed say its undemocratic. Those in favor say other countries won’t make good offers in trade talks if they know Congress could change things.

Terence Wright / Flickr

  Western Pennsylvania gas prices have increased within the past few weeks, but before too much panic sets in, Chelsea Pompeani of AAA East Central says this rise isn’t unusual for the time of year.

The director of public affairs said gas prices normally increase during spring because the price of crude oil rises.

Richard Borean / Tax Foundation

In 2015, Americans as a whole will spend less on food, clothing and housing combined than they will on taxes.

That’s according to the Tax Foundation, which announced Saturday marks Pennsylvania’s Tax Freedom Day.

Economist Kyle Pomerleau said this day shows when Pennsylvania residents have earned enough money to pay their total tax bill for the year.  The nonpartisan organization collects this information for all of the states as well as the U.S. as a whole.

The minimum wage debate continues on after a study released Wednesday says that 1.2 million workers in Pennsylvania would benefit from a minimum wage increase.  

The study conducted by the left-leaning Keystone Research Center broke down the statistics of who was working for minimum wage in each county. They examined their gender, age, race, education, family income and family demographics.

Retired coal miners will gather around Consol Energy Center Monday to protest the revocation of health benefits for more than 1,200 retired workers.

In December 2013 Consol sold five coal mines to Murry Energy. With the sale Murry acquired $2.1 billion in employee retirement benefits, but only committed to paying for one year of health care. Now both companies are refusing to honor the benefits.

Index Ranks PA Counties' Economic Competitiveness

Apr 18, 2015

A Pittsburgh-based consulting firm released on April 15 an index of Pennsylvania county competitiveness rankings that attempts to determine which counties are poised for future economic growth.

Author Interview: 'Rust: The Longest War'

Apr 16, 2015
via Keystone Crossroads

Jonathan Waldman’s new book — "Rust: The Longest War" — is an exploration of how corrosion eats away at the United States’ infrastructure, military equipment and monuments.

The U.S. spends $400 billion a year fighting rust. And it’s certainly something Pennsylvania’s cities—once producers of so much steel, now part of the Rust Belt — spend a lot of time dealing with.

Eleven years ago, Tina Gaser moved into a home in Lawrenceville and right away noticed that when the wind blew in just the wrong direction she could smell the McConway & Torley Steel Foundry just a few blocks away.

A few years later, her husband had a stroke that doctors say could have been indirectly caused by high levels of fine particulate matter in the air. Tonight she will speak at a public hearing calling on the plant to live under tighter environmental controls.

Pennsylvania dropped eight places in the last year to become one of 10 states with the worst economic outlooks, according to the annual “Rich States, Poor States” report published by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Based on 15 criteria including individual and corporate tax rates, the eighth annual report ranked Pennsylvania 41 out of 50 states in terms of economic outlook and competitiveness.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The advanced manufacturing sector led the 10-county Pittsburgh region in the number of investment deals last year, according to the yearly Business Investment Scorecard from the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the marketing affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD).

PRA CEO Dennis Yablonsky said it was a “typical, solid year” for Pittsburgh, with $2.3 billion in capital investment and more than 10,000 jobs created. He said 70 percent of investment deals funded the expansion of existing companies.

Pittsburgh’s South Side often gets a bad reputation as merely a drinking destination for rowdy college kids, but residents say the historic neighborhood’s more wholesome aspects often get overlooked.

That’s according to a presentation made to City Council Tuesday afternoon by students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Urban Studies program.

Small- and mid-sized business owners nationwide are optimistic about their sales and profits for the coming months, according to the latest PNC Economic Survey Outlook.

The survey found that 83 percent of the business owners surveyed are optimistic about their company’s prospects and 70 percent are optimistic about the overall U.S. economy.

In Pennsylvania, things are a little different. While optimistic, small business owners are just a bit more cautious.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget increases spending for education, among other things, but with a looming deficit, that means finding new revenue sources.

Wolf has proposed reducing the types of industries who are currently tax-exempt, among them – the arts. Under the proposal, admissions to the performing arts, museums and historical sites would be taxed at 6.6 percent. While they haven’t taken an official stance on the proposal, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) said there are some questions.

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