Economy & Business

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

Jacob Bøtter / Flickr

There are more job openings in Pittsburgh than there are people with the matching skill sets, according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. 

Courtesy Mac & Gold

The laws that govern food trucks in Pittsburgh were written in an era when ice cream trucks were the only food vendors on wheels, well before mobile pierogi and taco vendors took to the streets, councilman Dan Gilman said.

For example, city code requires food trucks to move every 30 minutes.

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Duquesne University laid off nearly all its part-time English faculty last week prompting criticism from union organizers who cast the move as both retaliatory and possibly illegal.

The department is at the center of a labor battle still being adjudicated by federal regulators more than three years after faculty voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers. 

Fishhawk / Flickr

Competition from foreign markets and struggles in the global economy are causing a drop in milk prices in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

The price for milk in 2014 was the highest in Pennsylvania history, but this year farmers are facing a 28 percent price drop. In Allegheny County, a gallon of milk currently costs a minimum of $3.70, compared to last November’s price of $4.36, as established by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

Ryan Loew / For Keystone Crossroads

In a two-chair barbershop in Clairton, Roger Mount shapes clients’ beards and hairlines. He does what he calls old school barbering, using a straight razor. “When you’re cutting hair like this it’s like an art, you try to make the bad look good,” he said while working on a client last week. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

A report commissioned by one of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority Board members found a lack of proper internal controls and a deeper investigation is needed into the governance systems that allowed a former executive director to extort contractors for his personal gain.

“We cannot keep running this as it is,” said JRA board member Mark Pasquerilla following the release Tuesday of his report produced by the law firm of K&L Gates. “As Johnstown moves into the new century and tries to get things done, we have to represent a progressive attitude on governance.”

PA's College Towns Capitalize On The Knowledge Economy

Oct 20, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

Walk around Videon's headquarters, and it's easy to forget that you're in a short, squat building in the back of an office park. Dogs run around the open workspace, filled with standing desks, funky stone tables and huge computer monitors.

They're an audiovisual technology company, so it make sense that they would want to show off their equipment.

"We've got a really nice little theater area here, which is a fun place to show off the high tech stuff that we do," says marketing director Rebecca Lundin. "And also, bring our kids in and have birthday parties." 

PA Budget Stalemate Leads To "Negative Outlook"

Oct 19, 2015
StockMonkeys.com / www.stockmonkeys.com

Moody’s Investors Service last week maintained Pennsylvania’s bond rating at Aa3 but revised its outlook to "negative" from stable  on the state's general obligation debt.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in September, down a tenth of a percentage point from August, according to numbers released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor and Industry.

The state tracked two-tenths of a percentage point above the U.S. rate of 5.1 percent, unchanged since August.

Casey Chafin / 90.5 WESA

Security officers were joined Wednesday by union and community leaders  to announce their first union contract with several companies that provide security services for Pittsburgh buildings.

The deal with Allied Barton Security Services, G4S, Securitas, St. Moritz Security Services, I.S.S., S.O.S. and Chesley Brown provides health care benefits and a $1.95 hourly increase over three years to a minimum of $11.75.

Sheri Geyer, a security officer for 18 years, said the contract should encourage other workers in the area to organize.

daveynin / flickr

While he was in Bellagio, Italy last week, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto signed on to a pledge to commit at least 10 percent of the city’s operating and capital budgets to making Pittsburgh a more resilient city, a move that Pittsburgh Chief Resilience officer Grant Ervin said is extremely timely.

“Look, for example, at some of the challenges that are being faced right now in South Carolina,” said Ervin, referring to the massive flooding that has displaced hundreds of residents.  “How do you clean up quickly and then how do you become a stronger city following the event?”

Natalie Maynor / Flickr

This week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $35 million dollars in funding for grant programs that will support local and regional food systems, including in Pittsburgh. The funds come from the Farm Bill, which allocates $30 million dollars a year for these initiatives.

Pennsylvania is receiving ten of these grants; one, of nearly 100,000 is coming to Pittsburgh. It will go toward Three Rivers Grown LLC, which is an aggregator. They purchase food and connect wholesale buyers and producers so suppliers are ensured a safe supply of regionally produced food.

Flickr

Pennsylvania small business owners are looking at the next six months with some optimism, according to the most recent findings from PNC’s biannual Economic Outlook Survey.

The survey found the percentage of small business owners in the state expecting to raise employee wages increased from 29 to 45 percent.

Kate Hiscock / Flickr

The longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to find a job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board announced Thursday a program geared specifically to the long-term unemployed will soon be available in Pittsburgh. The Platform to Employment (P2E) program is more specialized in that it focuses solely on people who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks.

“The needs that you have in order to get yourself back into the workforce are very different,” said Joe Carbone, president and CEO of The Workplace, which first launched P2E. “We think we assembled the right tools that are necessary so that folks who are long-term unemployed, many of which who have given up any future in terms of being a part of the workforce, can actually overcome that and come back in and be productive employees.”

Green PNC Tower Opens With High Hopes

Oct 1, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

PNC’s 800,000 square foot office building in downtown Pittsburgh is being hailed by locals not only as one of the greenest buildings in the world but also as a sign of great things to come for the region.

The 33-story "Tower at PNC Plaza" at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Wood St. was designed from the beginning to receive the highest level of LEED certification. 

Luis Villa del Campo / Flickr

It’s an evolving debate in healthcare academia; is it a conflict of interest to have a health care instructor also serve in a leadership role at a for-profit healthcare institution?

In a follow up study to one that looked at the overlap of those in leadership roles for pharmaceutical companies and those employed by academic centers, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have now focused on those in leadership roles with publicly traded healthcare companies who are also employed by non-profit academic institutions.

The analysis found that one in 10 American for-profit health care company board positions are held by an individual with an academic affiliation.

For a fourth straight month, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained at 5.4 percent in August, the same as one year ago. During that same 12-month period, the U.S. rate dropped a full percentage point to the current 5.1 percent.

Dan Moyle / Flickr

  Southwestern Pennsylvania experienced a summer surge in home listings this year, according to a report by West Penn Multi-List, Inc.

Keystone Crossroads

Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania is hundreds of miles from the boardwalk and the beach, but mere steps from the Susquehanna River. And while no one has made a reality show about this sleepy town yet, they do share one similarity with their namesake: flooding.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Twenty bushels of apples get dumped onto a conveyor belt at Soergel’s Orchards in Wexford. After a quick wash, they’re ground into a pulp and squeezed under 55 tons of pressure to make 110 gallons of cider.

Larry Voll, one of the owners of Soergel’s Orchards, said the cider is going to Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville. The juice that he sells to Arsenal to make into hard cider will one day end up back at the Wexford farm, at the Arsenal tap room, which just opened this summer.

In 1981, the Allegheny County Commissioners determined that minority and women business owners should receive a better share of government contracts. Goals were established: 13 percent for minority business owners and 2 percent for women business owners.

Twenty-three years later, the two groups represented a combined 17 to 23 percent of purchasing, economic development and pubic works contracts awarded by the commission. In every instance, the number of contracts given to minority owners far exceeded the number granted to women.

Jared Brey / PlanPhilly

There are some neighborhoods in Pennsylvania cities where half of the properties are blighted or tax-delinquent or both. Between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, there are about 60,000 such properties. But getting them into the hands of new owners who can make them useful for the neighborhood again has been difficult. Enter a 2012 state law that allows cities to quickly acquire properties, eliminate back taxes and get them to new owners. But in reality, there has been little progress.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Rob Walters, a riverkeeper, launched his boat across from a staging area for barges on the Monongahela River, about 20 miles upriver from Pittsburgh’s downtown. His first mate, a Portuguese water dog named Rio — meaning river in Portuguese — whimpered in excitement. He counted about 30 barges before he turned on his boat’s engine and headed towards the city.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

If you're hoping to take the incline to Mt. Washington over the holiday weekend, you are in luck.

Major rehabilitation work on the Monongahela Incline scheduled to begin Aug. 31 was postponed for eight days following meetings between the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation and the Port Authority of Allegheny County. Local business owners complained that the loss of the incline, a major method of transportation to the neighborhood, would hinder visitors over the holiday.

United Steelworkers March Through Downtown

Sep 1, 2015
Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

An estimated 1,500 people marched through the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday from United Steelworkers headquarters to the offices of Allegheny Technology and U.S. Steel headquarters.

Union workers are demanding contract settlements with U.S. Steel, Allegheny Technologies and ArcelorMittal. Negotiations started in June.

patreasury.gov

Unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation benefit recipients will receive a new provider for prepaid debit cards; the Pennsylvania Treasury will stop making deposits to the previously-used Chase cards on Sept. 30.

Money For Small Businesses Coming To Pennsylvania

Aug 24, 2015

Pennsylvania will be receiving nearly 700,000 in grant money to be distributed among small businesses for the purpose of expanding their offerings in markets abroad. The announcement was made today by Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet on a conference call with reporters.

Contreras-Sweet said the program's goals are three-fold.

Minimum-Wage Debate Heats Up In Pennsylvania

Aug 24, 2015

Cori Shetter is a college graduate and aspiring actress who’s worked minimum-wage jobs for 15 years.

“It’s like swinging from Tarzan vine to Tarzan vine. One vine’s about to end and break, so you just grab the next one, but you’re never really putting your feet on solid ground,” said the 31-year-old Pittsburgh resident.

Lots Of Red Tape For Building Waterfront Projects In PA, But It Could Be Worse

Aug 19, 2015
Diana Robinson / WITF

Antonia Hinnencamp and a few friends are about to start a bike ride on the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. The 6.5-mile paved stretch opened last spring, and Hinnencamp says she’s done it twice since then. She says it’s well worth the 20-minute trip from her hometown in Lancaster for such an ideal setting: flat, shaded, closed to pedestrians.

Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group

Four out of 10 black people in Allegheny County wanting to buy a home are denied a mortgage. That's two times the rate of white applicants, according to data released Monday in the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group’s 21st Annual Mortgage Lending Study.

“The level of African American lending is extremely low compared to all other groups,” said Rachel Rue, researcher with the PCRG.

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