Economy & Business

Economy & Business
4:24 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

State of the Labor Report Shows PA Sliding

Just ahead of Labor Day, the left-leaning Keystone Research Center is calling on the state to spend more to support public sector jobs and on the private sector to pay their low-wage workers more. 

The Harrisburg-based think tank’s State of Working Pennsylvania report shows the state’s strong employment position immediately following the recession has begun to falter.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:00 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

The Business of Labor Day

Rosie the Riveter, depicted here by Norman Rockwell for the Saturday Evening Post, was one of the most recognized icons of the labor movement.
Credit Curtis Publishing / Wikipedia

More than 34 million Americans are projected to travel 50 miles or more this Labor Day weekend. This brings big profit opportunities for  businesses throughout the country.

Since its inception in 1882, the holiday has been marked by icons like Rosie the Riveter, barbecues and family gatherings.

Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, says Labor Day weekend travelers will spend an estimated $800 on dining, shopping and gifts.

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University of Pittsburgh
3:31 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Student Group Convinces Pitt to Join Anti-Sweatshop Program

A student group at the University of Pittsburgh has been successful in its effort to get the school’s administration to sign on to a program aimed at guaranteeing workers rights wherever official school apparel is manufactured.

“As soon as I found out for sure I jumped up and down for like a good two or three minutes,” said Joe Thomas, co-founder of the Pitt chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy.

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Economy & Business
2:45 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

PA Treasurer Pushes Parents to Open College Funds

State Treasurer Rob McCord is urging parents to open a Pennsylvania 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) before Sept. 1 to take advantage of last year’s lower cost per college credit.

529 plans are offered by states that include tax-free earnings growth and withdrawals.

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Economy
4:34 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Activists Want Better Wages For UPMC Service Workers

UPMC employs more than 55,000 people in the Pittsburgh region, but according to the group Pittsburgh United, the wages the health care giant pays its service workers are weakening the middle class.

According to a report released Thursday by Pittsburgh United, UPMC’s service workers earn between 8 and 30 percent less than the lowest sustainable family wage.

Barney Oursler, executive director of Pittsburgh United, said UPMC employs as many as 32,000 low wage service workers.

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Downtown Development
2:40 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

City, State Officials Praise $100M Gardens at Market Square Project

City and state officials gathered Wednesday to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking of The Gardens at Market Square development in downtown Pittsburgh.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:23 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

The Business of Couponing

Guess which American company was the first one to adopt the coupon?
Credit The Coca Cola Company

Always one for quirky trivia, Essential Pittsburgh business contributor Rebecca Harris fills us in on the origins of the now ubiquitous coupon. Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the coupon’s future. Though 80-90% of the coupon market still lies in print, the online coupon market is exploding. This is especially true when it comes to smartphones, with the mobile market projected to be $46 billion by 2016. Harris says, the advent of personalized coupons means mass coupon printing is no longer necessary. “You don’t have to be a huge retailer,” she says, to enjoy the benefits of the mobile coupon craze.

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Business
3:37 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Senator Casey Pushes Bill to Cut Taxes for Small Breweries

Small brewers across the U.S. will have reason to hoist their mugs if legislation giving them a tax cut passes.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is pushing to pass the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, which would cut excise taxes for small breweries — those that produce fewer than 2 million barrels of beer per year.

Small breweries currently pay an excise tax of $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels of beer they brew each year, and $18 per barrel above that.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:23 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Heinz Cuts Employees After Investment Firm Acquisition

H.J. Heinz Company was founded in 1869 in Sharpsburg and moved its headquarters to Pittsburgh in 1971.
Credit Alex Abboud / Flickr

Global ketchup manufacturer H.J. Heinz Company recently announced a layoff of 350 employees in the Pittsburgh region. This follows a $28 billion acquisition by investment consortium Berkshire Hathaway and their affiliate 3G Capital.

The company has not yet disclosed how much the layoffs will save them. Pittsburgh Business Times manufacturing reporter Justine Coyne says cutbacks are not unusual during an acquisition, but because of Heinz’s historic connection with the city, many locals are hurting.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:16 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

The Business of Beauty Salons

As the economy recovers, Americans are spending more and more on their looks.
Credit Bryan Costin/Flickr

The state of hair can tell us a lot about the state of the economy, says business contributor Rebecca Harris. According to Harris, beauty salons are not only a big business, employing close to 2 million people in a $50 billion market, the recent growth of the beauty industry gives us an idea of the extent of America’s economic recovery.

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Business
11:46 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Heinz Announces Layoffs; 350 to Lose Jobs in Pittsburgh

H.J. Heinz Co. has announced that it's eliminating 600 jobs across the U.S. and in Canada, including 350 in Pittsburgh. The cuts come about two months after the company was sold to private investors.
Credit Flickr user roeyahram

Food company H.J. Heinz Co. is eliminating 600 jobs across the U.S. and in Canada, including 350 in Pittsburgh.

Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen says in a statement that employees were notified of the cuts Tuesday morning, about two months after the company was sold to private investors. Mullen says Heinz regrets the impact on Heinz employees and is offering enhanced severance packages.

Mullen says the cuts will better position Heinz for growth in a highly competitive global food market.

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Economy
11:51 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Western Pennsylvania Housing Market Heats Up

The hot July temperatures this year reflected the sizzling housing market in Western Pennsylvania — with increases across the board.

According to the West Penn Multi-List Inc. residential real estate report, the number of homes under agreement during July this year was 4,104 compared to 3,392 homes in July 2012, an increase of over 20 percent.

George Hackett, President of the West Penn Multi-List Inc., said this is partly because of the improved economy.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:11 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Fast Growing Occupations

Rebecca Harris discusses the 100 best jobs of 2013.
Credit Rebecca Harris / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

When business contributor Rebecca Harris looked at the US News and World Report’s list of the top 100 best jobs for 2013, she noticed the effect that the aging baby boomers were having on the economy. The rapid rise of healthcare related jobs reflects this trend. Another important shift in the economy can be seen in the advent of the Chief Listening Officer position in some companies. She says this job’s rise to prominence shows that “before social media, business was really a one way communication...now when consumers talk, businesses have to listen.”

Essential Pittsburgh
4:57 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Trying to Live on the Minimum Wage

Credit Elyce Feliz / flickr

Originally meant to protect American workers from being exploited, the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938 and set mandatory federal minimum wages at 25 cents per hour.  In the years following, congress and the President acted to raise minimum wage to keep up with inflation and productivity. Around the 1980’s, it became much more difficult to get a labor wage bill out of congress and the term “living wage” circulates to replace the widely criticized minimum wage.  Many protesters and researchers find that the minimum wage does not reflect the actual cost of living and no longer keeps pace with the country’s economic growth. Labor Economist Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg shares his statistical findings and suggestions for improvement.

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Economy
3:46 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Cuts to Food Stamps to Impact 1.8 Million Pennsylvanians

When the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians on food stamps wake up on November 1, they will have less money for their breakfast.

A nationwide cut will reduce the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by $183 million in Pennsylvania and $5 billion nationwide.

Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, said the reduction will average $29 a month for a family of three.

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Economy & Business
7:20 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Study Shows Pittsburgh Has Strong Upward Mobility

A recent study has found that Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh in particular, show considerably more upward mobility compared to other regions in the nation. Researchers based that on four variables: the size of the middle class, the quality of the K-12 schools, strong families and civic engagement.
Credit Flickr user Jason Pratt

A new study shows Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh specifically, might be the model for the American dream.

A team of researchers from Harvard University and the University of California-Berkley found that Pennsylvania has considerably more upward mobility than other parts of the country.

According to Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the liberal-leaning Keystone Research Center, upward mobility is the ability of someone in the economic lower class to move up the economic scale.

Herzenberg said upward mobility is at the heart of the American dream.

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Business
1:54 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Back-To-School Sales Expected to Drop, But Not So Much in Pittsburgh

Ready … set … shop!

While it doesn’t have have an official kickoff day like the Christmas shopping season does with Black Friday, retailers are trying to get parents and students to spend their back-to-school money a little earlier this year.

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Business
3:38 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Mt. Washington Businesses: The View is Free, But Stay and Buy Something

Pink Grandview Bakery and yellow Micro Diner signs on Shiloh Street in Mount Washington.
Credit Mount Washington Community Development Corporation

Mention “Mount Washington” to longtime Pittsburgh residents, newcomers and visitors and the comment you’re likely to get is “the view.” Not the view of Mount Washington, but rather the view from Mount Washington.

Business owners there would like you to turn your back on the view of downtown and the Point … after you’re done gazing of course … and take a look at what that community has to offer.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:39 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Digging Deeper Into the Business of Farmers Markets

Farmers markets provide a great place for local producers to test out their business ideas.
Credit Rhonda Schuldt / Local Goodness


For many, farmers markets are one of the wonderful diversions of the summer season, where practical shoppers and foodies alike can peruse the offerings of local farmers. They provide community, frugality and an opportunity to skip the supermarket. But what are the business benefits of participating in a farmers market?

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, the sellers in a farmers market get to see some clear benefits, one of which is the direct connection to their customers.

“It’s direct consumer marketing and the farmers get to decide on the pricing,” which helps them ensure they get fair pay for their hard labor.

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Business
1:42 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Gordon Food Service to Build Distribution Center in Pittsburgh

With the help of a million dollars in state grants and tax credits, Gordon Food Service will locate a new distribution center in the Pittsburgh region, bringing more than 150 jobs.

Gordon Food Service, the largest family-owned and operated food service distributor in North America, will construct a 480,000-square-foot food distribution center in Findlay Township.

Andy Maier, marketing communications manager at Gordon Food Service, said the new facility will improve service for its northern customers.

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Business
2:10 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Better Business Bureau Offers Security Tips After Victims of Hacking Scheme Lose Millions

The Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to take a hands-on approach in monitoring financial records after five Russian and Ukrainian hackers were charged with stealing 160 million credit card numbers over seven years.

Caitlin Vancas, spokeswoman for the BBB of Western Pennsylvania, said people need to take a closer look at their bills and statements in order to stay secure.

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Marcellus Shale
3:31 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

CEO of Marcellus Shale Coalition Stepping Down

After nearly four years, the head of Pennsylvania’s leading natural gas industry group will be stepping down.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) announced Friday its CEO Kathryn Klaber will be leaving the group this fall and will stay on during a nationwide search for her replacement.

Klaber, a Beaver Falls native, will be representing the MSC at upcoming events in Australia and London and will host the group’s third annual Shale Insight conference in Philadelphia in September.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:50 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Chefs Go Wild Over Local Wild Mushroom

Chanterelle mushrooms are quickly becoming a popular -- and pricey -- local delicacy.
Credit Flickr


Chanterelle mushrooms are not your average fungus. The orange-hued mushrooms are a local delicacy found through foraging, and nationally acclaimed chefs like Top Chef Bryan Voltaggio are willing to pay top dollar for them.

With prices ranging from $18 to $22 a pound, they’ve become a cash crop for foragers like Wild Purveyors.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:18 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

The Business of Ice Cream with Rebecca Harris

What's this year's frozen treat craze? Frozen Yogurt, a.k.a. Froyo.
Credit Flickr


In the world of “frozen dessert products,” ice cream is still king, reports business contributor Rebecca Harris. Though recent years have seen a rise in the popularity of numerous frozen treat fads, the U.S. still consumed more ice cream than anything else by a long shot. In 2012, 899 million gallons of the frozen treat were doled out in cones, cups, pints, and tubs, compared to 467 million gallons of low fat ice cream and only 74 million gallons of frozen yogurt.

If those numbers aren’t eye popping, think of it this way: the US market for ice cream has been more than $10 billion. And according to Harris, “It’s all about the tub. Well over half the US $12 billion in annual sales is served in pints or half gallons.”

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Business
7:13 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Merchants to Congress: How About e-Fairness?

Brick-and-mortar store owners across Pennsylvania are trying to put pressure on Congress to make online retailers collect state sales tax.

Right now, such vendors don't have to collect sales tax from out-of-state purchases, and many customers are unaware they're required to report the tax on their own.

Pennsylvania-based retailers say it's a loophole that gives online-only vendors an unfair advantage, allowing them to undercut prices at brick-and-mortar stores.

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