Economy & Business

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

Casey Chafin / 90.5 WESA

The first tenants will move into the new 54,000-square-foot 3 Crossings office building in the Strip District on Sept. 1, completing the first wave of a series of redevelopment projects between 25th and 27th streets.

Steve Guy, president and CEO of Oxford Development Company, said the project will give the area sorely-needed amenities like sidewalks, curbs, drainage and groundwater control systems, as well as updating the electrical pole configurations to more efficiently meet the needs of the neighborhood at large.

AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File

Kraft Heinz has announced it is cutting about 2,500 jobs in the U.S. and Canada. The move comes as the company seeks to cut costs following the Kraft and Heinz merger earlier this year. The impact on Pittsburgh will be minimal, according to Kraft Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen.

“As part of the integration, some employees will move from Pittsburgh to Chicago and likewise, some employees will move from Chicago to Pittsburgh,” said Mullen. “Heinz will continue to have a significant presence in the Pittsburgh area.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews was in Pittsburgh to lead an initiative that will help start-up and early stage businesses conduct business abroad.

“With 96 percent of the world’s customers and 80 percent of the world’s GDP outside of the borders of the United States, there are tremendous opportunities for U.S. businesses around the world, and we want to help companies early in their life cycle and early in their growth to start thinking globally rather than waiting until they’re further along and more developed,” said Andrews.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is hanging not only his budget proposal, but at least some of the state’s economic future, on continued growth in natural gas production in the state, but rumors of gas being sold at 60 cents per thousand cubic feet (MCF) is prompting concern among many.

More Housing Coming Soon To Pittsburgh's Strip

Aug 6, 2015

In the 1800’s, the building in the 2400 block of Smallman Street was the Duquesne Cigar Factory. As recently as this week, it was an industrial vacuum cleaner company. And soon, it will be home to 38 more condominiums.

Its neighbors? Other condominium buildings, a whiskey distillery and soon, according to published reports, an Apple Inc. office.

Real estate agent Kathy Wallace lauded Pittsburgh's rich, architectural history. As the Steel City's identity evolved, many buildings were left underutilized and sometimes abandoned as their uses changed over time, she said.

Forty out of the 150 buildings in Wilkinsburg’s central business district are vacant, but borough officials are hoping that a new tool will help spur development in that distressed municipality.

Some of these properties have been vacant for a decade or two, according to Tracey Evans, executive director of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC).  She said on one block just one of the nine buildings is occupied.

“That’s a huge loss visually for people driving through the business district," Evans said. "It looks blighted.”

Courtesy Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants

Pittsburgh restaurant owners, chefs and farmers have teamed with Sustainable Pittsburgh to launch the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program, which recognizes southwestern PA restaurants for their efforts in operating energy efficient and socially responsible establishments, especially as the city’s eateries garner increasing national attention.

Point Park Administration Ready To Talk To Union

Jul 20, 2015

A long-standing Downtown feud could be on its way to resolution.

Point Park University President Paul Hennigan announced Monday that his administration had dropped its objection to the unionization of the school’s full-time faculty.

“This case started ... under a different administration,” Hennigan said.  “This administration is just not interested in a fight.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday that he gets “a little emotional” when he talks about the city’s summer employment program for teenagers and young adults.

More homes in the Pittsburgh area were purchased in June compared to a year ago. They sold more quickly and at a higher price, according to a report from the West Penn Multi-List, which tracks the housing market.

The average sale price was about $200,000 and the homes were on the market for an average of 112 days — 35 fewer than this time last year. The number of homes put up for sale in June increased by 3.6 percent last month compared to June 2014.

David Brossard / Flickr

  After 128 years, the Kaufmann clock still tolls, but in the coming months visitors meeting under it won’t be in front of a department store.

Macy’s, a Cincinnati-based department store chain, announced Monday the closing of the 13-floor Downtown Pittsburgh store at 400 Fifth Avenue. The building was sold earlier this year to Philadelphia-based Core Realty, which touts mixed-use redevelopment for the space.

More than $3.4 million in gaming returns will be distributed to 14 community and economic development initiatives through the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.

Community groups and organizations looking to jumpstart a business, improve a park or start a program or project were eligible to apply for grants up to $500,000.

The city’s tourism agency, VisitPittsburgh, has proposed creating a non-profit organization tasked with attracting major sporting events to the area.

Executive Vice President Jason Fulvi said the city needs an organization dedicated solely to sports promotion.

“We had over a million overnight visits last year in Allegheny County and all of that brings money and revenue into the community," he said. "It helps to support not only our hotels, but restaurants, bars (and) attractions.”

United Way organizations serving Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette and Armstrong counties have combined efforts as the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Bob Nelkin, formerly the director of the Allegheny branch and now President and CEO of the larger operation, said the change was rapid after discussions of combining branch strengths began in June.

Kraft shareholders have approved the sale of the company to ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, creating one of the world's largest food companies with annual revenue of about $28 billion.

Heinz' owners, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital engineered the deal, first announced in March, and will control 51 percent of the new Kraft Heinz Co.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Average annual pay increased in the Pittsburgh region from 2013 to 2014, but not as much as in several other cities, including Denver, Cincinnati or Detroit, according to a report released by Pittsburgh Today.

Doug Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today, an organization which measures progress in areas such as education, sustainability and economy, said local average annual pay rose by 2.7 percent.

As designated up-and-coming neighborhoods, Homewood and Sharpsburg have been added to the Allegheny Conference’s Strengthening Communities Partnership program.

The program pools private sector resources to invest in local community growth and also leverages state tax credits as incentive.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Pennsylvania cities have more low-income households and fewer higher-earning households than the national average.

The Brookings Institution, analyzing data from the American Community Survey, broke up cities’ populations by what quintile of the national income distribution households fell into. The Brookings analysis found that “collectively, the smaller cities mirror the national income distribution almost exactly. In large cities, by contrast, both low-income (bottom 20 percent) and very high-income (top 5 percent) households are overrepresented.”

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) wants to encourage private investment in waterfront property by pushing for his proposed senate bill that would establish a Waterfront Development Tax Credit.

The senator said Pennsylvania’s greatest resources are the many lakes, rivers and creeks that hold a place in state and national history as well as provide recreational opportunities. However, areas along these resources need substantial investment to redevelop because of obstacles such as contamination and abandoned industrial sites.

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.”

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