Economy & Business

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

Tzuhsun Hsu / Flickr

Last month Bar Marco, a trendy restaurant in the Strip District, announced that they plan to do away with tipping this Spring. There’s been an outpouring of interest, curiosity and praise from all over the country.

Bar Marco Co-Owner Bobby Fry and Events Coordinator Andrew Heffner talk about how they came to this decision and how they plan to make it work.

A no-tipping policy has pros and cons for owners, servers, and customers. Offering their perspectives are Meg Fosque, the National Development Director for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), as well as Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh and a member of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

According to Fry, Bar Marco made the decision to discontinue tipping after encountering research that suggested eliminating the practice could help mitigate some of the restaurant’s scheduling concerns. Workers in restaurants and retail environments often face schedule fluctuations that make their financial and personal lives difficult, Fry says. Bar Marco’s plan to cease the tip system involves creating a conventional forty-hour schedule for its employees and paying the kitchen staff the same as the servers: a standard yearly salary of $35,000.

Black History Month: History and Business

Feb 10, 2015
City Parks / City of Pittsburgh

African American life, history and culture have become major forces in the United States and the world. Here to discuss the evolution, from both a social and economic perspective, of Black History Month is business contributor Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University.

Nursing Home Overtime May Impact Quality of Care

Feb 5, 2015
:23: / Flickr

 WESA content partner Public Source is reporting a problem in the nursing-home industry. Experts say frequent overtime is common and it has the potential to compromise the quality of care, leaving fatigued caregivers in situations that could have serious consequences.

We talk with guest Halle Stockton, a reporter for Public Source, Dennis Biondo, Director of County-owned Kane Regional Centers and Joe Angelelli, a gerontologist and assistant professor at Robert Morris University.

Stockton explains that her story emerged from a right-to-know request, which revealed that the Kane Regional Centers have the highest amount of overtime payouts and employees in the county. Some health care providers, Stockton found, work an average of 80 hours a week for 50 weeks or more.

Owners of small- and medium-sized businesses gathered Wednesday to talk about how the Pittsburgh area economy could change in 2015 and not everyone is optimistic.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence hosted the event that included: Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, PNC Chairman Bill Demchack, and PNC Vice President Augustine Faucher. Overall they predicted that the local economy will fall behind the national economy in 2015.

Neighborhood Business: The Mexican War Streets

Feb 3, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Cities are made up of a collection of neighborhoods with unique features and characteristics. On the first Tuesday of the month, business contributor Rebecca Harris will focus on one of the city’s neighborhoods. Today's focus is on the Mexican War Streets.

Broadly speaking, Harris explains, the North Side consists of 18 different neighborhoods. The district that makes up the Mexican War Streets was laid out in the middle of the 19th century by Alexander Hays, who named the streets after famous figures and battles in the Mexican-American war. The area now holds city and federal designations as a historic district.

Today’s Mexican War Streets district doesn’t really have any central business district; businesses are more spread out instead. Some highlights are the Inn on the Mexican War Streets and the Allegheny City Market, which has been a corner grocery store since 1825.

On the Job: Procrastination as a Positive Habit

Jan 29, 2015
Kristy Arnold / Flickr

"Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today" is an apt quote, warning against procrastination. However, in this month’s On the Job segment, independent career consultant Sasha King addresses why procrastination might not be such a bad thing.

King says procrastination has increased since 1978 due to information overload with the examples of technological advancements and distractions. But she also tells us how procrastination can be positive in today's society.

Repurposing: It's Good for Business

Jan 27, 2015
Rebecca Harris / CWE Chatham

Repurposing refers to finding new uses for items. Some enterprising entrepreneurs have even turned this into a profitable moneymaking venture.

This week business contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of repurposing.

Harris emphasizes that repurposing doesn’t just change the use of old goods; it also changes their value.

Pennsylvania's Income Growth 'Lopsided'

Jan 27, 2015

The Economic Policy Institute and Economic Analysis and Research Network released a report today measuring income growth inequality state by state.

The report looked at Internal Revenue Service pretax income numbers before and after the Great Recession to determine which portion of income earners have benefited the most from recovery.

United Way Expands Free Tax Prep Program

Jan 26, 2015

Free tax preparation services are now available for income-eligible taxpayers in eight southwestern Pennsylvania counties this tax season, thanks to the United Way of Allegheny County’s Money In Your Pocket Coalition.

Households earning up to $53,000 a year can get free, in-person assistance with 2014 tax returns from one of more than 300 IRS-certified volunteers. Taxpayers with $60,000 or less in annual income can take advantage of a free online tax preparation service.

The Associated Press

While Pittsburgh’s economy has recovered from the recession that began in 2008, growth is slowing, and policy makers need to address that reality.

That’s according to a new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. The fourth edition of the Global MetroMonitor examined economic performance in the 300 largest metropolitan economies in the world. Pittsburgh ranked at #253 in 2014. That’s down from a ranking of #192 between 2009 and 2014.

Why the Low Gas Prices?

Jan 20, 2015
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Flickr

The word “staycation” seemed to enter the lexicon when gas prices were continually on the rise a few years back. Now, to the delight of consumers, gas prices are on the decline, and genuine vacations may be back in vogue.

Joining us for a look at how this is impacting the nation is Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark.

The Business of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District

Jan 20, 2015
lady_lbrty / Flickr

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has helped to transform a downtrodden section of Downtown into a world-class Cultural District. This revitalization through the arts has served as a national model for other cities.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, explains the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Cultural District.

As Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes the oath of office Tuesday many in the state have high hopes that he will lead Pennsylvania into an improved business and economic climate but most analysts admit the governor has very little day-to-day impact on the state’s economy. 

However, the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development seems to hold a little more sway.

Becky Stern / Flickr

The International Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas, is history for another year. Our pop culture contributor Joe Wos was one of the many people in attendance and had a front-row seat to see the next big gadgets that could be changing our lives.

  The housing market made up for the rocky start for the Western Pennsylvania region in 2014, according to a year-end report.

West-Penn Multi-List, Inc. says the 13-county area’s home sale prices from January-December 2014 increased by 3 percent ($5,093) from the same period in 2013. New listings also increased by 1.5 percent (570 listings) this past year.

Pittsburgh Ranks in Middle of Nationwide Sprawl Survey

Jan 12, 2015

A recent report by the nonprofit advocacy group Smart Growth America offers a mixed assessment of suburban sprawl in the Pittsburgh area.

Within a sample of 221 metropolitan areas across the U.S., Pittsburgh ranks 132nd for the compactness and connectivity of its suburban communities – well behind the largest cities, but better than many of its comparably sized peers.

Despite a bump in December, Pennsylvania’s slot machine revenues were down nearly 3 percent in 2014.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, nearly all of the state’s 12 casinos experienced growth in slot revenue last month, with the exception of Rivers Casino, which saw a .16 percent drop in revenue compared to December 2013.

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Focus: Allentown

Jan 6, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Pittsburgh is made of dozens of neighborhoods, each with their own unique backgrounds, residents, businesses and other characteristics.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris focuses in on some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods, and discusses her findings every first Tuesday of the month.

Today, she focused on Allentown, a neighborhood south of downtown and just up the hill from WESA’s South Side studio.

The "town" of Allentown was founded by an Englishman, Joseph Allen, in 1827, but most of its original occupants were German. Pittsburgh annexed the town in 1872.

Much has changed since then, as most of the original businesses have disappeared. But shops such as the Hardware Store have moved into the neighborhood.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The housing market in the 13-county Pittsburgh region is showing “steady progress’ going into 2015, according to Tom Hosack, president of the West Penn Multi-List.

“We project the market will be up, probably the high single digits (percentage increase) and we think that steady increase is exactly what we need. When things jump at some point you have to pay the piper. So we want just steady growth,” Hosack says, not volatility.

For a growing number of companies in the Pittsburgh region, the bottom line is including more than gross revenues, operating costs and net profit.

Over the last five years, the demand by investors for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting by companies has tripled, and more and more Pittsburgh area firms are now incorporating sustainability and CSR data with their traditional financial reporting.

The unemployment rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh labor market dipped to 4.8 percent in November.

“The last time the rate was this low was in April 2008 when the rate was also at 4.8 percent,” said Ashley Yanchunas, business and industry analyst with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The number of area residents with jobs rose by 4,700 and the number of those out of work fell by 2,700 last month.

With 2014 ending on a financial high note, PNC Financial Services Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman expects to see a strong 2015.

Hoffman predicts that by the end of 2015 there will be 2.75 million new jobs in the United States, unemployment will dip to 5.2 percent and wages will climb 2.5 percent.

“We think the drop in oil process is a big win for the U.S. economy,” Hoffman said. “And we think that is a real big win for consumers.”

As 2014 nears its end, investors are looking forward to 2015, and unfortunately, so are scammers.

The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities has listed the top four emerging threats facing investors in the New Year. They are binary options, marijuana industry investments, stream-of-income investments and virtual currencies and cyber security risks.

It might not have started well, but according to PNC Financial Services Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman 2014 is ending strong.

“We had a terrible first quarter most of us at the time attributed it to the polar vortex,” Hoffman said.  “Then as the year went on it sprang back.”

Hoffman says the second and third quarters of 2014 were strong, job growth was good all year long and the market, despite a few dips, will end the year higher.

October saw a stock market correction of nearly 10-percent, but it was erased by the end of November.

Visitors to this year’s farm show can play detective at various stations providing information and hands-on lessons.

“Investigating about the roles of bees in food production, measuring the height of horses or learning how sap becomes maple syrup,” said Logan Hall, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesman.

Chances are the average Pittsburgher won’t buy six geese-a-laying for a loved one this year. But if you choose to, the price has increased drastically since last year.

PNC Wealth Management has for the the last 31 years calculated the price of the 12 gifts of Christmas from the popular song. The department puts a price tag on the unusual modern-day gifts with help from the National Aviary, pet chains, farms and a national jewelry chain. The sources remain consistent yearly, but like the Consumer Price Index, prices fluctuate due to market or business climate changes.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh continues to have lower levels of unemployment than most similarly sized cities such as: Indianapolis, Kansas City and Cleveland. 

The Steel City weathered the economic crisis of 2008 better than just about any of these cities and its low unemployment and housing prices have drawn residents back to the area. But will this trend continue?

Mark Price, a labor economist with the left-leaning Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, discusses Pittsburgh’s prospects going forward. In particular, he explains that economic recovery has not yet affected those in blue collar jobs. 

“Two sectors that are going to be important for Pittsburgh, two sectors that have not performed well at all for obvious reasons would be manufacturing and construction… that reflects the deepness and the nature of the recession.”

Overall, however, Price does feel good about the economy going forward.

Sarahnaut / Flickr

In today’s competitive marketplace, companies are always looking for the next overlooked demographic to exploit. Some past examples include Young Upward Professionals (Yuppies) and couples known as DINKs (double income no kids).

The next overlooked demographic to get its own nickname are PANKs, which stands for: Professional Aunts, No Kids. 

Business contributor Rebecca Harris explains the PANK concept and their effect on the marketplace.

She says this group consists of child-loving women who do not have children of their own, and no, they're not spinsters

A report released by the Economic Policy Institute found 122,600 jobs don’t exist in Pennsylvania because of unbalanced trade with China.

Nationally, the trade deficit cost 3.2 million jobs between the same period of 2001 and 2013.

Most U.S. trade comes from manufactured goods rather than agricultural and war materials such as oil or services such as health care, therefore most job creation or loss dependent on trade is manufacturing.

Courtesy Oxford Development Company

More luxury apartments are coming to Pittsburgh, this time in the Strip District.

Oxford Development Company on Tuesday held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the residential and mixed-use development dubbed Three Crossings.

Vice President of Business Development Shawn Fox said the name is a nod to the Strip District’s industrial past and its residential future.

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