Economy & Business

Economy & Business news from 90.5 WESA.

Frigid temperatures have brought frosty casino earnings, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Total casino revenue in January was down 7 percent, or 14 million dollars compared to January of 2013. Board officials say the extreme winter weather that passed over the region last month kept many patrons out of casinos.

January saw a 1 percent decrease in revenue from table games and an 8.7 percent decline in revenue from slot machines. According to board spokesman Doug Harbach, this variation is new for the industry.

Comcast Merger with Time Warner Concerns FCC

Feb 18, 2014
Steve Garfield / flickr

Media giants Comcast and Time Warner may change the way consumers receive their cable, television, and internet, pending negotiations with the FCC over a merger of the two companies.

Critics worry that a merger would create a cable monopoly with zero competition in areas where Comcast and Time Warner serve as the sole provider.

Philadelphia Inquirer consumer and technology columnist Jeff Gelles says the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department had to update how they define essential services to include cable TV as the dominant provider of broadband Internet. 

The Good & The Bad for Businesses in the Winter

Feb 18, 2014
Marcus Eubanks / flickr

With the abundance of cold weather, there has been no shortage of news stories about the climate, energy issues and snow-related complications.

But in addition to an increase in coverage by media outlets, many businesses that sell winter items and services are seeing a big boom in revenue. While others may see a decrease in earnings as a result of the unsettling weather.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris divides the good from the bad and shares the implications of a long winter.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If you walk down any street these days you are likely to hear a Pittsburgher proclaiming, “I am so ready for this winter to be over.”  Snowfall and low temperature records have been set throughout the northeast and Pittsburgh has been averaging well below normal when it comes to thermometer readings and well above when it comes to snow.

All that has led to higher-than-normal insurance claims and Pennsylvania’s largest homeowner’s and auto insurance provider, State Farm, has been feeling the pinch. 

The number of homes for sale in the 13-county southwestern Pennsylvania region is not keeping pace with the number of people looking to buy homes.

That’s according to a January 2014 report from real estate group West Penn Multi List Inc., which showed new listings in 12 of the 13 counties it covers decreased in the first month of the year.

President George Hacket said overall, the housing market in the region is strong.

How to Own a Piece of Pennsylvania History

Feb 12, 2014
PA Historical and Museum Commission / Cordier Auctions

This weekend citizens of the Commonwealth will get the opportunity to purchase a piece of Pennsylvania history.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will auction off items which include a Conestoga Wagon, prints and antique tools.

Mary Jane Miller is collections manager for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission. She says this Saturday's auction includes a diverse variety of items.

James Myers / SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

Registered nurses at UPMC Altoona stepped off the job for a one-day strike on Tuesday.

Tammy Morgan, a nurse in the Behavioral Health Inpatient Unit, said many of the hospital’s 750 nurses are on the picket line today.

“We don’t know exactly how many, but there’s hundreds of people out there,” Morgan said. “We have lots of community people going by honking. We have other people in the community standing with us. Everybody’s riled up, chanting, marching up and down the sidewalks.”

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

For video game enthusiast Mark Bussler, simple, retro 8-bit games can be just as fun as complex modern ones.

He should know, and in fact, it's his business to know.

The 38-year-old of Oakmont has been collecting games since he was five, and today his collection reaches the thousands, all thanks to fans who send him old-school games and accessories to review on his website, Classic Game Room.

The supermarket freezer aisle is getting a little more crowded as a name more associated with lager and porter than vanilla and chocolate takes its place alongside familiar ice cream brands like Breyers and Edy's.

Beer drinkers up and down the East Coast know Yuengling as a 185-year-old Pennsylvania brewery. But Yuengling used to make ice cream, too, starting in 1920 at the dawn of Prohibition.

Now Yuengling's Ice Cream is back after an absence of nearly 30 years, available beginning Monday in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey.

Internet search engine company Google Inc. is expanding its Pittsburgh office in the city's Bakery Square development, but not commenting on a developer's estimate that it could increase the company's employees to 1,000.

Google has confirmed the lease for 66,000 additional square feet, giving the company about 200,000 square feet in a development linked to the city's repurposed Nabisco bakery.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle joined UPMC workers and community activists for a rally outside the federal building in downtown Pittsburgh Monday.

Doyle told the assembled crowd of about 75 people that he recently had the honor of accompanying President Barack Obama on his trip to Pittsburgh last week, and that the two discussed the president’s comments during his State of the Union address.

“One of the things he said that really stuck with me is … 'No one in this country should be working full time and living in poverty,’” said Doyle.

Psychology & Context Deeply Influence Employee Choices

Jan 30, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Behind every tough problem lie human behaviors. Understanding why we do the things we do can be a key to solving tough social problems.

It’s a focus of the work done by Ideas 42, which played a significant role in devising Propel Schools’ innovative 2013 savings initiative.

As the executive director of Ideas 42, Josh Wright explores the juxtaposition of human thought and business enterprise. He is in Pittsburgh as part of the Pitt Philanthropy Forum, where he'll speak Thursday.

How to Set and Achieve Goals in the Workplace

Jan 30, 2014
http://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/1264424156/ / Flickr

We’re in the first month of a new year and chances are you’ve made resolutions to improve aspects of your life.

Whether it’s finding a new job or making the most of your current position, having a strategy is a good starting point.

Sasha King, an independent career consultant, offers up some tips on how to set goals at work.

A measles outbreak at a past Super Bowl has state officials concerned for the health of guests visiting Northern New Jersey for this year’s matchup. To contain any possible outbreaks, the New Jersey Department of Public Health has enlisted the help of a Pittsburgh company to take a proactive step against any health problems.

Super Bowl Viewers to Order 1.23 Billion Chicken Wings

Jan 28, 2014
Anthony Quintano / flickr

While the beloved Steelers won’t be playing in this year’s Super Bowl, residents of the City of Champions still enjoy watching the annual football game.

As one of the largest watched TV broadcasts each year, the economic impact of the football game reaches all facets of the tradition.

Super Bowl revenue includes everything from commercial payments to transportation and restaurant packages. This year the game will be played on February 2nd at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Rebecca Harris, business contributor and Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University explains that this game will be a first for shared hosting by New Jersey and New York, as well as the first time the game will be played outdoors in cold weather conditions.

Pennsylvania's rural areas are facing hard economic times, and a state lawmaker believes that tourism could be the answer.

“Pennsylvania is one of the largest rural states in the union, and when you look statistically it is our rural Pennsylvania that has the highest unemployment rates and I think it needs to be addressed,” said state Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria).

Though it has been speculated it would happen since the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, it was made official Friday.

American Airlines announced it is moving its operation center in Moon Township to Dallas. That means 600 jobs will leave the area.

“I guess the good news is, those 600 will be hired, they have the option of working, obviously they’ll have to relocate, and they’ll have to move to Dallas,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

For this region, he said the announcement is not good news, thought it wasn’t unexpected.

Why Today is a Good Day to Buy a Convertible

Jan 21, 2014
David Defoe / Flickr

One thing you couldn’t escape during the holiday season were year end close out deals enticing you to purchase a new car. But, when is the best time to buy a new car?

Should you buy American or foreign, new or used? This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of car buying. 

More than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians, or about 1 in 8 state residents, live in poverty.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) believes he knows how to lower that number.

He released a report Tuesday that showed the income inequality among Pennsylvania counties in 2012.

It revealed that the commonwealth has a poverty level of 13.3 percent, which is below the national rate of 15 percent.

Philadelphia County had the highest rate of poverty at 26.2 percent while Bucks County had the lowest at 5.8 percent.

The Innovation Practice Institute Innovates Law School Education

Jan 17, 2014
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

As our technology evolves and the economy becomes increasingly entrepreneurial, the role of the lawyer and law school is changing.

Stephanie Dangel, Executive Director of the Innovation Practice Institute says with the changing economy, 40% of lawyers are not currently practicing law, and 30% of students in law school do not intend to be lawyers.

Revenue from Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos dipped 1.4 percent in 2013 to $3.1 billion. That’s the first time the industry has experienced an overall decline in revenue since casino play began in 2006.

“We saw a little up, we saw a little down,” said Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. “Table games continue to be a growing segment. We saw their revenue go up around 6 percent. A slight decrease in slot machines, but that’s not unexpected.”

Legislation has been introduced in the state House that will create an incentive program to fund workforce-training programs through a tax credit.  Representative Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland) authored the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Strategy Act which he says will better coordinate current workforce investment programs.

“We’ve visited dozens of businesses across the state of Pennsylvania and workforce development stands to be the most important issue that face business here in Pennsylvania that I’ve encountered.” 

The Business and Popularity of Knitting

Jan 14, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Whether its mittens, afghans or sweaters, knitting has made a comeback in recent years. Young and old are spinning yarns and contributor Rebecca Harris, has been looking at the business of knitting.

She finds that while many think of knitting as something for the old, an increasing number of young people are taking the time to learn to spin yarn as a means of building communities.

Many of the stores that sell yarn and supplies have a large part in this trend. 

The Larger Implications of the Target Data Breach

Jan 13, 2014
j.reed / flickr

The massive data breach that occurred at Target stores at the beginning of the holiday season was thought to affect 40 million customers.

With estimates expanded Friday to more than 100 million, it’s believed that names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses have been compromised along with credit and debit card numbers.

The questions now are, "Is this attack different than other security breaches?" and "What should a person do who has been affected by this type of a security breach?" Answering these questions are Andy Tornasi, a Federal Project Manager for Tiversa, and Orion Czarnecki, a Cyber Forensic Analyst at Tiversa.

Tornasi says this breach is different from any case he has dealt with in the past.

“This is the first time that I ever heard of malware affecting the point of sale for a particular store."

Czarnecki has this advice for those who were affected by the Target breach or the recent breach at Neiman Marcus stores.

Home sales in the Pittsburgh region jumped 7.2 percent last year compared to 2012. 

Barbara Kohl, chief operating officer of the West Penn Multi-List, said the numbers are “surprising” because the previous year also had “strong growth.”

“Everything clicked, consumer confidence came back, interest rates stayed low; the only problem is we don’t have enough inventory,” Kohl said.

Why Mayor Peduto Wants Act 47 to Stay, for Now

Jan 10, 2014
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In 2003, the city of Pittsburgh was operating under a debt burden of more than 20% of its operating budget. Pools and recreation centers had to close and hundreds of city employees, including police officers were laid off.

Pittsburgh was declared financially distressed and placed under Act 47 oversight.

As the local economy has stabilized, former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, along with Act 47 coordinators have said the city is ready to be released. But Pittsburgh's new Mayor Bill Peduto is asking Governor Corbett to keep the city under Act 47 oversight to allow his administration to work on a final recovery plan.

29 Tablets Bringing Electronic Manufacturing to Homewood

Jan 10, 2014
Intel Free Press / Flickr

In Homewood Friday, a symposium called 29 Tablets was dedicated to the possibility of manufacturing tablet computers in Homewood. It's the first in a series of community-oriented symposiums.

The leaders of this project, Andrew Thornhill, founder of Thornhill & Studio and Elwin Green, of the hyperlocal news site Homewood Nation, say the concept would benefit of entrepreneurs and bring diverse job creation to the struggling neighborhood.

Nick Frost / 90.5 WESA

There are many emerging companies that blur the lines of for profit endeavor with a non-profit mission, these social entrepreneurs, as they are called, are concerned with both financial sustainability and social impact.

Ian Rosenberger, founder of Thread International, an East Liberty based company recycling plastic bottles in Haiti for use in the manufacturing of apparel is one of these social entrepreneurs. Tim Zak, Director of the Institute for Social Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University studies innovators such as Ian.

The Business of Outdoor Winter Recreation

Jan 7, 2014
Marcus Charleston

Now that the holidays are over there are plenty of long gray days ahead.

Rather than give in to cabin fever, strap on some skis or snowshoes, get outdoors and enjoy the white stuff!

Business contributor Rebecca Harris has been looking at the business of winter recreation and shares some interesting info about the profitability of the ski industry, how resorts are focusing on sustainability, and some local ideas for a snow day.

If you’re used to filing your taxes early in the new year, you’re going to have to wait.

Not only did the 16-day government shutdown delay almost $4 billion in tax refunds — it’s delaying the 2014 tax filing season.

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the 2014 tax filing season will begin Jan. 31.

“It’s about ten days later than we had originally planned to start out and that’s due to the government shutdown that lasted for a couple of weeks … early to mid-October time frame,” said IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins.

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