Economy & Business

Economy & Business news from 90.5 WESA.

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To say it’s been a rough year for automakers in the U.S. would be putting it mildly. Last year, 22 million cars were recalled, a number that has already been shattered by 2 million just five months into 2014.

General Motors has led the way with 13 million cars recalled, most due to a faulty ignition switch which has killed anywhere from 13 to 74 people. But they are hardly alone: Ford, Chrysler, and other companies have recalled millions of vehicles.

The recalls could be a painful blow to an industry that is still trying to work its way back from the recession. But Los Angeles Times business writer Jerry Hirsch explained why buyers shouldn’t worry about buying a new car.

As a junior business major at Elizabethtown College, Sarah Lanphier and her mother founded “Nuts About Granola,” a wholesome snack company in York, Pa. that buys local ingredients. 

Six years later, after impressive growth, “Nuts About Granola” is a perfect example of a small rural business poised to go global, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The Obama administration picked the Pittsburgh region Wednesday to launch an effort to boost exports and grow rural economies. 

Is Social Media Hindering the Business of Golf?

Jun 3, 2014
Easy Being Greener / Blogger

Golf has been described as a “good walk spoiled.”

The rise of Tiger Woods brought an increased interest in the sport along with a new generation of fans in the early part of the century. However, recent stories from CNN and Bloomberg news report a declining interest in the game.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, looks at the business of golf.

According to the National Golf Foundation, more than 400,000 players, mostly men, left the sport last year. This may be attributed to the wicked winter weather on the east coast delaying the start of the game.

Golf club and gear sales also declined due to the new technology being phased into the sport, which older players may be slower to pick up. But Harris believes that another form of technology has had a negative effect on the sport as well. 

U.S. Steel announced Monday it is idling its tubular manufacturing plant in McKeesport in early August, affecting 157 union employees.

The Pittsburgh-based company says it is also halting operations at a similar facility in Bellville, Texas, impacting 45 management and 215 rank-and-file workers combined at the two plants.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says federal investigators now believe all 62,000 of the hospital network's employees have had their personal information accessed by identity thieves who have used information from about 800 workers to file bogus federal tax returns.

UPMC last month believed only 27,000 workers were affected, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday that a memo to employees says "the scope may be larger than originally thought, potentially affecting every employee."

WorKing With Confidence: Keys to Success from Sasha King

May 28, 2014
BBC / Thinkstock

We often hear people say "fake it until you make it." What they’re faking is confidence. Evidence shows confidence is an important factor to succeed in business, especially for women.

Sasha King, independent career consultant, focused on some well known case studies to illustrate her point, such as the Dunning-Kruger Effect

"They have found that if they take men and women and they ask them to rate their abilities, men tend to overestimate their confidence while women tend to underestimate their confidence," said King "What we’re finding out is that in order for someone to be successful they need a slight sense of overconfidence in order to take the blows necessary to take chances and be successful overall.”

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Two more historic buildings in Pittsburgh’s downtown are set to be restored to their original grandeur.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced the restoration of the so-called Skinny Building and the Roberts Jewelers building, both on Wood Street and Forbes Avenue.

After less than two years at the helm, Highmark Inc. CEO Dr. William Winkenwerder has been replaced. 

The state’s largest insurer made the announcement this morning while also announcing that David L. Holmberg will step into the open post.

Holmberg has been with Highmark for the last seven years in several senior business operations roles. Most recently he served as President of Highmark Inc.'s Diversified Businesses. Prior to joining Highmark, Holmberg was the Executive Vice President for operations for Jo-Ann Stores, Inc.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

 Hundreds of steelworkers and their supporters rallied outside the U.S. Steel Research and Technology Center in Munhall Monday morning to bring attention to what they say is illegal dumping of South Korean steel pipe into United States markets.

Dumping refers to the act of charging a lower price for a product on the international market than on the domestic market. It can also refer to the practice of selling a product for less than it costs to produce.

Business is booming in the Golden Triangle, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s (PDP) third annual State of Downtown Report.

The report notes a decrease in available office space, an increase in rents and a steady climb in residential population.

An eastern Pennsylvania company that owns the real estate of Penn National Gaming Inc. is buying The Meadows Racetrack & Casino near Pittsburgh for $465 million.

Gaming and Leisure Properties of Wyomissing plans to keep The Meadows buildings and real estate, but will sell its gaming licenses and other assets to a company that will continue to operate the harness racing track and casino.

The Meadows, about 15 miles south of Pittsburgh, has been owned by Cannery Casino Resorts LLC, of Las Vegas, since 2006.

Anyone can travel through 100 years of income history of 29 countries thanks to a new website created at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab.

Last Wednesday, the US Senate voted down a proposal by President Obama to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

Many contend that such a steep raise would cripple job growth and small businesses. Others say more money and spending power for workers would be a boost for the economy overall. 

Art Helms, a Wendy’s employee and member of One Pittsburgh has been organizing for fair pay and a union for fast food workers in Pittsburgh.

He said he makes less than $10 per hour and has worked for Wendy’s for 27 years. 

From Politics to Consumerism, The Business of Mother's Day

May 6, 2014
Etsy ketsy / flickr

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s presidential decree that made Mother’s Day a national holiday, and in that time it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending in the United States and around the globe.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris points out that Mother’s Day was not always about gift-giving. 

Republican state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett are blaming Congress for Pennsylvania’s money problems. But economists say the criticism is not warranted.

Pennsylvania’s tax revenue haul in April was almost nine percent below estimates, a fourth straight month that expectations were not met 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) said  part of the reason is the end of federal tax breaks on capital gains, dividends, and higher wage earners.

What to Know About Financial Planning, Post-Great Recession

Apr 30, 2014
Ken Teegardin / www.SeniorLiving.Org

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 crippled many Americans' personal finances and caused a lot of uncertainty when it comes to future financial planning choices. 

"As a result of Dodd-Frank, the capital requirements of banks have increased dramatically. Banks have had to go through initial stress tests and ongoing stress tests. So the banking system is certainly shored up and the TARP program helped that immensely by injecting capital into both banks and into private corporations like General Motors. That helped stem the notion of rampant unemployment because people kept their jobs, and banks didn't collapse, and people didn't lose money. And it was good so there was stability there," said Paul Brahim, Chairman and CEO of BPU Investment Management Inc., and a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Financial Planning Association board of directors.

He talked about some of the changes in our financial systems for consumers, the markets, and regulators, since 2008 and how to make sound investments with the right kind of advisor.

Businesses Based on Recycling

Apr 29, 2014

Now that Spring is here households and businesses are no doubt doing some Spring cleaning. But if you want to help the environment or earn some additional cash, where and how do you recycle some of the items you're discarding? This week contributor Rebecca Harris looked at the business of recycling. 

Recycling is now mandatory in residences, businesses, offices and institutions in Pittsburgh, so these companies have become more important in the city. The average American generates 4.6 pounds of garbage per day, and only recycle a pound and a half.

Pennsylvania’s economic outlook is looking brighter - but only slightly.

That’s according to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which ranked Pennsylvania 33rd in its 2014 competitiveness report.

The report looks at state economic policies and draws conclusions from research about which states will achieve greater prosperity and which will have a mediocre economy.

Jonathan Williams, Director of Tax and Fiscal Policy at ALEC, said they try to highlight states that have policies enacted that really make a difference.

Doing What You Love as a Career is Not as Easy as it Sounds

Apr 23, 2014

People are often told to do what they love and the money will follow. But that’s easier said than done and doesn’t always work out the way people hope. Independent career consultant Sasha King said that this commonly given advice has a few flaws.

Looking at The Numbers Behind Pittsburgh's Wage Gap

Apr 23, 2014
Mahalie Stackpole / flickr

Women in the Pittsburgh metro area made an average of $13,407 less than their male counterparts in 2013. For male and female employees with identical levels of education and experience, the female worker will make an average of 73 cents for every dollar paid to the man, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

This Thursday in Market Square, groups will join together for Pittsburgh’s Equal Pay Day Rally. According to Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, the goal of the rally is to highlight the injustice of the gap and push legislation that would allow women to fight for better pay. 

Ashley Murray / Allegheny Front

When local photographer Ian Rosenberger saw garbage piled in the street and thrown into canals untouched by a stretched public works system, he was moved to do more than take photos.

He jotted in his journal how it would be good to turn Haiti’s trash into money.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited the Community College of Allegheny County's West Hills Center campus in Oakdale Wednesday to announce system-wide reforms of federal job training programs.

Nearly one in four workers (23 percent) in the Pittsburgh region is employed by the technology industry comprising about 29 percent of the city’s total wages at $16.9 billion, according to the Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC).

To help "win today's talent war" the PTC is introducing several initiatives to assist tech firms in attracting new workers including launching the redesigned online Career Connector. The site claims it's the “largest Pittsburgh region technology-specific job board” with more than 10,000 searchable resumes already available.

The Business of Summer Camp, from Architecture to Arts & Crafts

Apr 15, 2014
Adrián Merinero Sánchez / flickr

While winter is hardly a distant memory, it’s time to start making summer plans. If summer camp is in your child’s future, contributor Rebecca Harris says now is the time to sign-up. This week she focused on the business of summer camps.

More than six million children attend summer camps each year, and there are many different options. There are day camps, sleep away camps and even summer camps for adults. Rebecca has suggested just a few to check out before sessions fill up.

The new owners of H.J. Heinz Co. have offered buyouts to all 775 workers in Pittsburgh, where the ketchup-and-food giant has been based for decades, but says the move doesn't signal a plan to move the company's headquarters.

Instead, Heinz officials say the buyout is being offered because the new owners Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital — a Brazilian investment firm — recognize the company's new culture might not be "the perfect fit" for long-time Pittsburgh-based employees.

Pat Williams / Flickr


As national media reports about the attacks at Franklin Regional High School began to unfold last week, a story of one of the injured victims taking a selfie from the hospital quickly went viral and prompted a range of reactions. Was the student showing off or simply communicating to his circle of friends?

Gordon Mitchell and Brent Malin, University of Pittsburgh associate professors of communication talked with us about the importance of media literacy and the evolving relevance of social media in our lives and in mainstream news.

Heinz Endowments

The Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments has named Grant Oliphant as the charity's new president.

Oliphant previously spent more than 10 years with the Heinz Endowments in various senior management roles before spending the last six years as chief executive officer of another charity, the Pittsburgh Foundation.

401(K) 2013 / Flickr

Many college students have very little to no experience in financial planning, which is why University of Pittsburgh Professor of Finance, Jay Sukits, created an event to help students become financially literate.

Gene Natali, Senior Vice President at CS McKee and co-author of The Missing Semester is speaking at the event, Money 101-Taking Control, dedicated to teaching high school and college students about managing their finances.

Take A Trip To Canada, In Downtown Pittsburgh

Apr 8, 2014
Marnie Schleicher / 90.5WESA

This week our neighbors to the north – Canada - will be celebrated in Pittsburgh via a temporary Canadian consulate. Canada is Pennsylvania’s largest trading partner and export market, receiving 30 percent of the state’s foreign-bound goods. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looked at the state’s business connections to Canada.

The future is looking a little bit brighter for Pennsylvania small businesses, according to a PNC survey.

The bi-annual report shows 13 percent of small and mid-sized businesses in the state will look to hire more full-time employees in the next six months. But 7 percent of business owners plan to reduce their full-time staff.