Economy & Business

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

Momentum In Past Year A Good Sign For Economy In 2016

Dec 29, 2015
Linus Bohman / flickr

The U.S. economy is finishing 2015 on an upswing, according to Pittsburgh-based PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman and he thinks that will continue into 2016.

“Wages had been stalled at around 2- to 2.25-percent [growth]. We saw a little bit of an uptick in the later half of this year, and we think we will see a little faster, bigger gain in 2016,” Hoffman said.  “Maybe where wages rise … closer to 3 percent.”

401(K) 2012 / flickr

After a rough start in 2015, the nation's economy is set to end the year in a fairly strong position, PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman said.

“But it clearly was a mixed picture,” Hoffman said. “If you were in manufacturing, the global economy grew more slowly, the dollar was strong. If you were in energy, it was a bad year for you."

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County is looking for development options for more than 150 acres of brownfield space surrounding a former steel yard in Rankin.

Work the Angles / Flickr

When North Carolina discontinued its film tax credit at the start of 2015, the television series Banshee - set in fictional Banshee, Pa. - moved production from that state to western Pennsylvania for its final season.

Local Manager: Don't Panic When The Fed Raises Rates

Dec 14, 2015
Save Money / flickr

The Federal Reserve is poised to do something it has not done in more than a decade — raise interest rates.

Despite the occasion, Aaron Leaman, chief investment officer with Pittsburgh-based Signature Financial Planning, is not recommending any rash changes. 

“This is not something that is a make or break thing for any average investor,” said Leaman. “If you are a long-term investor, looking to secure your retirement or fund your child’s education… one decision made by the fed on one day in December is not going to make or break your portfolio in either direction.”

Ron Reiring / Flickr

The Pittsburgh region continues to experience fewer bankruptcies than its benchmark peers – an example of its economic stability, according to Pittsburgh Today.

According to a new report released by the organization, Pittsburgh had 1,845 bankruptcies in the 2015 third quarter, which is lower than almost all 15 benchmark regions, with the exception of Charlotte, N.C. and nearly half of the benchmark average of 3,419.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council’s Wage Review Committee, spearheaded by Councilman Ricky Burgess, is recommending some of the region’s biggest employers increase their minimum wage.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Carnegie Mellon University student Cora Wang waited for a currywurst outside a gray office building just off of Second Avenue in South Oakland.

It was her first time there for class, and she said she was pleasantly surprised to see a mobile food cart on the premises.

“Because there’s nothing here,” she said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Sandra Friedel cooked up sausages and ground meat patties on the small flat top grill, then topped them with veggies and homemade sauces, while her husband Dustin took orders.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

The Commonwealth's once-mighty manufacturing sector has been ailing for decades. But some industry leaders think the key to a massive comeback may be buried deep in the Marcellus shale.

"This new petrochemical-based manufacturing industry, which is waiting to be born, will be bigger than the economic impact of the drilling," said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association. Between ethane-derived plastics and recent advances in additive manufacturing technology, Taylor sees potential for a manufacturing revival.

Jason Roth / Save Enright Parklet community group

East Liberty residents are calling for a public hearing on the future of Enright Parklet after the Pittsburgh Planning Commission voted last month to rezone the park and the adjacent property on which currently sits the Penn Plaza apartment complex.

Dion Hinchcliffe / Flickr

Stores and restaurants at the Pittsburgh International Airport will be open to the public for holiday shopping next month.

It'll be open to anyone, not just passengers, on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Bob Kerlik, Pittsburgh International Airport spokesman, said anyone hoping to attend the holiday open house must register with a government-issued photo ID.

Thomas Kohler / Flickr

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pennsylvania residents lost more than $20.8 million to internet fraud in 2014.

This holiday season, the Pennsylvania Bankers Association is reminding people to be safe with their banking information when shopping with a credit card, whether online or in person.

LV Lights / Flickr

In Allegheny County, 22 hotels owe more than $790,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

The County Controller, working with the Treasurer’s office, conducted an audit uncovering the unpaid taxes.

Controller Chelsa Wagner said her office has an agreement with the Treasurer’s office, which collects the taxes, to take charge of more difficult audits such as this one.

Clotee Allochuku / Flickr

This year's Black Friday isn't expected to be much different from the previous year's. 

Last year, 87 million Americans went shopping on Black Friday, spending more than $1.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Manayunk Bridge Reopens As A Trail And A Symbol Of A Changing Economy

Nov 12, 2015
The Manayunk Bridge reopened Oct. 30 to pedestrians and cyclists connecting Philadelphia's Manayunk neighborhood to Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County, Pa.
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Iconic. Ever since it opened in 1918, the Manayunk Bridge has been iconic, a symbol for its namesake section of Philadelphia.

"It's one of those things that's always been the symbol of Manayunk," says Kay Sykora, project director of the Destination Schuylkill River project at the Manayunk Development Corporation. 

PA Budget Scaffolding Is Set, But Swaying

Nov 11, 2015
Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Legislative aides are beginning to hammer out the details of a state budget, now that top lawmakers and the governor have agreed on the general shape of the plan.  

The sprawling, tentative package includes a 1.25 percent hike in the state sales tax, a reduction in state retirement benefits for future hires and some kind of change to the state liquor stores.

The deal promises to be unwieldy.

Flickr

A new initiative will aim to reduce the number of jobless veterans in the region by coordinating existing job services for veterans with companies looking to hire.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Trib Total Media announced Tuesday that it will lay off more than 150 employees as it consolidates the Valley News Dispatch, (Greensburg) Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

President and CEO of Trib Total Media Jennifer Bertetto said 153 full- and part-time employees from among the company's 1,100-person staff will be laid off, with another 91 layoffs possible if the newspapers The Valley Independent in Monessen and The Daily News in McKeesport aren’t sold in 60 days.

Emily Previti / WITF

  Pennsylvania’s Community Revitalization & Improvement Zone is meant to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars toward new development for communities.

It’s off to a slow start. The program is new, officials say, some kinks are expected, and working them out could make all the difference.

But to state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, there are a couple things that just don’t make sense.

So, just a week or so after a report on first year’s lackluster results came out, the Lancaster County Republican wants to double-check the state Department of Revenue’s math.

Jacob Bøtter / Flickr

There are more job openings in Pittsburgh than there are people with the matching skill sets, according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. 

Courtesy Mac & Gold

The laws that govern food trucks in Pittsburgh were written in an era when ice cream trucks were the only food vendors on wheels, well before mobile pierogi and taco vendors took to the streets, councilman Dan Gilman said.

For example, city code requires food trucks to move every 30 minutes.

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Duquesne University laid off nearly all its part-time English faculty last week prompting criticism from union organizers who cast the move as both retaliatory and possibly illegal.

The department is at the center of a labor battle still being adjudicated by federal regulators more than three years after faculty voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers. 

Fishhawk / Flickr

Competition from foreign markets and struggles in the global economy are causing a drop in milk prices in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

The price for milk in 2014 was the highest in Pennsylvania history, but this year farmers are facing a 28 percent price drop. In Allegheny County, a gallon of milk currently costs a minimum of $3.70, compared to last November’s price of $4.36, as established by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

Ryan Loew / For Keystone Crossroads

In a two-chair barbershop in Clairton, Roger Mount shapes clients’ beards and hairlines. He does what he calls old school barbering, using a straight razor. “When you’re cutting hair like this it’s like an art, you try to make the bad look good,” he said while working on a client last week. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

A report commissioned by one of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority Board members found a lack of proper internal controls and a deeper investigation is needed into the governance systems that allowed a former executive director to extort contractors for his personal gain.

“We cannot keep running this as it is,” said JRA board member Mark Pasquerilla following the release Tuesday of his report produced by the law firm of K&L Gates. “As Johnstown moves into the new century and tries to get things done, we have to represent a progressive attitude on governance.”

PA's College Towns Capitalize On The Knowledge Economy

Oct 20, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

Walk around Videon's headquarters, and it's easy to forget that you're in a short, squat building in the back of an office park. Dogs run around the open workspace, filled with standing desks, funky stone tables and huge computer monitors.

They're an audiovisual technology company, so it make sense that they would want to show off their equipment.

"We've got a really nice little theater area here, which is a fun place to show off the high tech stuff that we do," says marketing director Rebecca Lundin. "And also, bring our kids in and have birthday parties." 

PA Budget Stalemate Leads To "Negative Outlook"

Oct 19, 2015
StockMonkeys.com / www.stockmonkeys.com

Moody’s Investors Service last week maintained Pennsylvania’s bond rating at Aa3 but revised its outlook to "negative" from stable  on the state's general obligation debt.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in September, down a tenth of a percentage point from August, according to numbers released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor and Industry.

The state tracked two-tenths of a percentage point above the U.S. rate of 5.1 percent, unchanged since August.

Casey Chafin / 90.5 WESA

Security officers were joined Wednesday by union and community leaders  to announce their first union contract with several companies that provide security services for Pittsburgh buildings.

The deal with Allied Barton Security Services, G4S, Securitas, St. Moritz Security Services, I.S.S., S.O.S. and Chesley Brown provides health care benefits and a $1.95 hourly increase over three years to a minimum of $11.75.

Sheri Geyer, a security officer for 18 years, said the contract should encourage other workers in the area to organize.

daveynin / flickr

While he was in Bellagio, Italy last week, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto signed on to a pledge to commit at least 10 percent of the city’s operating and capital budgets to making Pittsburgh a more resilient city, a move that Pittsburgh Chief Resilience officer Grant Ervin said is extremely timely.

“Look, for example, at some of the challenges that are being faced right now in South Carolina,” said Ervin, referring to the massive flooding that has displaced hundreds of residents.  “How do you clean up quickly and then how do you become a stronger city following the event?”

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