Economy & Business

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

Courtesy of Covestro

 

On today's program: Covestro expands its local presence and testing safer hockey equipment; PennDOT will soon enforce speed limits in construction zones; and a dedicated jazz club finds its footing in Pittsburgh. 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The Pittsburgh region will be buzzing with economic activity this year, especially for some of its biggest employers.  This year is poised to be one of growth for the economic power houses of UPMC and Highmark. After years of legal wrangling, the two entities worked out a deal last year giving most Highmark customers in network access to UPMC doctors and hospitals for 10 years.

Oil Price Jumps On Fear Of Iranian Retaliation Against U.S.

Jan 3, 2020
Keith Srakocic / AP

The price of oil surged Friday on concerns that Iran might respond to the killing of its top general by the United States by disrupting global supplies of energy from the Middle East.

News that Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in an air attack at the Baghdad international airport prompted expectations of Iranian retaliation against U.S. and Israeli targets.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

More than 60,000 Pennsylvania residents are expected to see a pay increase in 2020 as a new federal overtime rule goes into effect.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania’s jobless rate has risen slightly, even as unemployment nationwide has gone down.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The United Steelworkers Union has filed suit against Pittsburgh-based Alcoa for terminating life insurance coverage for union-represented retirees. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Indiana, where many of the approximately 8,900 people impacted live.

Alcoa has offered payments to affected retirees, totaling about $15 million. Tom Conway, president of the USW, said those payments are a fraction of the value of the life insurance coverage.

Scott Detrow / STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushed back Thursday against calls from some Democratic presidential candidates to ban fracking, saying that policy would ‘devastate’ the economies of states like Pennsylvania.

Firms To Pay $386 Million To Settle Price-Fixing Allegations

Dec 17, 2019
Governor Tom Wolf / flickr

Thirteen large financial firms are agreeing to pay $337 million to settle claims by Pennsylvania's treasury department and about a dozen other government agencies and pension funds accusing them of inflating the price of bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to proposed agreements filed in federal court.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day,” Pittsburgh attorney Catia Kossovsky said with a laugh.

The day was January 4, 2018. And then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced he would let prosecutors crack down on the medical marijuana industry, undoing Obama-era guidelines that generally left states to enforce their own marijuana laws.

Mark Tenally / AP

Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb, of Mt. Lebanon, said Thursday that he will vote to ratify a reworked trade deal with Canada and Mexico. The congressman joined others in his party, as well as Western Pennsylvania’s Republican members of the House, in adding his support to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Susan Walsh / AP

An updated trade deal between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada garnered generally positive reaction from organized labor Tuesday. But western Pennsylvania’s Democratic congressmen, Mike Doyle and Conor Lamb – who enjoy strong support from unions – have yet to offer their opinions.

Duquesne Light

Duquesne Light is boosting its electric vehicle offerings with new charging stations at two downtown Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages and at the utility’s Woods Run campus on the North Side.

General Motors and LG Chemical plan to make battery cells for electric-powered vehicles, unveiling a joint venture that they expect to create more than 1,100 jobs in northeast Ohio. The companies say they'll invest up to $2.3 billion in the venture.

The project is centered around Lordstown, Ohio, where GM shuttered a plant last March that had produced the Chevrolet Cruze. The new plant in the Lordstown area will make battery cells for GM's upcoming all-electric vehicles, from a Cadillac sedan to a new electric truck that's slated for release in late 2021.

Joey Kennedy / Handmade Arcade

The National Retail Federation reports holiday sales this season will grow between 3.8 and 4.2 percent. That’s up slightly compared to average holiday sales increases of about 3.7 percent over the previous five years. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Labor leaders are blasting the e-commerce giant Amazon, accusing it of not hiring local workers to build a $30 million “fulfillment center” in Findlay Township – allegations the company denies.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A compromise package to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage for the first time since 2009 is advancing in the Legislature, up against a deadline for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to relent on his effort to extend overtime pay eligibility to thousands of workers.

Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate ticked up in October for the second straight month, even as payrolls and the labor force hit record highs.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The union representing employees in the circulation and delivery division at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked a federal judge on Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order to halt layoffs in the department. In court filings, Teamsters Local Union No. 211 says the publishing company is denying work and health benefits to dozens of laid-off union employees, which is a violation of the union contract.

East End Brewing

Although summer is the peak season for tourism in Pennsylvania, industries like craft brewing are pushing revenues well into the fall. 

Matt Rourke / AP

For almost four entire days last week, the computer system Pennsylvania uses to process unemployment compensation crashed, making it impossible for people to file continuing claims.

Anne Danahy / WPSU

Bo Hammond is hardwood sales manager for Collins Hardwood, a company based in Oregon with locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and California. Hammond is giving me a tour of the company’s operations in Kane. It’s located in McKean County off Hardwood Drive.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

At AgraPharm LLC’s warehouse in Beaver County, the scent of cannabis is potent.

“What you're smelling today is about only a third of what it really smells like when we first harvest the crop,” said AgraPharm’s CEO Ed Santillan.

Michel Spingler / AP

FBI figures show a 107 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 in “Business Email Compromise” complaints, known as BEC, in the bureau’s Pittsburgh region. 

BECs occur when victims with access to company finances are convinced through phishing emails, phone calls or other methods that they are conducting a legitimate business transaction—but instead, the money ends up in accounts controlled by organized crime groups.

Pennsylvania Invests In Crops For Brewing And Distilling

Oct 22, 2019
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Pennsylvania is betting on booze to help grow the economy.

Fred Vuich / AP

Sports betting in Pennsylvania blew through its previous monthly record with the start of the NFL season.

Rick Bowmer / AP

Pennsylvania’s auditor general says when his team set out to determine how much addiction to opioids—and in particular, the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl—costs Pennsylvania, they immediately ran into some problems.

Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s Department of State has a new web page designed to help people apply for professional licenses, which the commonwealth requires for around 130 jobs—from hairdressing to funeral directing to auctioneering.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most popular franchises in the history of the National Football League, and vice president of sales and marketing Ryan Huzjak said the team isn't stopping at the border to attract new supporters. 

Amid Trump's Trade War, PA Farmers Fight To Survive In An Uncertain Market

Oct 14, 2019
Matt Smith for Keystone Crossroads

Don Cairns is driving through rural Chester County between one of his many plots of farmland. He grows corn, wheat, and soybeans on about 1,700 acres. It’s a hot, dry day — perfect for harvesting. He’s busy shuttling fresh-cut corn from the field back to his silos for storage.

In a sun-faded camouflage cap, a dusty brown t-shirt and blue jeans, Cairns lugs a large semi-truck hauling a grain trailer onto the cornfield. There, a combine outfitted with the latest technology analyzes the yields as it ploughs the field and shells the kernels from the cobs.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A group of southwestern Pennsylvania business owners say tariff-related price increases have directly affected their ability to do business. At a panel in the Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood on Thursday members of the nonprofit, chemicals, manufacturing, and agricultural industries addressed how the Trump administration’s trade tariffs directly are impacting them.

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