Economy & Business

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

Keith Srakocic / AP

Monday is the deadline to file taxes, and that means a tax return is in the future for some Pittsburghers. But people have mixed opinions on whether they actually want that big windfall.

Still Reeling From 2018 Rainfall, PA Farmers Offered Emergency USDA Loan

17 hours ago
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Pennsylvania had one of the wettest summers on record last year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July 2018 was the rainiest July in the past 124 years. 

Courtesy of Edgar Snyder & Associates

Personal injury lawyer Edgar Snyder is arguably the most recognizable attorney in western Pennsylvania. For decades, he has been in TV commercials, in radio ads, and on roadside billboards, asking potential clients, “Hurt in an accident?”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Surrounded by stacks of paper, ink containers, and cardboard boxes, Denise Jones taps the top of a gray metal cutting machine.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

On a street corner off Penn Avenue in East Liberty sits a large, unassuming gray building. It houses one of the most popular language learning programs of the digital age. You might recognize its logo: a green cartoon owl.

Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

Carly Penn left the stress and late hours of restaurant kitchens behind when she became a chef at UMPC’s Strabane Woods assisted living facility near Washington, Pa. At Strabane Woods, Penn works regular hours and knows well in advance what her menu is and how many portions she’ll prepare. But once a week, she relives her restaurant days with a Friday morning treat: made-to-order eggs.

'We Call Ourselves Sugar Makers'

Apr 3, 2019
Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

When maple sap emerges from a tree, it’s a long way from its prized place at the breakfast table. Sap has a disappointing sugar content, just 1 or 2 percent, and doesn’t taste sweet. Syrup-making hinges on removing most of the water in the sap, traditionally by boiling.

Cars, They Don’t Break Like They Used To

Mar 27, 2019
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Mike Kirsch has been working at Brunner’s Garage on the South Side for more than 43 years. Over his career, car repair has changed quite a bit, he says. Even smaller jobs, like replacing headlight bulbs or rearview mirrors, have become more time consuming and expensive. But it is not all bad. “New cars … don’t break like they used to.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Dentist Lorraine Callen sees a lot of patients at Allegheny General Hospital. Using special magnifying lenses, called loupes, she is able to see their teeth much better. It has also played havoc with her memory. She can’t always remember a patient by their name, but when she sees their teeth or an x-ray, “I can remember people's stories about their grandkids.”

Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

 Pennsylvania's unemployment rate dropped in February to the lowest rate since 1976, which is as far back as the state says it's records go.

Keith Srakocic / AP

This is the first NCAA men's basketball tournament where Pennsylvanians can legally bet on games, and expectations have been surpassed at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Farmers markets across Pittsburgh will be back this spring, and the city plans to do more to encourage their growth.

Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank

What began as a small church project in Toledo, Ohio has become a wide-reaching, and widely relied upon, labor of love here in Pittsburgh. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh region is at 3.8 percent, the lowest it's been since 1970 -- before the collapse of the steel industry. The latest numbers are for January, and reflect the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). 

Scott Dalton/Invision for Dick's Sporting Goods / AP

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. said on Tuesday that it will stop selling hunting rifles and ammunition at 125 of its stores, replacing the gear with merchandise it believes will sell better at those locations.

CEO Edward Stack said the move comes after the sporting goods retailer replaced hunting merchandise in 10 of its stores in last year's third quarter. Those stores posted strong sales and profit margin numbers in the fourth quarter, he said.

The Right Tool For The Job

Mar 13, 2019
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The English language is loaded with idioms related to tools: tightening the screws, burying the hatchet, and hitting the nail on the head, to name just a few. But for automotive technician Andrew McHaney having the right tool for the job is much more than a metaphor.

Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

Gordon Nolan spends a lot of time on the ice, but rarely on skates. As the head of maintenance at Alpha Ice Complex in Harmar, it is his job to keep three ice rinks ready for hockey teams, figure skaters, and the public. In more than a decade of working on the ice, he has only fallen twice. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

While the nationwide unemployment rate for military veterans hit an 18-year low in January at 3.7 percent, the jobless rate for veterans in Pittsburgh remains at 6.7 percent.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

They’re everywhere — creators, innovators, mavericks — and they sure do know how to suck all the air out of a room. But most of the world’s work isn't making the newest technology or shaking up an entire industry, it’s shepherding the things that already exist. The falls a figure skater won’t take because the ice is perfect; the angst a patient won’t feel because a dentist helps care for her teeth; the hours not spent roadside thanks to an automotive technician: this is the fruit the maintainers' labor.

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Workers at the former GE Transportation plant in northwestern Pennsylvania have gone on strike.

The Erie Times-News reports that employees at the plant now owned by Westinghouse Airbrakes Technologies Corp. hit the picket line in Lawrence Park Township early Tuesday.

Mick Stinelli / 90.5 WESA

Tax collectors in western Pennsylvania say a closed mall owes hundreds of thousands in property taxes from last year.

Nam Y. Huh / AP, File

Kraft Heinz disclosed an investigation by federal regulators and will slash the value of its Oscar Mayer and Kraft brands by $15.4 billion.

Shares plunged 26 percent at the opening bell Friday, the company's biggest single-day decline, after posting a stunning $12.6 billion loss for the fourth quarter.

Kraft Heinz divulged the receipt of a subpoena in October from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to its procurement operations. Those operations handle interactions with outside suppliers. The company said that it is fully cooperating with the SEC.

Holly Catlin via AP

Pretty much anyone who shops at the Walmart in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, knows store greeter Adam Catlin, who's been welcoming customers with a huge smile and a hearty hello for more than a decade.

But Catlin, who has cerebral palsy, fears he'll soon be out of work after the store manager told him his job description was changing — and would now include tasks he's physically unable to do.

"It was a shock," Catlin, 30, said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I never saw it coming."

Keith Srakocic / AP

The second full month of legal sports betting in Pennsylvania saw gamblers double the amount they wagered.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said gamblers bet $32 million in January at five casinos and one off-track betting parlor where it approved sports betting.

SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia led the way with $10.8 million in bets, trailed closely by Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh with $9.5 million in bets. The casinos made $2.6 million, while $940,000 went to taxes.

Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

John Spellman is all about customer service. As the owner and operator of The Shady Dog, a lunch cart in Pittsburgh’s East End, Spellman says he’s learned a lot about who people are and how they operate. Perhaps most tangibly, Spellman has arranged his schedule to sidestep the Monday blues.

U.S. Steel Credits Trump Tariffs For Reopening Of Manufacturing Facility

Feb 12, 2019
Gene J. Puskar / AP

U.S. Steel Corp. will restart construction on an idled manufacturing facility in Alabama, and it gave some of the credit to President Donald Trump's trade policies in an announcement Monday.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

Natalia Rudiak still remembers driving down Route 51 on a day in 2012 when she saw a billboard of her face being put up. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania State Police seized 414 illegal gaming machines in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2018.

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A long-standing “gay-owned, gay-operated, and gay proud” nightclub in the Strip District is closing its doors this weekend, after one more farewell party. For seven years, Cruze Bar has been a popular gathering spot for the city’s younger set of LGBTQ-identifying adults. Did development push the party spot out of the neighborhood? And what will its departure mean for other queer spaces?

Mick Stinelli / 90.5 WESA

Century III mall was shut down Wednesday by West Mifflin. The borough deemed it unsafe and uninhabitable because the mall’s sprinkler system is shut down due to a pipe break.