McDonald’s to demolish museum commemorating first restaurant

OAK BROOK, Ill. — McDonald’s Corp. has announced it will demolish a suburban Chicago museum that’s a replica of the hamburger chain’s first restaurant.

Ray Kroc built his first restaurant in 1955 in Des Plaines, after franchising the brand from the original owners, Richard and Maurice McDonald.

The Chicago Tribune reports the store was torn down in 1984. McDonald’s Store No. 1 Museum opened the next year, with the original restaurant’s sign out front.

Source: McDonald’s to demolish museum commemorating first restaurant

Pennsylvania ballot question focuses on property taxes

Referendum on election day would set up mechanism to lower or eliminate property taxes, but much more would have to happen.

Voters across Pennsylvania will get a chance on Tuesday to vote on an enduring and typically unpopular issue: property taxes.

Voters will decide whether to expand a statewide mechanism to allow for the eventual reduction or elimination of property taxes on primary homes.

A ballot question on Tuesday asks voters if they want to amend the state constitution to authorize local taxing authorities, such as school districts, to use the state’s homestead exclusion program to exempt homeowners from all property taxes on their primary residences. Commercial property taxes would not be affected.

Unfortunately, if the Referendum passes on Tuesday,  replacing the lost revenue will be a problem for the PA General Assembly.

Source: Pennsylvania ballot question focuses on property taxes

Awaiting Trump’s coal comeback, miners reject retraining

When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

Source: Awaiting Trump’s coal comeback, miners reject retraining

House narrowly passes budget — setting up mammoth tax fight – POLITICO

It was a dramatic vote, as Speaker Paul Ryan faced resistance from a number of Republicans concerned with the budget and tax plans.

By passing the measure, 216-212, Republicans unlocked procedural powers that allow the Senate to pass a tax bill with just 51 votes — and evade Democratic filibusters. But even with the ability to sideline Democrats, the GOP faces a daunting task as it tries to rewrite the tax code.

Source: House narrowly passes budget — setting up mammoth tax fight – POLITICO

Transparent Solar Cells Make Any Window Generate Energy

Michigan State University believes transparent solar could harvest as much energy as rooftop solar, but without the bulk.

How can you add solar power generation to a building without it being visible? You use transparent panels of solar cells positioned over each window. According to Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU, it could replace rooftop solar.

Source: Transparent Solar Cells Make Any Window Generate Energy

Teamsters pension plan warns thousands of beneficiaries that the checks may get smaller | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With only 48 cents to cover every $1 in benefits its owes, the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters fund is trying to find a way to stay afloat.

The plan is expected to pay out nearly $129 million in benefits this year but will collect only about $54 million in contributions.

If the current level of benefits is maintained, the fund is projected to run out of money in 2028.

Source: Teamsters pension plan warns thousands of beneficiaries that the checks may get smaller | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

No holiday hiring for Walmart, just more hours for its workers – Sep. 20, 2017

The holidays are right around the corner, but Walmart won’t be hiring for help.

The retailer plans to meet its need for extra work during the holiday shopping season by giving existing employees more hours, according to a release from the company.

Hiring seasonal holiday help is a tradition in retail. Walmart (WMT) rival Target (TGT) has already announced plans to bring on 100,000 temporary holiday workers.

Walmart giving more holiday hours to employees, rather than hiring additional help.

Source: No holiday hiring for Walmart, just more hours for its workers – Sep. 20, 2017

How West Virginia got to 3 percent GDP growth | TheHill

WV Governor switches to Republican Party

Three factors are working in West Virginia’s favor right now: a global infrastructure boom, the rising price of natural gas, and the legacy of a recession that hit the Mountaineer State harder than most.

While most industries struggled during the recession, the energy sector actually performed relatively well. States like West Virginia, Texas, North Dakota and Oklahoma experienced revenue booms as hydraulic fracturing boosted the supply of oil and natural gas.

And while other industries bled jobs at a furious pace, West Virginia actually added mining jobs through even the depths of the recession: 35,300 West Virginians were employed in the mining and logging industry — the broad sector measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — at its recent peak, in December 2011

Source: How West Virginia got to 3 percent GDP growth | TheHill

The hidden environmental costs of dog and cat food

Gregory Okin is quick to point out that he does not hate dogs and cats. Although he shares his home with neither — he is allergic, so his pets are fish — he thinks it is fine if you do. But if you do, he would like you to consider what their meat-heavy kibble and canned food are doing to the planet.

Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently did that, and the numbers he crunched led to some astonishing conclusions. America’s 180 million or so Rovers and Fluffies gulp down about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year, according to Okin’s calculations.

Source: The hidden environmental costs of dog and cat food

U.S. economy rebounds in the second quarter

A worker places lumber into machinery at the QubicaAMF Bowling Worldwide facility in Lowville, N.Y., in March. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

The country’s gross domestic product grew 2.6 percent at an annualized pace, the Commerce Department said Friday.The U.S. economy rebounded strongly between April and June, government data showed Friday morning, as businesses invested more and consumers shelled out for furniture, washing machines and other goods.

The country’s gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic activity, grew 2.6 percent at an annualized pace in the second quarter of 2017, the Commerce Department said. Yet measures of inflation remained weak, casting more doubt on the Federal Reserve’s plan to continue steadily raising interest rates.

Source: U.S. economy rebounds in the second quarter

Western Pennsylvania home sales increase in 2017 | TribLIVE

Comparing January-June 2017 with the same time period in 2016:

• Closed sales are up 3.24 percent (13,682 units in 2017 versus 13,252 in 2016);

• Closed sales volume is up 5.34 percent ($2,441,128,758 in 2017 versus $2,317,284,476 in 2016);

• Average sale price is up 2.03 percent ($178,419 in 2017 versus $174,863 in 2016); and

• Home listings are down 0.28 percent (18,433 units in 2017 versus 18,485 in 2016).

Source: Western Pennsylvania home sales increase in 2017 | TribLIVE

Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls are going up again, this time by 6 percent

For the 10th year in a row, it will cost you more to drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The latest toll increase was announced Tuesday.

“Because of today’s action, the most common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase next year from $1.23 to $1.30 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.95 to $2.10 for cash customers,” turnpike officials said in a news release.

View the current toll rates: Pennsylvania Turnpike toll calculator

Source: Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls are going up again, this time by 6 percent

When it comes to state budget, Pennsylvania needs a payment plan | PennLive.com

How do we pay for the state’s $32 billion spending plan?

This may interest you because it could make the difference in whether or not there’s a need for a major state tax increase in the next year or two; whether the decks are clear for another run at school property tax reform; or who gets what kind of ammunition for key state elections in 2018.

Or, just because some the proposals under consideration could really tinker with Pennsylvania’s social fabric.

Read Source: When it comes to state budget, Pennsylvania needs a payment plan | PennLive.com

Like so many former Western Pennsylvania company towns, Ford City is in dire need of a comeback

‘This is our second chance at our second chance.’

In 1993, Ford City lost its massive PPG plate-glass factory after years of the company stripping jobs and lowering production. To replace that 200-acre facility, the borough was able to obtain $12 million in federal and state funds, as well as private investment, to construct a 70,000-square-foot business incubator.

Source: Like so many former Western Pennsylvania company towns, Ford City is in dire need of a comeback

Heyl: Century III Mall In Its Apparent Death Throes

A recent report from Credit Suisse, a Wall Street financial services firm, predicted that up to 25 percent of America’s malls will close in the next five years. The evidence appears to be insurmountable that Century III will be one of them.

The signs are everywhere. The massive 1.2 million square-foot building is eerily quiet and has dozens of empty storefronts. Many of the escalators have been turned off. The water in the fountain has been drained, although signs still caution against playing in it. Trash receptacles are strategically placed to catch water leaking from the ceiling.

Source: Heyl: Century III Mall In Its Apparent Death Throes

‘I want real revenue, and I want net revenue,’ Wolf says as budget deadline closes in: Thursday Morning Coffee | PennLive.com

The deadline to pass a new spending plan is just eight days away.

With the end of the current fiscal year a scant eight days away, Gov. Tom Wolf is sending some pretty clear signals about what he does (and more importantly) doesn’t want to see in a finished spending plan.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the York County Democrat didn’t exactly say no to a Republican-backed plans to balance the books.

Source: ‘I want real revenue, and I want net revenue,’ Wolf says as budget deadline closes in: Thursday Morning Coffee | PennLive.com

Rent Is Affordable to Low-Wage Workers in Exactly 12 U.S. Counties

America’s mismatch between wages and rental prices is more perverse than ever.

These stark numbers come from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s latest Out of Reach report, which maps the minimum hourly wage required to afford a modest rental based on federal Fair Market Rent (FMR) estimates. The report defines “affordable” as housing and utilities that cost no more than 30 percent of a person’s annual income—also the basic standard used by the feds. NLIHC has run these reports since 2005, and this minimum “housing wage” is rising year over year.

Source: Rent Is Affordable to Low-Wage Workers in Exactly 12 U.S. Counties

Tourism to National Parks in Western Pennsylvania Create $88 Million in Economic Benefits | GantNews.com

SHANKSVILLE – A new National Park Service report shows that 1,061,400 visitors to the five western Pennsylvania National Park Service sites in 2016 spent $64 million dollars in communities near the park.

That spending supported 1,058 jobs.

The five Western Pennsylvania parks are Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, Flight 93 National Memorial, Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Friendship Hill National Historic Site and Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

Source: Tourism to National Parks in Western Pennsylvania Create $88 Million in Economic Benefits | GantNews.com

Gov. Wolf signs Pennsylvania pension reform into law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The measure replaces the current generous retirement benefit with three new options that rely partially or entirely on a 401(k)-style plan.

The measure, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, reconstructs the state’s current pension system for future state employees and public school teachers, replacing the current generous retirement benefit with three new options that rely partially or entirely on a 401(k)-style plan.

Source: Gov. Wolf signs Pennsylvania pension reform into law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Target stock jumps 7% as retailer blows past Wall Street expectations

Target reported first-quarter earnings and sales Wednesday that topped the Street’s expectations.

Here’s what the company reported vs. what the Street was expecting:

  • Earnings per share: $1.21, excluding items, vs. forecast of 91 cents, according to Thomson Reuters analysts’ consensus estimates.
  • Revenue: $16.02 billion vs. $15.62 billion estimate, analysts said.
  • Same-store sales: 1.3 percent drop vs. forecast of a 3.7 percent decline, according to FactSet.

Source: Target stock jumps 7% as retailer blows past Wall Street expectations

US, China reach access deals for beef, poultry | TheHill

The White House struck agreements with China on several persistent trade irritants to reduce the trade deficit with Beijing.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced deals that will send U.S. beef exports to China, allow Chinese imports of cooked poultry, expand U.S. electronic payment services and provide for faster regulatory approval of biotechnology products by Beijing.

Source: US, China reach access deals for beef, poultry | TheHill

U.S. April job gains rebound, unemployment drops to 4.4 percent | Reuters

* Total payrolls up 211,000 vs 185,000 estimate & downwardly revised 79,000 prior (original 98,000)* Private payrolls up 194,000 vs 185,000 estimate & downwardly revised 77,000 prior (original 89,000)

* Unemployment rate down to 4.4 pct vs 4.6 pct estimate & 4.5 pct prior

* Average hourly earnings growth 0.3 pct vs 0.3 pct estimate & downwardly revised 0.1 pct prior (original 0.2 pct)

* U-6 rate pct 8.6 pct vs 8.9 pct prior* Labor force participation 62.9 pct vs 63.0 pct prior

* Household survey: Workforce grew by 12,000, employed rose by 156,000, unemployed fell by 146,000

Source: U.S. April job gains rebound, unemployment drops to 4.4 percent | Reuters