Business news briefs: Horsehead zinc plant closing

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Horsehead zinc plant closing

Horsehead Corp. notified state officials that its Monaca zinc smelting plant will close by Dec. 31, affecting the jobs of 510 people. The company is nearing completion of a new smelter in Mooresboro, N.C., which will begin production this year. Horsehead has said the new plant will employ about 250. The company announced the North Carolina project two years ago and said it would close the Monaca smelter once the new plant was completed.

LIHEAP to take applications

A program that offers grants to help low-income families with their energy bills will accept applications starting Monday. The state-run and federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps families cover heating costs during the winter. Pennsylvania residents can apply at, or in person at county offices. Families of four with a household income of less than $35,325 would qualify this year. A full list of eligibility requirements can be found on the state's website.

U.S. Steel appoints new VP

U.S. Steel appointed Charles G. Balawajder as vice president and chief information officer, effective today. He succeeds David H. Lohr, who will retire Nov. 30. Mr. Balawajder, 57, held a similar position at the climate, controls and security division of United Technologies. Among other things, the McKeesport native will be responsible for an enterprise resource planning software project the Pittsburgh steel maker began in 2007.

EveryWare expanding area site

EveryWare Global of Lancaster, Ohio, is investing $1.8 million to expand its Monaca plant as the result of an agreement to provide a new line of canning jars to Walmart. The pact is part of the Bentonville, Ark., retailer's plan to buy an additional $50 billion of U.S.-made products over the next 10 years. The Beaver County plant employs about 400. The company expects the expansion will promote job growth, but declined to estimate how many jobs could be created.

Downtown building sold

A Penn Avenue office building, Downtown, has been sold to new owners. PBH 2 LLC and Propel Braddock Hills LLC purchased the eight-story office building at 810 Penn from ROAM Penn LP this week for $3.5 million, according to Allegheny County real estate records. Jim Genstein, who bought the property through the entities, said the building was purchased as an investment and no changes are planned. ROAM paid $2.97 million for the property in 2008.

Plans for Kraft mac & cheese

Kraft plans to remove artificial dyes from three macaroni and cheese varieties that come in kid-friendly shapes. The change doesn't affect Kraft's plain elbow-shaped macaroni and cheese with "original flavor." The packaged-food company said the revamped recipes aren't a response to a petition on, which was posted in March and had more than 348,000 signatures Thursday. The company said it plans to replace the artificial dyes with spices such as paprika for coloring.

Fixed mortgage rates fall

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell for the second straight week and are at their lowest levels in four months. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.10 percent from 4.13 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan eased to 3.20 percent from 3.24 percent. Rates have been falling since September when the Federal Reserve surprised investors by continuing to buy $85 billion a month in bonds. Rates had spiked over the summer when the Fed indicated it might reduce those purchases later this year.

False biodegradable claims

As part of a crackdown on misleading environmental claims, the Federal Trade Commission said it took enforcement actions against six companies to stop them from making unsubstantiated claims that their paper or plastic products were biodegradable. One action, against AJM Packaging Corp. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., includes a $450,000 civil penalty for violating a 1994 order that barred it from making unproven claims, the FTC said. AJM makes paper plates and lunch bags under the Green Label and AJM brands.

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