Business Briefs: 5/8/14

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Day of Giving totals down from last year

A preliminary tally shows nearly $6 million in donations was generated for nonprofits in the region Tuesday through the sixth annual Day of Giving. The total raised in the 18-hour online event fell from $7.7 million last year, but officials were not surprised because Day of Giving was moved to May for the first time this year from its traditional date in October, which many consider to be the kickoff of the annual charitable giving season. The date change was done to align Day of Giving with a national initiative, Give Local America, which raised more than $50 million Tuesday for 7,700 nonprofits, according to the Pittsburgh Foundation, which organized the local event. Donors committed $4.9 million Tuesday to nonprofits in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler counties; each organization will receive a share of $810,000 in matching funds.

State House OKs bill on summer fuel blends

A Pennsylvania bill that could eliminate state mandates for expensive summer fuel blends has been sent to the governor’s office for approval. The bill still would require approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before drivers in seven southwestern Pennsylvania counties — including Allegheny, Washington, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland — would no longer be required to purchase the costlier Reid vapor pressure gasoline in longer be required to purchase the costlier Reid Vapor Pressure gasoline in the summer months. On average, a gallon of RVP gas costs 10 to 15 cents more per gallon than regular unleaded gas.

Health care consortium retains Highmark ties

The Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium said Wednesday that Highmark will remain its exclusive insurance provider through June 2018, regardless of whether the insurer is able to extend its current in-network contract with UPMC beyond this year. While expressing hope that the two health giants will come to an affordable agreement, ACSHIC trustee chair Jan Klein said, “We are confident that the Allegheny Health Network, local community hospitals and doctors, and the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield network provide our members and their families exceptional and extensive options to meet their health care needs.”

Campaign nets $2.8B for dermatology company

Iagnosis, a virtual health and dermatology company based in Washington County, announced Wednesday that it had raised $2.83 million from angel investors through a fundraising campaign that ended in March. The new funding is a component of a $7.25 million preferred stock round that included conversion of debt. Iagnosis’ flagship product is “DermatologistOnCall,” an online platform that allows patients to submit photos of skin issues that can be diagnosed and later treated by dermatologists. DermatologistOnCall doctors are available in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, District of Columbia, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, with new states to be added this year.

Worker productivity falls in first quarter

American workers were less productive in the first quarter as harsh winter weather prevented some from getting to their jobs, causing the economy to stall. The measure of employee output per hour dropped at a 1.7 percent annualized rate, the weakest reading in a year, after rising at a 2.3 percent pace in the last three months of 2013, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday. Over the past year, productivity increased 1.4 percent, the same as in the 12 months ended in December.

Siemens CEO shakes up company to raise profits

German industrial equipment maker Siemens AG has launched a sweeping restructuring to raise disappointing profits and better compete with peers such as General Electric. The company said Wednesday it is knocking out a layer of upper management, buying a key business to strengthen the crucial power generation division and shedding its line of hearing aids.

Nintendo says no to virtual equality in life game

Nintendo isn’t allowing gamers to play as gay in an upcoming life simulator game. The publisher of “Mario Bros.” said Tuesday it wouldn’t bow to pressure to allow players to engage in romantic activities with characters of the same sex in English editions of “Tomodachi Life.” Characters of the opposite sex are able to flirt, date and marry in the game, which is set for release June 6 in North America and Europe.

Consumer borrowing rose $17.5 billion in March

Consumers increased their borrowing in March by the largest amount in more than a year, using their credit cards and taking out more auto and student loans. Consumer borrowing increased $17.5 billion in March, up from a gain of $13 billion in February, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. It was the biggest monthly increase since a $19.3 billion advance in February 2013.

Also in business...

Law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, Downtown, appointed Michael P. Flammia as chairman of its board of directors, the company announced Wednesday. Mr. Flammia is chairman of Eckert Seamans’ litigation group and is based in Boston.

From staff and wire re­ports

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