The week that was for 01/09/2011

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Good news, bad news

Good news: The unemployment rate fell by 4 tenths of a percentage point, to 9.4 percent in December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the lowest rate in 19 months.

Bad news: The number of people who have left the workforce, discouraged because they cannot find a job, rose by 36,000 to 1.3 million. (Those people aren't included in the total unemployment number since they hadn't searched for a job in the previous month.) The 103,000 jobs created in December fell short of expectations.

Plain old bad news

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week sued the owners, past and present, of a Homer City, Indiana County, power plant that just happens to be one of the dirtiest plants in America. The EPA says the plant has been operating for decades without required federal permits or adequate pollution controls, and says the owners should be required to pay fines of up to $37,500 per day per violation. Emissions from the plant, now operated by EME Homer City Generating LP, could "harm public health and the environment, contribute to premature mortality and asthma attacks and generate acid rain," according to the PG.

Say 'ahhhh'

The financial version of a root canal: Allcare Dental and Dentures chain has closed its offices nationwide, including all of its Pittsburgh-area locations. Allcare, dogged by Pennsylvania's attorney general and investigators in other states, has been fined in the past because it "failed to honor advertised discounts, used confusing information regarding promotions and did not fully disclose the terms of its financing offers," according to the PG's Steve Twedt. Allcare says it is trying to transfer patient records to dentists near the now-closed Allcare offices.

If you build it ...

... they will surf the Internet much faster. Construction on the planned 1,700 miles of fiber-optic cable that will bring high-speed Internet service to rural Pennsylvania is scheduled to begin this year, now that a $118.5 million contract to design the network has been awarded to Quanta Services, a Houston-based infrastructure firm. PennREN, the federally funded connectivity initiative, could see its first segments completed by early 2012.

In case you missed it ...

... visit post-gazette.com/businessnews/ to read Joyce Gannon's story about the quiet millionaire who recently donated $50 million to The Pittsburgh Foundation, the largest single gift in the foundation's history. His name was Charles Kaufman and he was a chemical engineer -- and to find out more about him, or how he wants the money to be used, you'll have to go and read the story.

Quote of the Week

"For many people who grew up and came into the city during the Baby Boom era, we're losing part of our childhood ... Before there was Dick's [Sporting Goods], before there was anything, it was Honus Wagner."

-- Ron Gruendl, spokesman for BNY Mellon Downtown, on the impending closing of the Downtown Honus Wagner Co. sporting goods store, which has existed at one location or another for 93 years. The store is not closing because of poor business, the owners said, but because there is no one to take over the business.

Cleveland rocks?

This month, construction begins on a $465 million Medical Mart & Convention Center in Cleveland, part of the city's effort to re-brand itself as a hub for life sciences research, manufacturers of health-care equipment and supplies, and old-fashioned medical research at places like the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve.

That's better than the city's current brand, The Place That LeBron Left.


Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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