Lunch crowds in the Hardwood Cafe used to be packed with dozens of workers from the natural gas industry.
A lot of them were regulars. Lately, some familiar faces have disappeared.
“I would say it was right after the holidays that a lot of them were not coming back,” said Justin Trainor, who owns the restaurant in Penn. “The servers would say, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen so and so,’ and (the gas workers) would say, ‘Oh, they didn’t bring them back.’ ”
The falloff in customers has put a dent in Trainor’s business, which has benefited from the gas industry boom in Western Pennsylvania. But low gas prices have forced companies such as Rex Energy and XTO to pull back on new drilling, and the effects are beginning to ripple throughout the region’s economy.
Locator map with the Central Business District neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As a $400 million project to build PNC Financial Services Group’s new corporate headquarters nears the midpoint, surrounding business owners are anxiously awaiting completion of Downtown’s biggest skyscraper in more than a quarter-century.
Some look forward to an anticipated boost in business. Others long for their misery to end.
“It’s tough to complain about progress, but this project has definitely been a struggle for us,” said Rob Kania, owner of Metropolitan Preschool & Nursery, which runs a Fifth Avenue facility in the shadow of the project.
Most agree The Tower at PNC Plaza will become a jewel in the city’s skyline. PNC hopes it will be the world’s most environmentally friendly office building.
A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If it seems as though rental prices in Pittsburgh have been in a bull market over the past several years, that’s because they have.
While large metro areas like New York and San Francisco have grabbed headlines for their sky-high rental prices, Pittsburgh’s rental market is actually rising at a faster rate than New York’s, according to a study from personal finance website NerdWallet.
“We were looking at growth rates, rather than cities with the highest rents, and Pittsburgh is in a rapid economic growth period now,” said Divya Raghavan, a senior analyst for NerdWallet in San Francisco. “While New York and San Francisco are already well-established top cities in the U.S., Pittsburgh is considered an up and coming city.”
Chris Espinoza was having a hard time making purchases or paying bills online because he didn’t have a bank account.
“Nobody wanted to give me an account,” said Espinoza, 31. The La Habra, Calif., resident explained that being financially reckless during his youth “messed me up.”
“Doing everything with cash was hard,” he said.
During a visit to Wal-Mart about a year ago, Espinoza found his banking workaround in the Bluebird prepaid card. Offered by the mega-retailer and American Express, it provides services through its mobile app such as direct deposit, online bill pay and check deposits.
PNC Bank shrunk its branch network by 160 offices last year, the most of any bank nationwide except for Bank of America, an analysis released Monday by SNL Financial found.
Collectively, banks cut their branch total by 1,487 locations in 2013, SNL said, as the industry contended with persistently low interest rates, slow loan growth and escalating costs.
Lenders large and small “grappled with weak revenue growth and heavy [regulatory] compliance costs that are motivating them to reduce the fixed expenses tied to large branch networks,” said SNL, a Charlottesville, Va.-based research firm.
PNC, Pittsburgh’s dominant bank and the eighth biggest nationwide, closed 182 branches and opened 22 others across its 19-state footprint in 2013 for a net loss of 160, SNL said. Bank of America, the nation’s second-biggest bank, had a net loss of 189 branches.
NORRISTOWN — A former personal banker at a Pottstown financial institution is headed to prison after admitting to engaging in a scheme to steal money from six elderly female clients.
Jon Dugan, 30, formerly of the 500 block of Douglass Drive, Douglass (Berks), and most recently of Township Line Road, Royersford, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Friday to five-to-23 months in the county jail, to be followed by five years’ probation, after he pleaded guilty to multiple charges of theft by deception in connection with incidents that occurred while he worked for the Wells Fargo Bank branch, 1470 E. High St., between June and August 2011.
Judge Gary S. Silow also ordered Dugan to pay $7,671 in restitution to the bank.
Dugan must report to jail on July 26 to begin serving the sentence. Dugan is eligible for a jail work-release program during his incarceration.
PNC Bank will close 10 more branches in the region within the next 90 days as part of an effort to cut costs and focus on serving customers who increasingly are banking online and via smartphones.
The closures, which include the last remaining bank branch in the city of Clairton, come on top of four other branches shuttered earlier in the year.
Spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel declined to say how many more branches in the region might be closed this year, saying decisions beyond 90 days may not be final.
Pittsburgh‘s biggest bank has said it planned to close about 200 branches this year across its footprint in 19 states and Washington, D.C., which is about 7 percent of its network of roughly 2,900 offices. The bank closed 65 branches last year.
UK banking giant HSBC is now focusing on fast-growing emerging markets and plans to sell about half of its US Retail Bank Branches (195) to First Niagara for about one billion dollars. The branches up for sale are mainly in New York and six are in Connecticut.
HSBC lost billions in the financial crisis of 2008; however HSBC reported a 3 percent increase in pretax profits for the first half of 2011. The increase exceeded forecasted expectations.
HSBC is shifting their focus by expanding in emerging markets and reducing headcount in tougher markets. A company official failed to give details on specifically where the 30,000 job cuts would be made.
Fulton Bank has asserted its dominance in the Lancaster County financial services market and expanded its lead over number two rival Susquehanna Bank.
Fulton Bank has 23.09% of all Lancaster County deposits, up from 21.3% last year. Fulton increased its lead over rival Susquehanna Bank from 3.37% to 5.14% over last year. Both banks are based in Lancaster County. Susquehanna Bank is based in Lititz and Fulton Bank has its headquarters in Lancaster City on historic Penn Square.
Fulton Bank has a branch in Pottstown located at 799 State Street in the Pottstown Plaza shopping center. Susquehanna Bank maintains a very visible presence downtown Pottstown occupying a 5-story building at the corner of High and Hanover Streets.
You may have seen the picture of the North End Harleysville Bank with a First Niagara sign in the Mercury the other day. Now they changed the sign at the East End branch as well. The signs are covered up with Harleysville banners for now, but not for long.
So who is First Niagara Bank? They are a Buffalo, NY based bank. First Niagara recently moved their headquarters into downtown Buffalo.
First Niagara is aggressively expanding. First it was western Pennsylvania where they made a foray into the Pittsburgh market. First Niagara bought 57 branches of National City Bank. National City Bank was a casualty of the subprime mortgage crisis and was forced to sell off branches by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
In July of 2009, First Niagara bought Harleysville National Bank which gives them over 80 branches in the Philadelphia region. So far, First Niagara intends to keep all existing branches open. According to the First Niagara website, with the Harleysville acquisition they will have 254 branches with $19.3 billion in assets and $13.9 billion in deposits.
So much for having a Pottstown based bank :(. First, Security National was gobbled up by Harleysville. Now Harleysville has been gobbled up by First Niagara.