Business/Economy

The WBFO Business & Economy News Desk is funded by The M&T Charitable Foundation.

Yayoi Kusama exhibit is an economic puzzle for museum

Feb 24, 2017
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Mark Garrison

What may be the most anticipated art exhibition of the year opened Thursday at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Record crowds are expected to see the work of Yayoi Kusama, that rare kind of living artist who draws in collectors, critics and casual fans by the millions. Even a single piece of her work has been enough to inspire fans to line up around the block. And now the Smithsonian has an entire exhibition.

02/24/17: Encore, encore, encore!

Feb 24, 2017
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Marketplace

Since Lizzie is reporting from Wyoming, we’re revisiting some of our favorite stories from the recent past. We revisit the question “Can your office make you sick?” We’re not necessarily saying “yes,” but we’re most definitely not saying “no” either. We also listen back on an interview with Emily Weiss, the CEO of Glossier, one of the hottest beauty products brands among millennials. 

If you’ve been paying attention the last couple days to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., you’ve heard a consistent thread of regaining economic control. From the president to his key strategist Steve Bannon on down, there’s talk of claiming once again what Bannon calls “sovereignty.” Which, of course, implies America had lost it. But sovereignty isn’t just at the center of this administration’s worldview. It has currency on the political left as well as across the pond in Europe.

Last year, the Obama administration announced it was going to phase out federal government use of private prisons after reports surfaced of safety and security issues. Yesterday, that plan was overturned by the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The news immediately boosted share prices of the two largest companies that run private prisons. With the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigration creating thousands of detainees, all signs suggest it's a growth industry.

Click the audio player above for the full story. 

02/24/17: Accommodating infinity

Feb 24, 2017
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Marketplace

The artist Yayoi Kusama is known for her infinity room installations that make you feel like you’re in, well, an infinite room. She’s also known for the blocks-long lines people will wait in to spend a few minutes inside one of them. We explore the financial conundrum of orchestrating a blockbuster show centered on installations that only accommodate a few people at a time.

Uber has had a really bad week

Feb 24, 2017

The news early in the week was that Uber had hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to look into explosive allegations of sexual harassment by a former engineer at the company. On top of that, Uber is now being sued by Alphabet, the parent company of Google as well as the autonomous driving company Waymo. Alphabet is accusing the ride-sharing giant of stealing trade secrets to jump-start its own autonomous vehicle program.

Stocks are a bit down today, following a rise since the election. Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, discusses whether investors are being more realistic. We'll also look at JC Penney's efforts to fight against the slump department stores are experiencing., and explore Indiana's plan to use drones in search and rescue efforts.

Ne York State

A boost is in store for the New York economy. Empire State Development says 43 businesses are expanding or coming to New York state to partner with colleges and universities.

J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney says it will be closing anywhere from 130 to 140 stores, as well as two distribution centers, over the next several months, as it aims to improve profitability in the era of online shopping.

Drones to help with Indiana search and rescue efforts

Feb 24, 2017
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Erika Celeste

Drones have been used in war. Amazon has tested them for deliveries. Now one state is going to start using them to assist with search and rescue. The FAA has licensed Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use drones as a way to find people who may be lost in the wilderness, and help those who are injured.

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Tracy Mumford

This story first appeared on mprnews.org

The Brass Knuckle Tattoo Studio in Minneapolis was wall-to-wall with people Tuesday afternoon, as more than 100 women packed in for appointments.

They were all there to get the same tattoo: "Nevertheless she persisted."

NASCAR changes gears for the Daytona 500

Feb 24, 2017

When the green flag signals the start of the Daytona 500 this weekend, there’s a good chance there will be plenty of empty seats in the stands and in front of the TV. Attendance has been falling for so long at NASCAR events that the organization stopped reporting attendance figures in 2012. TV viewership is off nearly 50 percent since 2005. But NASCAR has a plan to put stock-car racing back on track: The race will be divided into three parts.

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

How celebrities choose their causes

Feb 24, 2017
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Adrienne Hill

Last year, the Oscars tried a thank you scroll along the bottom of the screen to encourage winners to move away from deadly boring, breathless-stream-of-appreciation speeches.

It didn’t work.

But this year, we might finally get something different.

02/24/2017: Political activism in Hollywood

Feb 24, 2017
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Marketplace

We'll explore why Chinese President Xi Jinping has plans to move new people into power on his economic team. Afterwards, a look at why stock car racing is struggling and how celebrities choose the political causes they're involved in.

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Marketplace

There have been a lot of protests going on recently. And at these events, there's a fair amount of time spent sitting, standing, waiting. Ian Bogost, a game critic and professor at Georgia Tech, discusses how a new website called protestgames.org aims to have attendees translate some of that downtime into positive energy. Next, we'll look at Alphabet's decision to sue Uber and Otto for allegedly stealing its intellectual property. And to end today's show, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Laura Weidman Powers, the co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Code 2040.

Top U.S. gunmaker says sales will pick back up under Trump

Feb 23, 2017
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Jana Kasperkevic

Donald Trump’s presidency might have put a damper on gun manufacturer stocks, but Sturm Ruger CEO Michael Fifer believes that the slump in demand is only temporary. His reasoning? Gun ownership is becoming more socially acceptable.

Blog: What the protest economy means to you

Feb 23, 2017
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Phoebe Unterman

We’re less than two months into 2017, and already we’ve seen one of the largest days of protests in U.S. history, multiple cities divesting from a major bank and an endless list of boycotts proposed by President Donald Trump’s supporters and opponents alike.

Political newcomers eye running for office

Feb 23, 2017
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Marielle Segarra

Malka Zeefe is 38, and until recently, she'd never considered running for political office.

But since the election, Zeefe, who's a corporate lawyer and lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has already sought out and been appointed to a city commission for children, youth and families. She's a registered Democrat, and now she's thinking about running for school board. 

"For me, the time of just sitting back is over," she said.

Republicans are inspired too.

McDonald's is slashing drink prices. Starting in April, you can get any size soda for a buck and drinks like smoothies and frappes for $2. It’s the latest in a number of promotions — from all-day breakfast to three sizes of Big Mac — to keep customers coming back in a time of increased competition.

Imagining the future of coal in Gillette, Wyoming

Feb 23, 2017
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Marketplace

Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O'Leary is traveling to three different cities, roughly the same size, that all have very different economies. It's an ongoing, country-spanning series, and her latest dispatch comes from Gillette, Wyoming, where one of the dominant industries is coal. 

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with O’Leary about why coal is so important in Gillette, what the mayor there hopes coal can do for her city in the future and how companies are reimagining how they use coal. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Wegmans

Wegmans is responding to criticism by Costco over how prices are displayed in its stores.

Mexico's energy reform and Pemex both face challenges

Feb 23, 2017
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Marketplace

President Donald Trump says he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. That has a lot of businesses that do cross-border trade concerned, including some U.S. energy executives, even though energy was excluded from NAFTA.

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Marketplace

Just because foreign companies can now invest in Mexico’s state-owned energy agency Pemex, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Seventy-five years of monopoly bred messy finances, debt, nepotism and corruption. But it’s too big an opportunity for some to pass up, and we’ll likely see U.S. companies involved with Pemex’s modernization. Next, our sustainability desk visits tech startups that are figuring out better places to put carbon dioxide than into the air — and some of their solutions make pretty useful products. Plus, the coal conversation continues with an update from Wyoming.

Trump administration hopes to pass tax reform by August

Feb 23, 2017

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration is hoping to pass major tax reform legislation before Congress leaves for its August recess. President Donald Trump has set ambitious goals of economic growth of 3 percent or higher, rates not seen in over a decade. Mnuchin said the administration will achieve this through a combination of tax cuts and regulatory reform to spur economic growth.

02/23/17: The possibility of a century-long bond

Feb 23, 2017

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may be taking on an unusual financial plan: ultra-long bonds. Diane Swonk from DS Economics explains the rationale behind the proposal. Afterwards, we'll look at how educators are trying to fight against the stigma of vocational training and find a new generation of skilled workers. 

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Amy Scott

In the computerized machining lab at Berks Career and Technology Center, just outside Reading, Pa., Tim DeAcosta shows off a state-of-the-art computer numerical control, or CNC, machine. He sets a blank metal plate inside, types some codes into a control panel, and closes the double doors to watch as a tool carves a pattern into the plate.

Can Netflix hook viewers on reality TV?

Feb 23, 2017

Netflix will launch its first reality show on Feb. 24. The physical competition show, “Ultimate Beastmaster,” is kind of like a global version of “American Ninja Warrior.” Netflix is making six localized versions of the show: six different languages, six different sets of hosts and the same set of competitors. It’s part of the streaming service’s promised 1,000  hours of original programming this year, shows that will keep its 94 million-member worldwide audience happily subscribing.

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

Can the U.S.-Mexico relationship be saved?

Feb 23, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are in Mexico for talks. They will be covering a variety of topics from security to trade, but most of all, they’ll be trying to smooth over what are now very fraught relations between the two countries. There’s a whole lot at stake. 

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

Coal country mourns job losses, town heroes

Feb 23, 2017
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Scott Tong

Bringing back coal mining jobs is at the top of President Donald Trump's energy agenda. But it's unclear whether Washington has the power to upend a complex set of trends that have to do with regulations, markets and technology.

In the coal fields of southern Illinois, it's getting harder to find lumps of coal dancing across conveyor belts on the way to market. Last year, some 6,000 miners lost their jobs, bringing the total employment count below 50,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

02/23/17: A state of crisis

Feb 23, 2017
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Marketplace

Members of Trump's cabinet are in Mexico for talks, but can they smooth over a tense relationship between the country and the U.S.? We'll look at what's at stake during the visit. Afterwards, we'll dive into how Brexit will affect banking and then explore the job losses that southern Illinois coal towns are experiencing.

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