Business/Economy

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

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.

One of former President Barack Obama’s environmental victories was getting automakers to agree to much higher fuel efficiency standards back in 2011. In his last days in office, his administration worked to finalize those standards through 2025. That came as a bit of a shock to carmakers who had expected a chance to revisit the rules. Now, they’re asking the brand-new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for a redo. 

Last of pipeline opponents leave North Dakota protest camp

Feb 22, 2017
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Associated Press

The last of the Dakota Access pipeline opponents abandoned their protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, today ahead of a government deadline to get off the federal land, and authorities arrested others who defied the order in a final show of dissent.

What Selena Gomez has to do with the 'La La Land' soundtrack

Feb 22, 2017
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Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar

John Janick took over for Jimmy Iovine as CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records in 2014. Iovine hand picked Janick as his successor, and Janick then spent months learning the business from the music legend.

Janick launched himself into the music industry when he started a record company out of his college dorm room called Fueled by Ramen. Its artists included Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy and eventually Panic! at the Disco and Paramore.

Reuters reports that Facebook is in talks to stream Major League Baseball games. That would make the MLB the latest professional sports league to seek a social media audience. But what’s in it for Facebook? Well, potential advertising dollars. Since Facebook can track who’s watching and what they’re doing while they watch, it can offer real-time information that advertisers might be willing to bid on to target an audience at peak game times.

The federal government has revealed plans to step up deportations of the millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Construction and agriculture are among the sectors that lean heavily on the undocumented workforce and, with labor short in those fields, some say the move will have a negative effect. 

Coal is a resource curse for one town's economy

Feb 22, 2017
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Marketplace

President Donald Trump has pledged to “revive” the coal industry and deliver the next industry boom. But for historic coal-mining towns, many are asking a broader, long-term question: In volatile resource economies, do the periodic booms get outweighed by the busts that follow? In other words, do the hangovers last longer than the parties?

On its face, it seems a ridiculous question: Can a natural resource be bad for a local economy?

Meet the workplace sensors that are watching you

Feb 22, 2017
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Kai Ryssdal and Robert Garrova

We all know about the sensors that turn the lights off when a room isn’t occupied or dial back the air conditioning when it isn’t needed. But in today’s modern workplace, sensors are capable of tracking much more, including how long employees go without talking with one another, and, in one case, even when workers are away from their desks.

Interscope Geffen A&M CEO says industry has got to figure out streaming

Feb 22, 2017
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Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar

When John Janick was an undergrad, he started a record company out of his dorm room called Fueled by Ramen. It went on to represent artists like Jimmy Eat World and Fall Out Boy, then later Panic! at the Disco, fun. and Paramore. Now he runs a considerably bigger company as the CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records. Janick was hand-picked by Jimmy Iovine to be the music industry legend's successor.

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Western New York's largest taxi operator is pushing back against the push in Albany for ride-hailing, saying the public could pay the price.

2/22/2017: Let's talk about coal, again

Feb 22, 2017
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Marketplace

We’ve been hearing a lot about coal lately. Coal mining country came out strong for Trump, who has been promising to bring back mining jobs. We discuss the reality of the boom-and-bust industry with residents in one Illinois town who wonder if they’d be better off without it. From the latest installment of Corner Office, we’ll hear the unlikely story of how the “La La Land” soundtrack came to be from the man who made it happen: John Janick, CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records. Plus, how closely are you being watched at work?

02/22/17: Watching $100 million go down the drain

Feb 22, 2017

We're exploring the financial turmoil that ABB, a Swiss engineering group, is currently facing. The company may lose $100 million because of a criminal scheme at a South Korean subsidiary. Next, we'll talk about a turnaround for U.S. coal mining companies and then take a closer look at one small California community where arsenic is contaminating its groundwater. 

Mining companies bounce back after years of losses

Feb 22, 2017

Some of the world’s biggest mines are reporting profits again after a rocky few years. Commodity prices are up, and mining companies are leaner. They’ve sold off underperforming mines, and paid off debt. Miners and steel makers are also hoping President Trump will give them a boost with new spending on infrastructure in the U.S. But they’re also hoping he doesn’t start any trade wars, because they rely on global trade. 

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

Why it might be a good thing if your boss is an introvert

Feb 22, 2017
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David Brancaccio

Turns out that the most effective leader isn't necessarily the one who's the most outgoing, the most outspoken, the most assertive. 

Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, conducted a study at a national pizza chain with his colleagues to discover the connection between personality type and management style. They found that an introvert's or extrovert's success depended on conditions like how active or passive their employees were. 

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Scott Cohn

The crisis in Flint, Michigan, drew national attention to the issue of safe drinking water. The Trump administration has offered few specifics on what it plans to do about it. But Flint is just one example. Other communities are tackling water problems too, like Kettleman City, California, which has been dealing with unsafe drinking water for years.

Six Flags reports its quarterly earnings today. It's one of the top five players in the amusement park industry, Disney being the biggest. The company is starting to hold job fairs for its busy summer season, but in today's tightening labor market, hospitality companies could have trouble getting the workers they need.

Click the above audio player to hear the full story. 

A new 3-D pen lets kids create their own toys

Feb 22, 2017
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Bruce Johnson and Danielle Stephens

When you think of the term "3-D," you may think of glasses. Maxwell Bogue thinks of a pen. 

Bogue is the CEO and co-founder of WobbleWorks Inc., a company that created the 3Doodler Start Pen, which allows children to draw pictures that turn into 3-D sculptures when they're finished. The pen uses specially developed bio-plastic material at a much lower temperature than 3-D pens for adults, making it safer for children to use.

Nation’s mayors hold 'day of action' on ACA

Feb 22, 2017
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Amy Scott

Mayors around the country are holding what they’re calling a “day of action” Wednesday to warn of the risks to their cities if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act without an effective replacement. More than 50 mayors are hosting town halls and other events pressing lawmakers to preserve key parts of the law, which has helped reduce the country’s uninsured rate to a record low.

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Kim Adams

New guidance memos out from the Department of Homeland Security call for more agents, more detention capacity and more deportations as part of President Donald Trump's plans to crack down on illegal immigration.

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