In Brief Featured

8:00pm EDT July 21, 2002
They're checking you out

If you don't think your customers are scoping out your credibility, think again.

The Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania says it answered 223,651 calls last year requesting reliability reports on businesses, general information and assistance with complaints. In fact, requests for reliability reports were up 40 percent from the previous year, and complaints were up 19 percent.

The types of companies about which most callers inquired, starting with the most: Home-improvement contractors; modeling and talent agencies; invention marketing; vacation certificate offers; work-at-home offers; window sales and installation; roof and gutter contractors; waterproofing companies; new auto dealers; and heating-and-air conditioning contractors.

Many of those received the most complaints as well. They are as follows: Home-improvement contractors; vacation certificate offers; magazine subscription services; new auto dealers; computer sales and service; furniture stores; window sales and installation; roof and gutter contractors; department stores; and banks.

Lessons from an eight-year-old

Here's one 8-year-old from whom many companies could learn a lesson or two.

Brandon Whale, a second-grader from the North Hills, identified a problem, then he developed a product that solved the problem-something many entrepreneurs tend to get backwards in their R&D efforts. In Brandon's case, his petite mother, who wears a pacemaker, needed to wear a pacemaker transmitter bracelet, but given her size, most bracelets proved too large. Brandon had a solution: a bracelet with an adjustable band made with elastic and Velcro. Called the PaceMate, his bracelet also uses specially pre-packaged sponges soaked in oral electrolytes instead of water to improve the quality of the transmission over phone lines (the transmission tests the pacemaker's battery).

For his invention, Brandon won a scholarship to Camp Invention, a one-week summer program for kids that offers hands-on science and other creative activities. The camps are held in Beaver County, Fox Chapel, Monroeville, Moon Township, North Allegheny, Pine Richland, Steubenville/Weirton, Swissvale and Upper St. Clair.

Said Brandon in a detailed inventor's log he kept for the project: "I wanted to fix this for my mom because she fixes things for me."

For information about Camp Invention, call (412) 774-6001.

How to keep civility in employment lawsuits

The next time an ex-employee files an employment discrimination claim against your company, you won't necessarily have to take that case to court. At least, not if Justus Employment Law Mediation Group can help it.

The group, part of Justus Alternative Dispute Resolution Services in Pittsburgh, is designed to offer both parties of the dispute an efficient and cost-effective solution that takes little more than a day-in a non-adversarial environment, according to its principals.

The group is led by David Ward Murphy, a former Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas trial judge and renown mediator. Louis Kushner, an attorney and partner with law firm Rothman, Gordon, Foreman & Groudine, P.C., and James Brown, an attorney and director at law firm Cohen & Grigsby, P.C., also practice with the group.

"With mediation, clients are spared the frustration and distraction of drawn-out legal battles, while plaintiff and defense attorneys can handle more cases and demonstrate their commitment to helping clients manage legal costs and find creative resolutions to their disputes," says Murphy.

Adds Kushner: "In mediation, only one rule applies-civility. And there is only one goal-resolve the dispute without going to trial."

For information, contact Justus Employment Law Mediation Group at (888) 2MEDIATE or (412)281-9112.

Why the state likes Site Selection magazine

When economic development magazine Site Selection published its latest rankings of states and their economic development efforts, Samuel McCullough, the secretary of the state's Department of Community and Economic Development, was among the first to dig out his horn.

And for good reason, it seems.

Among the latest rankings:


  • For the first time, Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the long-term manufacturing category, for new manufacturing projects between 1995 and 1997. The top six, respectively, are: Ohio, Texas, California, Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois.


  • Pennsylvania also ranked 10th in the New Facilities/Expansions category from 1995-1997.

"Successful economic development demands long-term commitment because positive changes in business climates don't occur overnight," says McCullough. "The 'big-picture' view is why the latest issue of Site Selection magazine represents great news about Pennsylvania's economic status. Since taking office in 1995, the Ridge Administration has created a business climate that is showing consistent, continued growth."

OK, you can put away your horn now.

Which comes first, products or services?

Services, according to Coopers & Lybrand in its latest Trendsetter Barometer survey.

Of the 430 product and services companies' CEOs interviewed for the survey, Trendsetter companies grew at an average of 23.1 percent during 1997 (down from 26.7 percent the year before, thanks largely to a slowdown in product-oriented company growth.) Service firms grew an average of 29.8 percent-up 12 percent from 1996, while product firms grew only 17.4 percent-a 36 percent drop in average growth.

Of the Pennsylvania CEOs polled, 69 percent remain optimistic about the economy ahead, while less than 2 percent are pessimistic.

The Pennsylvania-based CEOs' three main concerns ahead are: 1) slower growth in international sales; 2) a possible weakening of market demand in the United States; and 3) a shortage of skilled, trained workers.

You can access Coopers & Lybrand's Trendsetter Barometer studies on its Website at

They now have money for you

The Community Loan Fund of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a non-profit community development financial institution, now has a $500,000 boost in its effort to create a $3 million development finance loan tool for local businesses.

The Community Loan Fund was granted the loan, along with another $100,000 for technical support, from the Local Initiatives Support Corp.

Says Mark Peterson, executive director of the Community Loan Fund: "The majority of these funds will be used to support the retention and growth of enterprises and employees in distressed communities of a nine-county region."

He adds that 75 percent of the funding will be used in urban communities, with the remaining 25 percent being earmarked for rural communities. The Fund currently has $2.2 million in capital.

For funding information, contact the Community Loan Fund at (724) 935-3327.