Notebook Featured

1:09pm EDT May 31, 2002
Takin' it from the streets

What's the most recycled material in North America?

If you guessed plastic or paper, you're wrong. Steel reigns as the recycling regent, according to the Steel Recycling Institute.

In 2001, the steel industry recycled nearly 66 million tons of scrap, an overall recycling rate of 67.8 percent and a 5.7 percent increase over the prior year.

The auto industry is the recycling champ where steel is concerned. More steel was reclaimed for scrapped automobiles than the auto industry used manufacturing new cars in 2001.

Recycling rates for other steel products: Construction and demolition debris, 95 percent for structural beams and plates; household appliances, 85 percent; and steel cans, 58 percent.

... through the streets

A pilot project is providing financial incentives for using public transportation.

Smart Commute combines the efforts of Howard Hanna Financial, the Port Authority of Allegheny County and Fannie Mae. Homebuyers in Allegheny County can use potential savings from reduced commuting costs to be considered as additional qualifying income for a mortgage.

Loans will be approved through Howard Hanna Financial, and Fannie Mae has agreed to purchase up to $10 million in eligible loans.

The rationale for the savings is that commuters who use public transportation spend less than they would if they drove.

The mortgages are available to homebuyers who purchase a home in the county within two miles of public transit, either a Port Authority bus stop or T station. Residents may be eligible for up to $250 a month in a two-income household or $200 a month for a single-income household.

Communities with heavy use of public transportation stand to see the greatest gain. East Liberty, for instance, has 30,000 people using the East Busway stop each day, according to East Liberty Development Inc.

... and to the bank

Riverside Center for Innovation, a nonprofit economic development agency, is offering a program that teaches individuals and families how to save money to start a business or purchase a home.

Save Smart allows participants to save a minimum of $10 a week or $40 a month at a participating PNC Bank branch. Those who save $500 a year for a minimum of 13 months and a maximum of 24 months receive a matching grant.

They are also required to meet residency and income requirements and attend workshops about spending habits, budgeting, banking services and products, credit repair, loans and grants, taxes, insurance and financial planning.

Round, round, get around

Fear of traffic tie-ups got you afraid to go to your next business meeting? Here's something that might help.

PennDot has established a Web site,, that provides a driver's eye view of alternate routes around construction projects.

Other features of the site developed by North Side's Savvior Technology Solutions include printable maps and directions of alternate routes, information and suggestions about where to park, and strategically placed, live around-the-clock traffic cams that show current traffic conditions at key intersections.

The potential downside? Less time to talk on your cell phone.

Loans still available

Businesses hurt by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may be eligible for extra loan relief under the U.S. Small Business Administration's new Supplemental Terrorist Activity Relief program.

The STAR program applies to small businesses that suffered economic harm or a disruption in business as the result of the attacks. To date, the SBA has provided guarantees for $150 million in loans.

Loans are available to businesses that can show the lender direct or indirect adverse impact as the result of the terrorist attacks. Examples of adverse impact, says the SBA, are difficulty:

* Making loan payments on existing debt, or in paying employees or vendors

* Purchasing materials, supplies or inventory

* Paying rents, mortgages or other operating expenses

* Securing financing

Nationally, there is $4.5 billion in additional funding for the loans. The SBA says funds will be available until Jan. 10, 2003, or until the money is exhausted.

For more information, call the SBA's answer desk at (800) U-ASK-SBA or visit

Franchisee cleans up

Pat Osborne, manager of The Maids Home Services of Pittsburgh, has been selected from among 150 franchisees to receive the franchiser's President's Club Award. The Maids confers the award to one franchise owner annually for outstanding sales performance and business growth.