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Roundup: Airport offers 1 hour parking free; firms win BBB ethics awards; home sale deals surge; more

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority will offer one hour of free parking in Pittsburgh International Airport's extended-term parking lots starting on Thursday. The authority said it is responding to requests for a cellphone lot, where visitors can wait to receive calls from arriving passengers they are picking up. The authority hopes the change will reduce congestion at the airport's arrivals curb and prevent people from circling airport roads and parking along nearby Interstate 376 while waiting for passengers. Visitors using extended-term lots will have to pay $1 for the second hour, then $8 daily rates after that. Parking rates for the first hour in the short- and long-term lots will remain $1.

3 firms lauded for ethics

The Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania announced waterproofing and foundation repair company AquaGuard Systems Inc. of Forest Hills and Energy Swing Windows of Murrysville on Wednesday as winners of its 2012 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics. Baker's Waterproofing & Foundation Repair of Bentleyville was chosen as a runner-up. All three companies have won the awards previously. Warren King, the BBB's local president, said the three businesses were chosen by an independent academic panel for “exceptional conduct in the marketplace.”

Homes under agreement surge

October was the best month so far this year for the Pittsburgh area's housing market, as residential sales under agreement rose 27.8 percent compared with a year ago, the West Penn Multi-List Inc. said. “We haven't seen a more than 25 percent increase in homes placed under sales agreement since January 2012,” when contracts rose 26.1 percent, said Barbara Kohl, executive vice president of the real estate information company. Actual numbers are 3,280 homes placed under agreement in October versus 2,566 a year ago in the 13-county region. Average days on the market dropped from 102 in January to 83 in October.

Hershey workers win back wages

Three companies have agreed in a federal settlement to pay back wages to hundreds of foreign students for summer jobs they held at a Hershey candy company facility in Pennsylvania. Lemoyne-based SHS Group, Ohio-based Exel Inc. and California-based Council for Educational Travel USA agreed to pay $213,000 in back wages to 1,000 students who held summer jobs repackaging candy. The Hershey Co. owns the facility but was not accused of wrongdoing because Exel operated it. The Department of Labor said Wednesday the three companies overcharged the students for housing, reducing their wages below what they were supposed to be paid. It says the settlement provides fines for two of the companies. Exel agreed to pay $143,000 in fines for excessive workplace noise. SHS was fined $5,000 for other violations.

Hostess vows to liquidate

Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of Wonder bread and Twinkies, said it will cease operations and liquidate if enough members of its striking bakery workers union don't cross the picket lines by Thursday to keep them open. Workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Nov. 9 as a bankruptcy judge in White Plains, N.Y., imposed contract concessions that 92 percent of the union workers voted down. Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said in a statement that the company “does not have the financial resources” to survive a strike.

Toyota settles acceleration suit

Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to settle a shareholder class-action lawsuit related to its sudden acceleration problems for $25.5 million. The settlement would put to rest allegations that the company hurt the value of its stock by hiding defects and other safety problems as well as by not acting swiftly to address vehicles that accelerated out of control. Those problems came to the surface in late 2009 after a horrific San Diego County accident that killed a family of four in a Lexus. In the months following, Toyota recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide, faced multiple congressional investigations and eventually paid record fines of almost $50 million.

‘Call of Duty' sales top 1M in day

GameStop Corp., the video game retailer, sold more than 1 million copies of “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on Tuesday, positioning the new title from Activision Blizzard Inc. to break sales records. “‘Black Ops II' is shaping up to be our biggest game launch of all time,” said Tony Bartel, president of the Grapevine, Texas-based chain. “GameStop sold more than 1 million units worldwide during our midnight launch period.” The latest installment in the top-selling “Call of Duty” franchise went on sale timed to take advantage of the coming holiday shopping season. The title retails for about $60.

Gamesa announces more layoffs

Gamesa Energy has issued layoff notices to more than half of its Cambria County workforce. Company officials say 92 of the plant's 154 workers are expected to be out of work at the plant by early next year. It's part of a nationwide trend for wind energy companies. A congressional deadlock over whether to extend a soon-to-expire federal production tax credit has drastically weakened the market for new wind farms and components. David Rosenberg, Gamesa's marketing vice president, said the company has been forced to adjust to those poor market conditions. The layoff follows 73 at the facility during the summer.

Other business news

• The Internal Revenue Service is looking for volunteers and partner organizations to help with its free tax preparation programs. Volunteers must be trained and achieve certification over the next two months to be ready for the start of the 2013 filing season. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offer free tax help to senior citizens and low- to moderate-income and disabled individuals. In addition to tax preparation, volunteers are needed to greet visitors and for other roles. Details are online at at keywords “tax volunteer.”

• Westinghouse Electric Co. said it signed an agreement with Siempelkamp Nukleartechnik GmbH to jointly market and provide Passive Autocatalytic Recombiner technology and analysis to the nuclear industry in the U.S. and global markets. The technology is aimed at preventing the buildup of hydrogen gas or other flammable gases, such as carbon monoxide.

• HyperActive Technologies, a Green Tree company that serves the drive-through restaurant industry, said shipments of its HyperView order confirmation displays rose 25 percent in the third quarter, setting a record. The company also said it struck agreements with 10 additional dealers to broaden availability of its products. HyperActive has approved vendor status with more than 40 quick-service restaurant brands including Taco Bell, Subway and Wendy's.

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