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Local gas prices continue to rise

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007

The average regular gasoline price across Western Pennsylvania this week rose 3.5 cents a gallon, AAA East Central reported. The average price for a gallon of unleaded regular from a self-serve pump was $2.926, up from $2.891 one week ago, and 70.1 cents a gallon more than the same product one year ago. The lowest gasoline price regionwide was found in Altoona, Blair County, at $2.884, while the most expensive unleaded regular gasoline was selling in Erie for $2.978 a gallon.

Eaton Corp. gets $850K

Pennsylvania is providing $850,000 in grants to Eaton Corp. for its previously reported $24 million expansion of its Moon headquarters complex, which will add 30 new jobs to 756 existing positions and become its global hub for its electrical business. The 120,000-square foot expansion will combine Eaton's tech center and corporate offices. The expansion, originally reported in July by the Tribune-Review, is by the Cleveland-based Eaton Corp., a diversified industrial manufacturer with 2006 sales of $12.4 billion.

Benefit level set

The federal agency that insures private pension plans for millions of Americans announced Tuesday that the maximum annual benefit for plans taken over next year will be $51,750 for workers who wait until 65 to retire. The figure represents a 4.5 percent increase from $49,500, this year's maximum annual benefit for those who wait until that age to retire. Workers who retire before 65 get smaller benefits, while those who work longer get larger benefits. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. said the maximum annual pension of $51,750 next year for someone retiring at 65 translates into a maximum monthly payment of $4,312.50. The agency insures pensions for 44 million workers and retirees.

Elmer's vows review

Glue maker Elmer's Products Inc. has pledged to investigate its safety standards after findings by Consumer Reports magazine of high lead levels in several kinds of children's glue sticks. In a statement, Elmer's said the company was aware of the report in the December issue of Consumer Reports and has initiated a "rigorous review" of the findings. Products with high levels of total lead included orange caps from seven Elmer's Glue Sticks with designs from "Dora the Explorer," "Go, Diego, Go!" and "SpongeBob SquarePants," the report said.

Chop House coming

The former Red Bull Inn restaurant in Robinson will reopen soon as the Pittsburgh Chop House. "The restaurant will be under Daniel Fleck and his sister, Janice Bioni," said Rick Urbano, Robinson planning director. He said a hearing is scheduled next month on Fleck's application to obtain a liquor license. Also participating in the restaurant, located on Campbell's Run Road, off the Parkway West, which will have about 9,500 square feet and seat up to 230, is a brother, Randy Fleck. The Robinson site was the last of 20 Red Bull Inns that were operated in three states during the 1970s and 80s. It closed in January after a dispute among family members of the founder, Lou Fleck, who died in 2004.

Earnings

• Black Box Corp. on Tuesday reported small decreases in fiscal second-quarter profit and revenues, the Lawrence, Washington County-based technical services company said. For the three months ended Sept. 29, profit totaled $11.3 million, or 64 cents a share, down 3.4 percent from $11.7 million, or 66 cents, one year ago. Revenues for the quarter fell 3.9 percent, to $260.6 million from $271.3 million. Newly appointed CEO Terry Blakemore said the company remains on target to again hit the $1 billion mark in annual revenues, with operating earnings in the $3.30 to $3.50 range.

• FirstEnergy Corp. said Tuesday that its earnings dropped 9 percent in the third quarter because of higher replacement power costs stemming from the a 25-day outage at its Perry, Ohio, nuclear power plant. FirstEnergy said it earned $413 million, or $1.34 per share, compared with earnings of $454 million, or $1.40 per share, a year ago. Revenue rose to $3.6 billion for the quarter, up from $3.4 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Other business news:

• Brian Bronaugh, a 17-year veteran of the Mullen advertising agency, has been named president and executive creative director of its Pittsburgh office. Previously, he was a senior vice president. Bronaugh succeeds Bob Bernardini, who becomes chairman of Mullen-Pittsburgh as part of a planned transition.

• The former Spirit Harley-Davidson in Shaler will reopen its doors under a new name and owner in late November with a storewide liquidation sale. The Gato Family, which also owns the Gatto Cycle Shop Inc. in Tarentum, said it purchased the business out of Chapter 11 bankrupty and has renamed it Three Rivers Harley-Davidson.

• Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. said it has been chosen to supply instruments and software to test athletes for doping at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The China Doping Control Center, the organization accredited to conduct testing at the games, selected the company, said Thermo Fisher, a Waltham, Mass.-based maker of scientific instruments and laboratory supplies. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

• Working Mother magazine named PNC Financial Services Group in its November issue as one of 20 "Best Green Companies for America's Children." The companies were chosen for championing environmentally safe, innovative business models.

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