JetBlue to offer instant messaging, e-mail for free
JetBlue Airways Corp. said Thursday it will begin offering free in-flight e-mail and instant messaging next week through a partnership with Yahoo! Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. The service will be available on one plane for a six-month period as the New York-based carrier conducts tests, spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said. A morning flight from New York to San Francisco on Dec. 11 will be the first to offer the service. The aircraft will then be put into regular use throughout JetBlue's routes in the continental U.S. JetBlue plans to expand the e-mail and instant-messaging service to all its planes, said Chairman David Neeleman.
Mortgage rates fall again
Rates on 30-year mortgages fell sharply again this week, dropping to the lowest level in more than two years. Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.96 percent. That was down from 6.10 percent last week and was the lowest rate since the week of Sept. 29, 2005, when they averaged 5.91 percent. Analysts attributed the decline to worries about what a severe slump in housing and a lingering credit crunch could do to consumer confidence and the overall economy.
84 Lumber shuts stores
Adjusting its store count due to the building industry downturn, 84 Lumber Co. this week closed 12 stores, but none in Pennsylvania. Stores in Redding, Calif., and Manchester, Tenn., were shuttered due to sharp homebuilding drops, while sites in Loveland, Ohio, Palatine, Ill., Ellicott City, Md., Amsterdam, N.Y., and Granite City, Ill., were closed because their areas are served by other 84 Lumber locations, said spokesman Jeff Nobers. Stores in Greensboro, N.C., Pineville, N.C., Columbia, S.C., and Slidell, La., were closed because new stores were built nearby. A store in Merced, Calif., is being converted into a structural components plant. About 100 employees are affected by the closings, but many are expected to relocate to other 84 Lumber locations, Nobers said. The Washington County-based company now has 415 stores and 20 component plants.
Alcoa to boost recycling
Alcoa Inc. said Thursday it plans to expand its aluminum recycling capability by 50 percent with the opening of a new $22 million project at its can reclamation facility in Tennessee. Improvements include a new crusher and delacquering furnace, supporting building enclosures, utilities and environmental systems. Alcoa expects the expansion to be completed over the next 12 to 18 months. Alcoa expects to recycle nearly 14 billion aluminum cans this year. Separately, the Alcoa Technical Center in Upper Burrell, Westmoreland County, received a $398,520 grant from the federal Department of Energy to support development of a low-cost solar power system.
Other business news:
• American Textile Co. said it is donating $120,000 to breast cancer research and awareness programs. The company, headquartered in Duquesne, said money raised through its annual Pink Pillow Initiative, includes $20,000 going to the Pittsburgh affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The remainder is being donated to Komen's national organization in Dallas.
• BAE Systems of York said Thursday it was awarded a $709.4 million contract from the Army to rebuild 1,042 Bradley Fighting Vehicles returning from Iraq and provide related components. The British defense contractor and aerospace company said disassembly and structural modifications will be done at its facility along Route 119 in North Union Township, Fayette County. Final assembly will be done by BAE Systems in York.
• Allegheny Technologies Inc. said Thursday that J. Brett Harvey, CEO of Consol Energy Inc., was elected to its board of directors. Harvey, 57, has been CEO of the Upper St. Clair-based mining company since 1998. He is currently a director of Consol Energy, CNX Gas Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp.
• Employees of Clearview Federal Credit Union in Moon said Thursday it raised nearly $1,200 from various recent fundraisers for Operation Troop Appreciation, a nonprofit group that provides personal items to deployed American troops.
• Pittsburgh-area stocks rose Thursday. The Bloomberg Pittsburgh Index of local stocks rose 8.59 to 365.34.