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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Local firm's products to have greater reach

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  • Darrell Tindal and Andrea Schnetzler have been plugging away at their business, Berry Nutty Farm, for some time now. Last spring, they took a leap and bought another line of products, Hippie Chow, also operating out of the Independence Ennovation Center.
    And their company is growing.
    “If you had a chart, we’re going straight up the chart,” Tindall says
    Now comes the next step.
    Hippie Chow – slogan: “Peace. Love. Granola.” – is in about 80 stores across the country, and those are concentrated in the metro area. The company generally ships a case or two at a time.
    Now Schnetzler and Tindal are joining forces with Paris Brothers Distribution. Their products will be in Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka and – down the road – St. Louis.
    “And now it’s shipping pallets,” Tindal says.
    The company also is expanding within the Ennovation Center, the building converted a few years ago from the old Independence Regional Medical Center at Forest Avenue and Truman Road to a business incubator, and this is among the center’s most high-profile success stories. Hippie Chow and Berry Nutty Farm both got their starts there.
    “We’re now two of the three oldest businesses in there,” says Schnetzler.
    Dialed in
    Comcast has upgraded its local service, earlier this month unveiling more than 300 of its Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the metro area, meaning easier access to fast online service.
    A quick check lists more than 50 of those in Independence – including the Independence Events Center – and more than 30 in Blue Springs but just a couple in Grain Valley. The company says it will add more around the metro area over time.
    “They’re outdoor access points,” says Tom Nagel, the company’s senior vice president for business development and strategy.
    This is part of the company’s plans to continue expanding services, as people want TV – or whatever TV is turning into – and other services more readily accessible, especially on our smart devices.
    “It is clear that consumers are digesting more and more and more of their services outside the home,” Nagel says.
    Comcast is part of the Cable Wifi Alliance, meaning customers have access to more than 300,000 hotspots across the country.
    “And it will feel like one network,” Nagel says.
    Hopes for homes
    There’s an interesting wrinkle in the latest figures from the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City.
    Start with the big picture. Builders have taken out more than 3,000 permits to build single-family homes across eight metro counties in the first nine months of the year. That’s the best pace in six years.
    Page 2 of 2 - Those 3,092 permits are 29 percent higher than in 2012, and it’s even better – 43.2 percent – in Eastern Jackson County. Lee’s Summit easily leads the way with 236 permits (up 31 percent), and Blue Springs comes next at 120, up 150 percent. That’s right – 48 in the first nine months of 2012 and 120 this year, and that’s just single-family homes. Independence is at 56 permits, up 12 percent.
    But maybe there’s some other encouragement for cities such as Independence. The Home Builders Association says it’s “noticing a trend with infill and new home construction in established neighborhoods.” Some in the Queen City of the Trails have suggested that’s one path for long-term growth and renewal, especially in areas such as western Independence.
    Home prices continue to rise, too. The Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors and Heartland Multiple Listing Service report that the average existing home in Jackson County sold for $138,510 last month, a 12.6-percent bump from a year earlier. Metrowide, that figure was $172,065, up 9 percent.
    New homes – less than 10 percent of the home market – are up, too. In Jackson County, the average new home cost $287,808 last month, up just 2.7 percent in a year. The metro average was $334,185, up 11 percent.
    The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, looking at much of the Midwest and West from Kansas City to Cheyenne to Tulsa, notes that low- and moderately priced homes continue to sell well but says sales are “projected to tick down over the next few months.”
    Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net or 816-350-6313. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Fox or @FoxEJC.
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