In this season of brackets, perhaps the less said about my ever-lovin’ Missouri Tigers the better for all. But some local businesses are playing the brackets, too.

It’s the Battle of the Brands, 64 Kansas City businesses facing off one-on-one until only a champion stands. There are 16 brands in each of four categories:

• Three Independence brands are in the microenterprise bracket. If Vibe Communications can get past Kids-n-Bids, it takes on the winner of Austin Walsh Studio (Kansas City) vs. Monumental Lawn & Outdoor (Raymore).

There’s also a first-round matchup between Hippie Chow (several varieties of granola, Independence) and Happy Habitat by Karrie Kaneda (throws, pillow covers, etc., Roeland Park). Meanwhile, the Berry Nutty Farm (jams, jellies, Hippie Chow, Independence) takes on She’s a Pistol (personal protection and self-defense training, Shawnee).

• In the bricks-and-mortar bracket, it’s hard to go against The Roasterie, but watch out for Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse.

• I’m not sure how they seed this tournament, but over in the “tech/innovation-led” bracket, Cerner vs. Royal Loyal looks like a good first-round contest.

• In the “established and growing” bracket, Tippin’s Pies figures to be a sentimental favorite, but Sporting KC, after all, is coming off a league championship.

KCsourcelink, which supports area entrepreneurs, puts this together every year. Voting for round one is through Friday. Round two starts Monday. Go to and start clicking.

Missouri data

There’s cautiously optimistic news for the Missouri economy in the latest Mid-America Business Conditions Index, released this week by forecasters at Creighton University in Omaha. Creighton surveys supply managers at companies across the Midwest.

Missouri’s rating for February was 53.6 – suggesting growth on the way – up slightly from January. All of the indicators – new orders, production or sales, delivery lead time, inventories, employment – were positive, and Creighton notes that automakers and metal manufacturers are doing well, as are business services companies. The Midwest as a whole scored 57.4 on the 100-point scale. That’s fairly upbeat, and that’s despite one-third of those surveyed saying the bad weather has hurt business.

The state of Missouri also has reported a couple of data points this week:

• Non-farm payroll jobs grew by 1,100 in January, and the state’s jobless rate fell to 6 percent, the lowest in five and a half years.

• General revenue collections for the first eight months of the current fiscal year are up 2 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. Sales taxes, a large chunk of that, are a reflection of consumer spending. Sales taxes are up 4.1 percent.

Reach Jeff Fox 816-350-6313 or Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC or @Jeff_Fox.