The Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce has a message: Help us help you.

“We are always open to hearing about you,” Executive Director Zach Pross said at the group’s monthly luncheon on Tuesday.

The chamber is stepping up its efforts to sit down with local business owners, at some length, to see who’s planning to grow or maybe who’s struggling. Yes, the city is trying to bring in new business, but it’s important to focus on those already here.

“We’ve got to keep them, too, and help them grow,” said the city’s development consultant, Greg Martinette.

Chamber Board President Jeff Coleman said one area in which the chamber can help is business planning. Another is pointing business owners to sources of financing.

“We have all kinds of resources that you may not know about that we can tap into,” Martinette said.

From the floor, Mary Strack asked how things were coming in getting a nice sit-down restaurant in the city.

“We’re working on it. ... We’re getting close,” Martinette said.

He pointed to the number of years it took for Adams Dairy Parkway in Blue Springs to really take off.

“It takes longer than you want, unfortunately,” he said.

Pross was optimistic. He said recent upgrades of Main Street and developments such as the opening of a McDonald’s on that street last year are “the initial snowflakes that make a snowball – it’s a good start.”

“The potential here is awesome,” he said. “The people here are awesome.”

Helping out

On the Independence Square, 50 Plus Pharmacy has a sign in the window: free flu shots.

It’s late in the flu season, but owner Kathy Browne said lots of people in the neighborhood didn’t get shots. She had 90 to 100 doses left and decided to give them away. So far, only about 10 people have.

“Nobody’s too interested in flu shots at this time of year,” she said.

Still, the offer stands. She’s trying to help.

“The community’s been good to us,” she said.

Grant for incubator

The Ennovation Center in Independence is getting some help with an upgrade.

The state Department of Economic Development has announced $500,000 in tax credits for eight business incubators around the state, including $16,879 for the Ennovation Center. The entities sell those credits to raise funds.

The plan is to revamp some of the center into collaborative work space, said Lee Langerock, executive director of the Ennovation Center. Startups have specific needs “and they want to work in collaborative spaces,” she said.

Chow down

In case you were wondering, a foodie website has put four Kansas City area barbecue places in the top 10 of its “35 best ribs” in the country – although only one of those has an Eastern Jackson County location.

The Daily Meal rates Gates Bar-B-Q at No. 4 nationally. Its Independence location is at 10440 East U.S. 40, and it’s other five locations are in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kan., and Leawood.

Oklahoma Joe’s came in at No. 1, with locations in KCK, Olathe and Leawood. It’s followed by No. 2, Arthur Bryant’s, with its original location at 18th and Brooklyn in Kansas City, Mo., as well as at the Legends near the Kansas Speedway. (Yes, I would take Bryant’s every day of the week.)

Then there’s No. 8 Fiorella’s Jack Stack, with locations on the Plaza, in Overland Park, in Martin City and at the Freight House near Union Station.

Put another way, that’s 15 locations – eight of them on the Missouri side of the metro and just one in Eastern Jackson County. Seems like an opportunity.

Growth ahead?

Some quick data that help suggest where the regional economy is headed:

The state of Missouri reports that general revenue was down 5 percent in April, compared with April 2013. Income taxes were off, though they are up slightly for the first 10 months of the current fiscal year. But sales taxes – the biggest chunk of general revenue and a rough measure of economic activity – were up 7.7 percent for the month and a steady 3.6 percent so far in the fiscal year.

Also, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose again in April. it’s at 60.4 on a 100-point scale on which anything above 50 indicates growth. It’s the highest reading in three years for the nine-state region from Minnesota and North Dakota to Arkansas and Oklahoma. Employment is headed in the right direction, goods are selling, and prices are expected to rise modestly. Interestingly, close to two-thirds of the companies surveyed said they expected little or no impact from the Affordable Care Act.

The survey, conducted at Creighton University, also breaks things down by state. Missouri remains in positive territory, at 54.8. Creighton pointed to grow in the production of durable goods, namely autos, but also points to this sobering fact: Despite good growth now, Missouri manufacturers have 15 percent workers than they did before the Great Recession.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business reporter and editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313. Follow on Twitter @FoxEJC or @Jeff_Fox.