Office Products Alliance just keeps on growing.

Its acquisition of Basic Business Products of Kansas City, Kansas, makes it the largest office products dealer in the metro area, says owner and president Mark Whitlow. The company, based in Independence, has bought several independent dealers during the last four years, including Express Business Supply two years ago.

“We’re keeping and adding jobs in Kansas City,” he said.

The company mainly focuses on business-to-business sales. It’s a shifting business, of course, but Whitlow says the company has adapted well and has a clear strategy for competing against the commercial divisions of the big guys such as Office Depot and Staples. They’re all pretty close on price, he said, but Office Products Alliance wins on customer service and emphasizing the value of doing business locally.

The purchase of Basic Business Products gives the company, which has 25 employees, a third facility. That facility makes toner cartridges, something OPA plans to expand significantly. Printers are everywhere, and demand is solid.

“People still need toner,” Whitlow said.

He said the big national companies have sales people in the area, but customer-service teams are based elsewhere, and he said OPA’s focus on customer service pays off well.

“Once they (customers) find us, they don’t ever leave,” he said.

Best of ...

Readers of AAA Midwest Traveler magazine have voted Dixon’s Chili, on U.S. 40 in Independence, to have the best chili in the Midwest. But of course we all knew that.

And the Plaza was voted the best attraction in Kansas City. Sure. Now, what’s this about St. Louis as the “tastiest town” and St. Charles, with its “rich frontier history,” as the best small town in Missouri, beating out Hermann and Branson. Hmm.

Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” beat the Plaza and the Mall of America in the Twin Cities as the best shopping destination. Read all about it in the July/August issue.

Facts, figures

A couple of quick, rough economic indicators:

• That pain you feel is real. The website reports that an average gallon of gas on Tuesday was selling for $3.50.2 and drifting lower. That’s a little misleading, of course, because gas prices tend to run close to a dime higher on the Kansas side of the area. That’s down six cents from a week ago but still up three cents from a month ago and up a quarter from this time last year.

Take heart. We’re paying about 14 cents less than the national average. The website’s national price map shows that on most of the West Coast, $4 gas is the norm.

• The state of Missouri closed the books on fiscal year 2014 last week, and revenues – which offer some reflection of the overall economy – were disappointing.

Sales taxes account for about one-fourth of general revenues, and those were $1.97 billion for the year ending June 30, up 3.8 percent. If that’s a gauge of retail activity, that’s not bad in a so-so economy. But income taxes account for a far larger share of general revenue, and that was down a little, 0.2 percent, to $6.35 billion. Corporate income taxes were $540.7 million, up 2.9 percent, and all other collections, $419.3 million, were down 10.9 percent. All together, general revenue came in right at $8 billion, down 1 percent.

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