Employers are likely to have happier and healthier workers if they embrace a workplace-wellness program, and they might see less absenteeism, fewer injuries, better employee retention and lower health costs.

Zack Koch, program and policy specialist at the Jackson County Health Department, made the case for such programs at Tuesday’s Grain Valley Partnership luncheon.

He noted that mental as well as physical stresses need to be taken into account, including the need to find a balance between work and leisure.

“A workplace-wellness program needs to be all-encompassing,” he said.

One dollar spent on wellness programs leads to about $3 in savings, he said. A program can take a variety of forms, and he ticked off several options: flu shots, healthy food options in the cafeteria, rethinking the use of vending machines, tobacco-free areas and subsidized fitness-club memberships.

“The policy is going to have an impact on everybody,” he said.

One key to success: Management has to actively and visibly support the program.

“You build your support early that way,” he said.

Koch said leading chronic health issues ih in Eastern Jackson County – heart disease, cancer, diabetes – mirror those nationally and said 69 percent of Eastern Jackson County residents are overweight or obese.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a national model for workplace wellness and has resources, as do the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the American Heart Association. Go online, and start the discussion.

Gas bill going up

A public hearing on a proposed Missouri Gas Energy rate increase is coming up in Independence.

MGE customers can make their comments at the Missouri Public Service Commission hearing at noon Sept. 21 at the North Independence branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library, 317 West U.S. 24

MGE is asking for a rate increase that the PSC says would cost the average MGE customer $5.09 a month. The utility has customers in 29 counties in western and central Missouri.


Lots of new homes

Eastern Jackson County's fast pace of homebuilding has continued through the summer, thanks mostly to Lee's Summit, though Independence has seen sharp gains and Blue Springs remains near the metro area's top 10.

Cities in Eastern Jackson County have issued 606 permits for single-family homes through the first seven months of 2017, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City. That's a jump of 22.9 percent from the same period in 2016.

Lee’s Summit leads the way with 313 permits (including the Cass County portion of the city), a gain of 60.5 percent from 2016. Independence has lower overall numbers – 73 permits – but sharper growth, 103 percent. Blue Springs is at 106 permits, off 3 percent.

Kansas City leads the area with 611 permits, followed by Olathe (340) and Lee's Summit. Blue Springs is No. 11, and Independence is No. 12. It looks as if 2017 will be the sixth straight year in which metro-area single-family home building has exceeded the previous year, but the building of multi-family homes – five or more units in a building – is off by more than half.

Other bright spots in the region’s economy:

• The state of Missouri says sales tax revenues are up 4.6 percent in the first two months of the fiscal year. That’s a rough measure of retail sales, though it doesn’t include most online sales. Income tax collections are up 2.3 percent.

• Missouri can expect to see continued modest but steady growth in manufacturing jobs for the rest of 2017, predicts the Creighton Economic Forecasting Group at Creighton University in Omaha.

Creighton surveys purchasing managers at manufacturers each month, and in August Creighton says its key indicators – new orders, production, inventories, employment and delivery lead time – were all in positive territory in Missouri.

Overall, Missouri's business conditions in August jumped to 61.1 from 52.3 in July, according to Creighton. The index for nine Midwestern states together was 57.5, with anything above 50 indicating growth in the months to come.

Missouri has been adding manufacturing jobs at 2.5 percent at year and non-manufacturing at 2 percent, a trend that's expected to continue.

-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business reporter and editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. He posts business items and other news on Twitter @FoxEJC.