It turns out that two issues I touch on constantly in this column – transportation and developing the skills of workers – are what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees as its two biggest issues as well.

That was part of the report last week from Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s senior vice president and national political director. He spoke to local chamber officials and others at an event in Independence and applauded “the creative spirit of our country” even as he conceded that it takes some effort to look at Washington as a glass half full.

Still, he sees a chance for some important policy advances, such as a tax overhaul that Congress has begun discussing.

“I believe we have an opportunity in tax reform,” he said.

Getting that, he said, would get the country back to 3 percent economic growth year after year. Without that growth and the added government revenues it would create, there will be no appreciable amount of money available to chip away at the country’s massive backlog of road and bridge work, he said.

More broadly, he said a better tax system is needed for the country to be competitive worldwide, and he said the U.S. is missing trade opportunities by rejecting such things as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been scuttled.

“Countries around the world are cutting trade deals every single day, and we’re getting shut out,” he said, adding that he’s cautiously optimistic that the country can move ahead on trade.

He said Washington remains in what he called “this protracted period of disruption” and spoke favorably of a time when “compromise didn’t used to be a four-letter word.”

He saw other reasons for optimism, mainly that the Obama years are over and regulators don’t see business leaders as a problem. Still, he said, energy policy, the Affordable Care Act and a banking rules under the Dodd-Frank Act remain as impediments.

“The economy wants to run,” he said.

Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, touched on that as well.

“Taxes? We’re OK. We’re a low-tax state,” he said, adding that the real challenges are in regulations and judicial issues.

Leaders in Jefferson City need to tackle transportation, broadband service and the state’s electric grid, he said.

He added this – and he’s right.

“But there’s got to be a culture of Missouri” in Jefferson City, a reference to the way in which Kansas City, St. Louis, smaller metro areas and rural parts of the state all sees things differently and have different policy priorities. It’s as much of a reason as any other factor related to why the General Assembly gets so little done.

Mehan also mentioned the ongoing headache of workforce development.

“There’s a skills gap around the country,” he said. “Missouri is no exception,”

Quick hits

It’s a busy week for ribbon cuttings. The relocated Price Chopper at 1101 S. Missouri 7 in Blue Springs has an event at 8:45 a.m. today. Hello! Pediatric Dentistry is having a grand opening at 4 p.m. today at 717 N. Missouri 7. And Partners in Primary Care at 19401 E. 39th St. (the old Logan’s) has an event at 9 a.m. Thursday. The company focuses on primary health care for seniors. … CoreLogic says home prices around the country rose 6.9 percent from August 2016 through August 2017 and can be expected to rise another 4.7 percent in the next year. In Kansas City, prices were up 7.5 percent.

Getting started

Peter Kageyama said he found a lot to like when he visited Independence for a couple days last week.

He liked Polly’s Pop, Ralph Goldsmith and his mule-drawn wagon rides, and especially Clinton’s Soda Shop – among many other things.

“There’s clearly some great stuff going on here in your city,” said Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities.”

Mostly his comments in presentations to civic leaders focused on the little touches – offbeat public art, creative public events – that make a city more lively, loveable and liveable.

“Fun should not an afterthought,” he said.

He also applauded the city’s decision to build a large and permanent structure on the north edge of the Square for the farmers market. It should be up next year. Officials foresee not just a farmers market but concerts and other events to bring visitors.

Kageyama stressed that this could also create just the right space for some people to take the plunge and start something on their own on a small scale.

“Farmers markets,” he said, “are actually entrepreneurial hotbeds.”

-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. He’s at 816-350-6313 and jeff.fox@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC.