Plans for a new business park in Independence herald continued progress, officials said Friday.

Plans for a new business park in Independence herald continued progress, officials said Friday.

“We’re on the road. We’re starting,” said Tom Schroyer, a principal at Clayco, the St. Louis-based developer announcing plans for the Independence Business Park at Missouri 78 and Missouri 7, across from the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

The plans were unveiled at the quarterly luncheon of the Independence Council for Economic Development. The luncheon also brought word of a new program to encourage shopping locally, a new brand for the ICED and comments from an area economist who said the Midwest is riding out the down economy better than many other places.

The 360-acre business park, under discussion for about two years, so far has involved Clayco, the ICED, the city and the Community of Christ, which owns the land. Church officials said they chose to work with Clayco because of its national reputation and reach but also because its views on development – including concern for the environment – align with those of the church and the city.

“Clayco is a national company, but we have a local mentality,” Shroyer said.

Three Clayco executives walked through the plans, which call for a mix of industrial, commercial, office and retail space. They promised active local involvement with the project and said their national contacts will help steer tenants to the business park.

“We work with a lot of corporate America,” Schroyer said. “Not every deal can come here. ... But you have to be out there, doing deals and marketing that.”

Also at the luncheon, the BuyiN program got a plug. That program, rolling out this fall, is to encourage people to shop in Independence.

Independence School District Superintendent Jim Hinson, who is also chairman of the ICED board, pointed out that school district employees’ take-home pay, after taxes, was about $80 million last year. Officials say it’s important to keep as much of a local paycheck in town as they can.

Residents can get BuyiN cards, and some merchants will offer specials. More information will be coming with city utility bills this fall.

“I guess you could say this is our coming-in party,” Hinson said.

The city, the ICED, the school district and the Independence Chamber of Commerce are promoting the program, and some of those groups plan to make broad use of the “iN” idea and logo. The hope is that when anyone in the metro area sees “iN” – as in “BuyiN” or a maybe newsletter labeled something like “iNsight” – they will think of Independence.

The ICED is incorporating that idea into much of what it does, right down to its brand, which is shifting to Independence Economic Development or, as officials have started saying, the EDC. Those changes are being phased in. The group’s future website will be Other cities, such as Blue Springs, have economic development councils that function much the same way as the ICED, so “EDC” has a certain immediate meaning in business circles.

Also Friday, economist Chris Kuehl of Armada Corporate Intelligence said people are adjusting to what many economists have called the “new normal” of reduced economic activity. Outlining the various bubbles that have burst in recent years – chiefly housing prices – he said many economic levels are back to about there they were a decade ago, and he said the next couple of years might look a lot like the last couple of years, what he called “this long, grinding, slow” recovery.

Still, he said, the Midwest largely avoided the acute pain of former high-growth areas – he mentioned Las Vegas, and others have put California and Florida in that category – are experiencing. They are, he said, now scrambling to figure out “how not to become the Greece of the United States,” an allusion to that nation’s near meltdown earlier this year.

The Midwest, by comparison, has ridden out the recession in better shape, he said, and he said Kansas City has much to commend.

“Kansas City is one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country,” he said, “ ... and at the end of the day, that’s what drives the economy.”