A couple of efforts are under way to improve the image of Independence.

The Rethink Independence project over the last couple of years has involved surveying about 2,000 people.

“And one of those things that kept coming up was perception,” said Lori Worth, one of the organizers.

So on June 6 there’s a “Shout Out Independence” event on the Square. Details are under wraps, but look for a new logo and tagline.

“We want people to continue to shout out Independence,” she said. “We want to share the good news.”

This year’s Independence Chamber of Commerce LEAD class has been working along those same lines, deciding to have a class project – a smart phone app to spread the word on what’s going on around town.

The LEAD group also looked at several isues – economic development, sustainability, schools and youth, safety and quality of life – but decided to focus on image.

“So we decided we were going to counter that and get the true message out,” said Zach Walker, the city’s management analyst and a member of the class.

The idea is marketing and community events. A visitor driving by the the Truman Home, for example, could bring up information about it. Or a visitor could aggregate a given day’s events and attractions into an itinerary.

“Provide people one centralized place to find out what’s going on,” said Andrew Warlen, head of the city’s Environmental Health Division and a member of the LEAD class. “And that’s what we’re missing – one centralized place.”

Class member Kristen Abernathy of Hawthorn Bank said it’s a means of reaching young people and promoting tourism. Also, local businesses could spread the word about, for example, their daily specials.

"It's going to draw in new customers,” she said.

The app isn’t up yet. The group – which graduated at last week’s chamber luncheon – has turned the project over to chamber staff.

Coming to town
Butter burger lovers, get ready. Culver’s says its new restaurant at Little Blue Parkway and East Valley View Parkway will open around June 10. Save some walleye for me.

Work is under way at the site of the old Blue Ridge East Cinema. A Burlington Coat Factory store is expected to open this fall. The site is on U.S. 40 in Independence, just east of Blue Ridge Crossing, which has Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, restaurants and other businesses.

Gas price mystery
So why is it that gasoline prices have jumped a lot recently, despite the downward trend in oil prices since February?
Chris Kuehl has a few thoughts.

Kuehl, an economist, is the managing director of Armada Corporate Intellience, and he spoke at last week’s quarterly meeting of Independence Economic Development.

There’s no overarching reason for the recent jump in prices, he said, but he did list several factors:

• No U.S. refinery has been built since the 1970s, and the average refinery is 65 years old – meaning frequent breakdowns.
“Our refinery system is falling apart,” he said.

• Refineries in New Jersey, a major center for the industry, are still running at less than half of capacity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Therefore, products from the Midwest are being shipped east.

• Demand is fairly good, as consumers seem increasingly confident about things, but gas stations are keeping little inventory on hand, buying only as much as they need for a day or two because prices are unstable. That in itself leads to volatility because the price of that day’s delivery price is immediately reflected in the posted price.

"And that's why you get these instant price increases,” he said.

That said, he doesn’t see gas hitting $4 a gallon and said prices should begin drifting downward by Memorial Day.

That would be a welcome relief. On Tuesday, according to www.missourigasprices.com and www.gasbuddy.com, the average gallon of gas across Missouri was holding steady at right about $3.76 a gallon, 17 cents higher than a week ago and nearly 40 cents higher than a month ago. (The more informal Noland Road/Missouri 7 index was at about $3.78.9, based on my driving-around sampling.)

Here’s what’s different – at least for drivers around here – and it seems to lend support to what Kuehl is saying. For years, Kansas City has enjoyed prices lower than the national average, but that might have evaporated. The national average for a gallon of gas on Tuesday was $3.68.9 – less than half a penny lower than a year ago. But in Missouri a year ago we were paying $3.42.4. Not only is that nice gap in our favor gone, we’re actually paying a little more than the U.S. average.

At least we’re not in Chicago or the Twin Cities of Minnesota, were gasbuddy.com says prices Tuesday were just above $4.25.

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