A daylong seminar in Blue Springs last week was about more than giving would-be entrepreneurs the nuts and bolts of starting a business, with a dash of inspiration.

A daylong seminar in Blue Springs last week was about more than giving would-be entrepreneurs the nuts and bolts of starting a business, with a dash of inspiration.

For Blue Springs business owner Rose Cook, who organized the event, it was a chance to showcase a group that calls itself the world’s largest business referral organization. That group is Business Network International, and many members attended and said it’s been instrumental in their success.

For Angie Zahner, co-owner of M Productions, a video company in Independence, the group is about good referrals rather than just another lead.

“Our big thing right now is networking ... because as soon as they (potential customers) see what we can do, they’re willing to pay more,” she said.

Anita Tilton, a consultant with Certified Credit Experts in Lee’s Summit, said she was a bit shy about speaking before groups and needed to tackle that.

“But I knew if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t grow. ... It’s helped me grow professionally and personally,” she said.

The idea is groups of about 25 business people – only one per industry – getting to know one another and credibly refer friends and associates.

“BNI is all about warm referrals,” said Beth Reynolds-Smith, president of Human Resources Consulting Connection in Blue Springs. She’s in a group that calls itself the KC Referral Masters, and she says “I’m kind of the head cheerleader for BNI.” She said basically her whole business has come through such connections.

It’s professional, but it leans heavily on the human element, and people become not just connections but good friends.

“You have to have an open heart rather than an open hand,” Tilton said.
Learn more at www.bnikc.com/

New ideas for U.S. 40?
The Mid-America Regional Council is in the early stages of studying development options for a couple of key intersections in Eastern Jackson County.

U.S. 40 is among six corridors in the metro area being studied. Specifically, the idea is to look at redevelopment potential with “conceptual plans” for what are described as three typical locations: 40 at Adams Dairy Parkway in Blue Springs, at Noland Road in Independence and at Prospect in Kansas City. There’s also supposed to be “a strategy for redeveloping abandoned or underperforming strip centers,” according to MARC documents.

The other corridors being studied are Troost Avenue, North Oak Trafficway, State Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., the Rock Island corridor, and Shawnee Mission Parkway and Metcalf. Those have existing development plans but also the complications of overlapping jurisdictions, like the Kansas City/Independence line hopscotching across 40.

“It’s going to take a realistic path to get there. We want to know what that path is,” Jeff Hirt, MARC’s sustainable planning project manager, told the MARC board on Tuesday.

Better days for housing
Recent figures on the metro housing market suggest things are turning around.

Prices of both new and existing homes are higher than they were a year ago on the metro area, says the latest report from the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors and Heartland Multiple Listing Service.

Existing home prices averaged $143,354 in March in the nine-county metro area, up 3 percent from March 2011. In Jackson County, that average was $111,196, up 5.3 percent. It’s a little different story with new homes. The metro average price in March was $316,036, up 3 percent from a year ago, but in Jackson County the average was $292,585, down 6.8 percent. Fewer new homes are being built, too. The inventory of new homes in March was 1,169, down 21 percent from a year ago. The stock of existing homes – which account for about nine out of 10 sales – was down 14.8 percent, to 13,045.

The Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City sees it differently, however, saying home builders are now selling homes as quickly as they can put them up. In March, cities and counties across the eight-county metro area issued 269 permits for new single-family homes – the best March since 2008.

The numbers in Eastern Jackson County are impressive, too – 89 permits issued in the first three months of the year, compared with 49 at this point last year. Lee’s Summit leads the way with 37, followed by Independence (16) Blue Springs (14) and Grain Valley (11).