At an Independence Chamber of Commerce event the other day, I ran into Christy Gillespie, CEO of Metro Trade Exchange, which is starting up in the area.

“Basically we’re focusing on local business owners,” she said.

The idea is to help business use trade to preserve cash flow. The example the group uses is this: An ad company trades for hotel nights, the hotel trades for landscape work, the landscaper traders for print materials, and the print company trades for – right – advertising.

There’s a fee to join, and there are transaction fees, but members get monthly tax statements – can’t escape the tax man – they get a line of credit, and the group is signing up some initial members now for free.

“... it’s a great way of encouraging buying local,” she said. Find out more at 816-730-0786 or 730-0787.

Brad and Christy Gillespie are both in this, and they have recently moved back to the area from Arkansas, eager to make connections in the Independence and Blue Springs chambers.

“So I knew they were the first two chambers we wanted to join,” she said.

More local and regional data show steady if not spectacular gains.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, drawing on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports a 6.1 percent unemployment rate for the metro area in September, the lowest rate of the year. Of the slightly more than 1 million people in the area’s labor force, 976,126 had jobs last month, and 63,212 were looking for work.

In Independence, the rate was 6.5 percent, also the lowest of the year, and Blue Springs posted its lowest rate in several years – 5.2 percent.

The housing comeback also continues. The Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City tracks permits for construction of single-family homes. For the first nine months of the year, Eastern Jackson County is up 11.5 percent.

Blue Springs has issued 48 permits, a 14 percent gain. Grain Valley is at 20, off 16.6 percent. Lee’s Summit (the Jackson County portion) is leading the way with 180 – a 68 percent gain. Independence is doing OK against historic patterns, but a one-time burst of activity in 2011 is making 2012 look bad, down 52 percent. Take out Independence and EJC is up 43 percent for the year.

Overall, the HBA says September was another good month for the metro area. In the first nine months of the year, 2,405 permits have been issued, more than in all of 2011 or 2009 and just 66 short of the total for 2010. Three months to go.

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