Butter burger, anyone?

Culver’s confirms it’s breaking ground in the next few weeks in Independence. The company hasn’t disclosed the site yet, other than to say it’s somewhere around Interstate 70 and Little Blue Parkway.

The company, based in Wisconsin, has more than 450 locations, including those in Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit. Its restaurants typically seat 98 to 118 customers and have 30 to 75 employees. The company also says 5,400 dairy cows work full time to produce the milk it needs for all those restaurants. Who knew?

No paper checks

Are you among those still getting your Social Security checks in the mail? Not that many people are, but more than 10,000 paper checks are sent to residents of Jackson County every month, accounting for 6.4 percent of SSA payments and 18.8 percent of supplemental securty income payments.
That’s about to change. On March 1, the U.S. Treasury is going to direct deposit for federal benefits. That’s supposed to save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years, and officials argue that paper checks can get lost or stolen. Plus you’ll save a trip to the bank.

If you don’t have a bank account, you can receive your benefits on a Direct Express card. It’s free.

So, five months out, officials are encouraging people to embrace the change now. Or perhaps encourage a loved one to do so. Learn more at www.GoDirect.org.

Construction gains

McGraw-Hill Construction reports a sharp increase in construction – residential and non-residential – in the metro area. For the first nine months of the year, the company says, there was $1.06 billion in non-residential contruction in 15 metro countries, compared with $755.61 million for the same period in 2011. That’s a 40 percent gain.

The residential picture is even brighter. The figure so far this year is $906.6 million, up 67 percent.

Statewide figures also are upbeat. Residential construction is up 33 percent, nonresidential construction is up 41 percent, and non-building construction is up 11 percent. That’s a total of $5.56 billion in construction across the state in the first three quarters of the year.
Related figures show housing sales keep moving at least modestly.

Figures from the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors and the Heartland Multiple Listing Service show that Jackson County and all eight other metro countries that those groups keep tabs on had at least modest gains in the prices of existing homes last month, compared with September 2011.

The average existing home sold in Jackson County last month went for $123,027 – a 23 percent jump in a year. For the metro area as a whole, that average was $158,158, up 15 percent.

Five of those counties, including Jackson County, also saw gains in the prices of new homes, which account for less than 10 percent of the market overall. The average new home in Jackson County sold for $280,202 last month, 7.5 percent higher than a year ago. Metrowide, prices were actually down 2 percent, to an average of $299,916.

Overall metro sales were about the same as a year ago – 1,895 existing homes sold, 187 new homes sold – and the inventory on the market continues to steadily fall. It’s 17 percent lower than a year ago. The eight-and-a-half month supply of homes from a year ago – a situation generally considered to favor buyers – is down to slightly more than six months, which those in the industry consider roughly equal for buyers and sellers.