Captain of Industry
Built on livestock-packed stockyards and the iron backbone of the railroad, Kansas City is rooted in industry and continues to be one of the nation’s leading producers of agricultural products. The Missouri Pacific railroad arrived in 1865, and after Kansas City defeated Leavenworth to secure the Hannibal & St. Joseph bridge over the Missouri River, the city’s population quadrupled in a mere five decades.
Kansas City’s prime central location and proximity to railroads helped the city become a regional leader in the cattle industry, rivaling only Chicago for stockyard output. The booming success of the city’s stockyards led to the affectionate nickname “Cowtown,” still in use today to refer to Kansas City’s livestock roots and a continued passion for barbecue.
After the devastating floods of 1951, Kansas City’s stockyards were mostly destroyed and never fully rebuilt. The city continued to thrive as an agricultural powerhouse, producing grain, corn, and wheat that was later shipped around the country. The Kansas City Board of Trade reports that more than 10 billion bushels of wheat change hands during one year on the exchange, and producers worldwide look to Kansas City for the fair price of hard red winter wheat, used primarily in creating most of the world’s bread supply.
Today, Kansas City maintains success in several industries, including architecture and engineering, creative services, entrepreneurship, financial services, life sciences and biotech, technology, and telecommunications.
Health Care and Biosciences
In 2004, city leaders met to examine ways in which to take Kansas City’s fledgling life science economy in a new direction, one that could eventually have global significance. After an evaluation, six “hot zones” were identified that make Kansas City a regional bioscience leader, including health-care knowledge and personalized medicine; animal health and research; new bio-pharma drug discovery pathways; oncology research, discovery, and treatment; cardiovascular research; and tissue engineering and neuroscience.
Life sciences and animal health in Kansas City date back to 1863, when Bayer Healthcare AG was established. Today, leading life sciences companies like Cerner, IVX Animal Health, Quintiles, and the Stower’s Institute for Medical Research all call Kansas City home.
After Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius signed the Kansas Economic Growth Act in 2004, the state’s commitment to bioscience advancement was solidified. Over the next several years, more than $500 million is expected to be invested in ways that will ensure bioscience progress. To date, public and private research spending exceeds $1.8 billion; as the location for more than 200 bio-tech companies, Kansas City has already carved out a niche as a bio-industry front-runner not just in the region, but also nationwide.
© Katy Ryan from Moon Kansas City, 1st Edition