What does the business ecosystem of Kansas City look like? It’s agribusiness, for sure: Some of the nation’s biggest companies in beef-processing, dairy, grain production and storage and food distribution call this place home. But we’re more than the nation’s pantry.
We’re now a center for health care and life-sciences research, blessed with lots of competition for hospital beds (which holds down costs), and seeing explosive growth in companies conducting human, animal and plant research and commercialization.
We’re now a center for an emerging tech sector, anchored by two large health-care informatics companies, with thousands of workers projected to be hired in that space over the next decade.
We’re now a red-hot center of logistics, distribution and warehousing, with million-square-foot industrial buildings going up even without committed tenants.
And yet, we’ve retained much of what gave us a diversified economy even before those trend lines began to emerge.
Take the construction sector and look at it in its broadest terms: Contractors, engineering firms and design firms. We have two of the nation’s largest engineering firms based here, both operating around the world, and we’re the nation’s epicenter for sports stadium and public-building architecture.
It’s been often said—and never refuted, as far as we know—that Kansas City has more engineers per capita than any other city in the world.
Major manufacturing operations are located here; the nation’s two largest vehicle makers have invested nearly $2 billion in recent years to modernize and expand plants that are among the most productive in their inventories. We have global leaders in greeting-card manufacturing, food production and other sectors, as well.
And, as in most major urban areas, government plays a major role in the work force. In addition to being the regional center for many federal departments, Kansas City is bracketed by military bases like Whiteman Air Force Base near Sedalia, Mo., and Fort Leavenworth on the Kansas side. Combined with state, municipal and local offices, those public-sector positions account for more than 40,000 workers in the region.
Other large employers hail from higher education and the K–12 ranks, including the University of Kansas and the many public school districts in the two Kansas Citys and their surrounding suburbs.
That wealth of diversity, in for-profit, public and private business, is one reason why Kansas City has been able to cut its 2016 unemployment rate down to levels that are the envy of much of the nation.