Welcome to Kansas City: Transformation in Progress


Say what you will about the Keynesian power of public dollars to jump-start business activity, and perhaps even create new business sectors, but what’s happening in Kansas City today is largely the result of a good, old-fashioned profit motive at work.

And it’s doing a bang-up job of changing the face of the entire region.

Driven by private-sector companies thriving in at least three key sectors, Kansas City is carving out a global reputation for excellence, and has made enormous progress on all three fronts over the past decade. Those fields are animal-health care, logistics and distribution, and manufacturing.

Truth be told, manufacturing has always been a strength here, going back to the early 20th century. Most folks don’t know it, but the first automotive plant Henry Ford opened outside of Detroit was right here, more than 100 years ago. In the early 20th century, we were also a center for production of garments, and still later a focal point for the war effort, cranking out Higgins boats for seaborne invasions and B-25s to pound the Axis powers from the air. We had steel plants; we were the nation’s No. 1 producer of household products like soap and detergent; KC made things.

And we still do, even though the digital economy has changed a great many things over the past generation. Including the products made, and the way they are produced.

Take those cars, for instance. Both Ford and General Motors have invested in this region, and heavily—nearly $2 billion worth over the past decade—to upgrade assembly lines and roll out new products. They were motivated to do so because of an unsurpassed work ethic, unmatched levels of productivity, and lower costs of doing business here.

In animal health, the past decade has seen one company emerge after another, claiming its space in a region where two-thirds of the global commerce in that sector is accounted for by companies with a large footprint in Kansas and Misosuri. And this region is getting much closer to global-research center status in the life sciences with the projected opening of the National Bio and Agro-Defense laboratory in nearby Manhattan, Kan. in 2022.

The logistics scene has exploded in the past decade, with warehouses pushing 1 million square feet now the norm. The demand for those spaces means they can be built on a speculative basis and still fully leased by opening, and it’s happening from north of the river to the Kansas suburbs.

All of that is linked to changes in employment, housing, health care, education, quality of life factors, entertainment, tourism, and more.

So welcome to Kansas City. We’re pretty sure you’ll like what you see. But don’t expect the city you see today to be the same five years from now.