Wichita, KS Economy Includes Diverse Industry Sectors

Think of Wichita and aviation manufacturing comes to mind. So should food production, agriculture, advanced materials and composites, health care and education.

Anne Gillem
On Monday, October 24, 2011 - 10:17

Think of Wichita and aviation manufacturing comes to mind. So should food production, agriculture, advanced materials and composites, health care and education.

Five of Metro Wichita’s 20 largest employers are active in aerospace manufacturing. The rest are in a variety of sectors including health systems, public schools, government, higher education and the manufacturing of farm equipment or residential heating and cooling systems.

It’s no surprise that the city has such a highly diversified economy. The region has an extremely attractive business environment, says Missy Cohlmia, director of communication for Koch Industries. With revenues of about $100 billion, Koch is one of the largest privately held companies in the nation. The company has 2,500 employees at its Wichita headquarters.

A Quality Workforce in Wichita

“There are lots of reasons why we choose to continue to make Wichita our home. We appreciate the quality of the workforce here, the shared Midwestern values and strong work ethic, as well as the overall quality of life. Wichita is a good place to do business and a natural home for our global headquarters,” Cohlmia says.

A widely diversified company, Koch is active in refining and chemicals, process- and pollution-control equipment and technologies, fertilizers, polymers, fibers, commodity trading and services, forest products and consumer products.

Metro Wichita’s favorable business climate is paying off in new investments and jobs. Cargill, the meat-products company, opened its newest Innovation Center in downtown Wichita in July 2011. The $15 million center, which replaces an older facility, is one of eight Innovation Centers worldwide, says Mike Martin, the company’s director of communications.

“It’s a crown jewel, one of the most-advanced meat innovation centers in the United States,” he says.

Cargill’s new 75,000-square-foot center has facilities to develop new products and enhance existing ones, all with an eye on how Cargill’s customers can grow their businesses and be more successful. The center features a test kitchen where on-staff chefs develop recipes, a pathogen lab to study food safety, refrigerated areas to test packaging and shelf life, a simulated quick-serve restaurant, a patio to simulate at-home grilling and a retail store to study the shopping experience.

Sometimes being innovative means taking a step into the past. The Innovation Center has meeting rooms designed to prevent distraction by modern communications technologies.

“We have rooms with no phones, no Wi-Fi, no fax, for brainstorming sessions without interruptions of technologies that might interrupt these thought processes,” Martin says.

Invested in Wichita

Cargill, which employs 1,100 people in its Wichita meat operations, never doubted the city would be the home of the Innovation Center. Not only does the company have substantial operations in the city, but many of its customers are located in Wichita as well. Those customers do $15 billion worth of business with Cargill, Martin says.

Cargill also invested $1 million in a new Sensory Center located in its main downtown office building. Test participants will sample new or enhanced meat products and provide feedback.

Successful businesses add value to Metro Wichita through the economic impact of compensation paid to their employees, suppliers and consultants. They also support local philanthropies that add to the quality of life.

“If we’re going to attract and retain good people, we want to help ensure that Wichita is a great place to live and work,” says Koch’s Cohlmia.