The centrally located Missouri city’s economy has its foundation in three industries that remain strong today: health care, insurance and education. According to Regional Economic Development Inc., the top four employers in Columbia as of February 2008 were the University of Missouri, University Hospital and clinics, Columbia Public Schools and Boone Hospital Center. As for the insurance presence, State Farm Insurance is the seventh largest employer in the city with 1,149 employees. The Shelter Insurance group employs 1,050 locally and Columbia Insurance Group has 270 workers here. Both Shelter, which traces its origins to 1946 and the formation of the Missouri Farmers Association, and Columbia, which dates back to 1874, are headquartered in Columbia.
Another company based in Columbia produces an interesting and important product. The name says it all: Sneezeguard Solutions makes modular aluminum sneeze guard systems for use in restaurants, country clubs, convention hotels and many other locales where food is served to the public. The Sneezeguard systems are powder coated in black and gold. Forbes magazine has taken note of the city’s healthy business climate, ranking Columbia the third best small place for business and careers in 2007. Columbia’s estimated population in 2006 was 94,428. One focus for new business development is The District, a 43-block area downtown.
The Columbia Special Business District has information and assistance available for businesses or restaurants looking to open or relocate downtown. In nearby Rocheport, Baumgartner’s Boone County Cured Hams are worth the wait. The hams are cured with salt, brown sugar and pepper mixtures, but no preservatives, for seven to eight months. Baumgartner’s, established in 1988, ships all over the country. Columbia is also home to a Kraft Foods plant that manufactures Oscar Meyer hot dogs and a Quaker Oats facility that makes rice cakes.