Kansas City seizes the role of America's Crossroads and has transformed itself into the leading transportation hub for North American trade.
The Nexus of North American Trade
To say that Kansas City is at the center of it all is much more than a catchy marketing tagline—it’s the absolute truth.
As NAFTA shifted the traditional east-west axis to a north-south perspective, Kansas City sits, if possible even more squarely in the middle of the crossroads of commerce. No matter how you look at it.
That central location manifests itself in many ways. Greater Kansas City is very close to the population center of America, and is closer still to the geophysical center of the contiguous 48 states. Perhaps more of interest to business owners is the convergence that takes place here—a convergence of air routes, interstates, rail lines as well as utility and communication networks.
There’s even more, though. National security concerns put a greater emphasis upon providing swifter, smarter and more secure trade facilitation. Kansas City is perfectly positioned to provide this facilitation and establish itself as the great inland port of the United States. With four U.S. senators and the interests of Missouri and Kansas, the area also has the political clout in Washington to make this happen.
What made Kansas City emerge in the first place was its location at the storied “bend” in the river. When the Missouri River turned dramatically north, westward travelers were forced to disembark and choose another route to continue their journey west. In Kansas City’s early days, the routes of choice were the famed Oregon and Santa Fe trails.
In time, a very short time, in fact, the rail would replace the steamboat and the Conestoga. KC seized the role as the greatest city on the Missouri River bend by assuring that the first north-south train to enter the area crossed into the city, thus further establishing the city’s undeniable position as “the center of it all.”
Kansas City's central location makes it an attractive transportation hub. Norfolk Southern operates this huge intermodal facility on the outskirts of Kansas City.
Given the fact that Kansas City has 30% more freeway miles per capita than any metropolis of size in the world—and less congestion—the trucking industry has prospered here as well.
Major trucking firms like YRC Worldwide, Swift Transportation, Overnite Transportation, USF Dugan Inc. and scores of smaller trucking companies doing business in the area employ tens of thousands in their workforce.
The east-west and north-south highways that connect in Kansas City appear to have emerged as the routes of choice for NAFTA traffic. The city has capitalized by placing a pre-customs clearing facility and international processing center in the metro area.
Perhaps even more promising is Kansas City Southern’s work in developing the former Richards-Gebaur Air Base into the Intermodal Freight Gateway, a hub that includes rail and trucking capabilities in one seamless freight redistribution operation. The site may also retain its airport services.
In addition to smaller airports, executive and industrial, including the always active Charles B. Wheeler Airport downtown, KCI (Kansas City International) has added to the depth of the city’s transport capabilities. With a variety of carriers rather than just one hub carrier, businesses tend to pay less for both freight and passenger fares at KCI. The New York Times has proclaimed KCI the most user-friendly airport in the country, and Fortune has ranked Kansas City in its list of the 20 best U.S. cities for business, citing accessibility, foreign business affiliations and trade activity as key strengths.