Kansas City’s livestock legacy dates back to the 1870s and the establishment of the Kansas City Stockyards. At that time, the area was known as “Cowtown” and a hub for cowboys and their cattle.
Today, Kansas City remains a livestock industry hub, although acres of stockyard pens are no longer the largest draw. During the Kansas City Stockyards’ heyday, animal health businesses and companies grew rapidly in the region in an effort to meet the needs of the cattle, horses and other stock moving through the stockyards district.
That growth laid the groundwork for what has become a large economic driver and source of pride for Missouri’s livestock industry – the Animal Health Corridor.
The Corridor is an invisible-to-the-eye area stretching from Columbia, Mo. to St. Joseph, Mo. and westward into Kansas that is home to the single-largest concentration of animal health companies in the world. Not only does the Corridor include one of America’s top veterinary schools, the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, but it is also within 350 miles of 45 percent of the fed cattle in the U.S. and more than 40 percent of U.S. hogs.
The Corridor is well positioned to have a logistical competitive edge over other regions. Kansas City sits at the intersection of four major interstate highways and on the largest navigable inland waterway. In addition, the region is at the heart of a rail corridor spanning from coast to coast and home to an international airport.
Beyond those advantages, the board members and employees whose work makes the Animal Health Corridor a reality are committed to staying at the forefront of animal care.
“We don’t sit and wait for the phone to ring,” says Kimberly Young, vice president of bioscience for the Kansas City Area Development Council. “No other region has a board of directors with such strategic priorities to make sure it has assets for new and old businesses to grow and thrive.”
Each year, the team comes together to host the Animal Health Corridor Homecoming and the annual Animal Health Investment Forum. The Animal Health Corridor Homecoming is a large networking event that promotes industry-wide collaboration and new company recruitment. During the Homecoming festivities, new and growing companies connect with individuals and businesses who can offer both legal and financial assistance.
“The Homecoming is the main, driving reason Animal Health Training Solutions was able to locate in Kansas City,” says Eric Alsup, ATS president and head coach. “They go out of their way to help upcoming companies find the resources to finance their startups and serves as a constant resource to help us with connections and communication.”
At last year’s lively hoedown-themed Homecoming, more than 700 animal health leaders dressed in cowboy hats and boots gathered to honor industry veterans and highlight newcomers in the industry.
Early-stage companies also have an opportunity to share their vision and business plan with potential investors during the annual Animal Health Investment Forum. The Forum provides emerging companies the opportunity to connect with investment firms, researchers and large animal health companies. Companies presenting at the forum have raised a total of $60 million since the beginning of the forum, and several have received distribution contracts or licensing agreements.
“The event is a pipeline and a platform for networking,” Young says. “When people think of the growth for any company, it comes from new connections. When new companies are brought in, the economy in the area thrives, and everyone benefits.”
Over the past six years, 24 animal health organizations have been successfully recruited to the Corridor. These companies have pledged to create more than 1,300 new jobs, $74 million in new payroll and nearly $1 billion in new capital investments.
“We do have a history and a driven focus on animal health, but even with all the assets, we stay competitive and earn our position,” Young says.
The region is now home to more than 220 animal health companies and more than 22,000 employees, drawing on those resources to support collaborative efforts within the animal health industry. In fact, the Corridor is responsible for nearly 32 percent of total sales in the $19 billion global animal health market specializing in animal health and nutrition research, innovation and hands-on livestock production.