Hearne: Will Kansas City Finds Its Way?

Kansas City on the right track?

Think about it. In generations past the Cowtown had a lot going for it. The mighty Missouri River, the stockyards, Kansas City Board of Trade and Kansas City Southern Railroad for starters.

Moving forward, Hallmark Cards, Russell Stover Candies, AMC Theatres, H&R Block and more recently Applebee’s, Sprint and Garmin were the local big dogs.

Those are some of the iconic companies that helped put KC on the map.

Unfortunately most of those business icons have either tanked or are struggling to remain relevant.

Let’s count ‘em down:

The fabled stockyards – long gone – the Board of Trade – toast.

Even the vaunted Hallmark is fighting what appears to be a losing battle.

What’s left of Russell Stover sold out to the Swiss – AMC and Sprint to the Chinese –  and just about anybody and everybody from cellphone makers on down are eating Garmin’s lunch. It closed its flagship retail store in Chicago late last year.

Block soldiers on – bouncing from speed bump to speed bump – while nail biting about the possible arrival of a flat or simplified tax plan. Sprint is hanging on for dear life, waiting for a savior to put it out of its misery. Applebee’s bailed a couple years back for the Left Coast.

The $65 million question:

What companies will take these legends places?


With retail and other businesses retreating to the web, what companies will be the future growth engines of KC commerce a dozen years from now?

Hen House, Topsy’s, Berbigilia, Gates BBQ, Winstead’s, Christopher Elbow Chocolates, the Chiefs?

Even our beloved local media have mostly sold out to out-of-town owners or are hanging by a thread like The Pitch and to a lesser extent, the Kansas City Star.

To be fair, who other than their founders could have predicted the towering successes of KC’s brightest stars?

However in past eras there seemed to have been more upward mobility in an economy that was yet to be dominated by the likes of McDonald’s, Walmart Time Warner and Amazon.

To the point, what companies will our children look to locally for inspiration?

In what fields will Kansas City establish itself as a leader?

Will the next Joyce Hall or Henry Bloch, please stand up?

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10 Responses to Hearne: Will Kansas City Finds Its Way?

  1. jack p. says:

    Let’s not forget B.C. Christopher & Company……

  2. Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

    (Ahem) Cerner.

    • admin says:

      Definitely, Cerner…

      Although they haven’t quite risen to the high level of national prominence and recognition

      • Paul says:

        Have to disagree with you, Hearne. Cerner has people in hospitals all over America, and their informatics dominate the field. KCI on most Monday mornings is full of Cerner folks headed off to their gigs as in-house experts. I worry sometimes that they’re becoming too big, too fast. People I know who work there say it’s a young person’s world, and the company works them hard. Still proud they’re ours, though.

        • admin says:

          I’m totally aware of the company’s growth…

          Just saying, it hasn’t achieved the household word status of Hallmark, H&R Block, Sprint, Applebee’s and AMC

  3. One Guy says:


  4. Orphan of the Road says:

    To paraphrase Lincoln Steffens, It is good Kansas City has a history because it has no future.

    Consider Cerner’s heavy dependence on government subsidies (Affordable Care Act among many) before crowning them.

    • Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

      Uh no. Little to none of Cerner’s rise has to do with the Affordable Care Act. Do some research. If any legislation has helped their growth, it was the ARRA. Inside that was the HiTech Act, which forced hospitals to move to an electronic health record. And THAT is Cerner’s core business. The ARRA was a bi-partisan act that isn’t going anywhere.

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        Top Ten of corporations receiving government subsidies. One of seven companies poised to greatly benefit from the ACA.

        No to mention the tons of local welfare heaped on them from both sides of the state line.

        I suggest even more research before ignoring the benefits they get from the government hog-trough.

  5. Jabraykit Jabawdit says:

    Lockton Companies, Yellow-Roadway, Kansas City Southern RR, JE Dunn, HOK, Populous, Black & Veatch, Burns and McDonnell

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