Wichita, the largest city in Kansas with a population of 395,699, is the county seat of Sedgwick County. Major highways, including the Kansas Turnpike, U.S. 400 and Interstate I-135, link the city with a large trade area that encompasses a population of more than one million people within a 100-mile radius.
Wichita has served as a trading center and meeting place for many years. The first permanent settlement in Wichita was a collection of grass houses inhabited by the Wichita Indians in 1863. J.R. Mead became the first white settler in 1864 when he opened a trading post. Jesse Chisholm pioneered the Chisholm Trail in 1865.
Wichita was incorporated in 1870. Wichita became a destination for cattle drives from Texas, which explains its nickname, "Cowtown." The original stimulus to the City's economic development was the extension of the Santa Fe Railway into Wichita in 1872. Wichita boomed as a cow town until the late 1870s when settlers fenced off the prairie and the Chisholm Trail with barbed wire, and many cattle drives shifted west to Dodge City. IN 1886, Wichita was incorporated as a city of the first class, and was established as the region's principal city.
Business & Industry
During the 1890s, the grain produced from the farms in the region more than equaled the wealth formerly generated by the cattle trade, and Wichita became a trade and milling center. In 1914, the discovery of oil broadened the economic base, drawing numerous services, distributive enterprises and metal-working industries. Wichita was the headquarters of the former Derby Oil Company, which was purchased by Coastal Corporation in 1988.
In the 20th century, aircraft pioneers such as Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech and Bill Lear began projects that would lead to Wichita's establishment as the "Air Capital of the World." In 1917, the Cessna Comet was the first airplane that was manufactured in Wichita. Cessna and Beechcraft remain based in Wichita today, along with Learjet and Spirit Aerosystems. Airbus maintains a workforce in Wichita. Since the growth of the aircraft industry began during the inter-war years, Wichita has been a leading producer of general aviation and commercial aircraft. McConnell Air Force Base was activated in 1951 and has remained an important factor in the community.
Wichita has long been known as a center of entrepreneurship. In addition to aircraft pioneers, Fred Koch founded Koch Industries in Wichita, and Dan and Frank Carney founded Pizza Hut. Coleman, Freddy's Frozen Custard, and many other successful companies began in Wichita.
Quality of Life
Wichita has evolved into a cultural and entertainment center. The downtown district offers restaurants, retail shops, museums and parks. INTRUST Bank Arena, located in downtown Wichita, features a total potential capacity of over 15,000.
Several universities are located in Wichita, the largest being Wichita State University. Wichita State University was founded as Fairmount College in 1895 as a municipal university, and joined the State Board of Regents system in 1964. Friends University and Newman University are also located in Wichita.
In July 2011, Wichita, Kansas ranked 8th on the list of the 10 best-value cities. In February 2013, Wichita was ranked 23 of 102 major markets for small-business vitality. Commute times are the lowest among the 100 major metropolitan markets. Wichita has also been named the most "Uniquely American" city by Newsmax Magazine, in addition to being designated an "All-American City" four times.
In 1918, Wichita became one of the first municipalities in the United States to adopt the Commission-Manager form of government. Currently, six Council members represent equally populated districts and the Mayor is elected at-large. Members serve four-year, overlapping terms. The City Council and Mayor conduct all legislative functions for the City of Wichita and establish general policies, which are executed by the City Manager.