Most people in the 1870s would never have guessed that their small town, founded in a quiet corner of south central Kansas near a bend in the Arkansas River, would grow into a city of more than 366,000 and become known worldwide as the Air Capitol of the World. Early aviation pioneers Walter Beech and Clyde Cessna were responsible for transforming Wichita, Kansas from a cattle ranching town into one of the largest aircraft manufacturing cities in the world. The companies they founded attracted others: Boeing, Learjet, Hawker, and Airbus, many of which remain active to this day. Thanks largely to Beech, Cessna, and the aircraft industry they founded, Wichita has recently earned top rankings on lists of best places to live.


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Though the aircraft manufacturing industry was damaged by the September 11th attacks and the subsequent recession, there are many other manufacturers in the city that have stayed strong. Vulcan Chemicals and Cargill Meats, for example, remain leaders in their fields, while Wichita-founded camping firm The Coleman Company continues to churn out outdoor goods like lanterns and sleeping bags. Manufacturing is the top industry in the city and is also the top job sector for men, but women in Wichita prefer the city's second largest industry: health care, which remains largely unaffected by economic circumstances.

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In terms of numbers of people employed (both men and women) the Boeing aircraft company is tops in Wichita with over 12,000 employees, more than the populations of some surrounding towns in Sedgewick County, though troubles with the recession have led to some layoffs at Boeing and other Wichita aircraft firms. The Via Christi Christian health services provider's numbers are steady, occupying a middling spot on the top employers list. The federal, state, county, and city governments also make an appearance, of course, as does the local school system.

Generally speaking, Wichita does very well for itself economically. The per capita income is about on par with the value for the state as a whole and the city has been ranked as one of the most affordable in the nation. It's large enough to attract workers from other cities and towns in the surrounding counties, though most people who work in Wichita live in Wichita. The city's previously low unemployment rate has gone up in recent months due to the recession, topping off around 9%, several points higher than the Kansas state average.

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