Kansas City, Missouri, is about as far from a foreign country as any city in the continental United States. But despite its geographical location, Kansas City is emerging as a major center for international trade.
In October, at a two-day international trade conference held in the city, local officials signed a trade pact with the Canadian city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. And in an unprecedented move, Mexico selected Kansas City as the site for its first customs facility on U.S. soil. The city has already approved a $2.5 million loan to help build the office.
Those deals come on top of several other diplomatic and trade connections made with Mexico in the past three years.
In 2002, officials persuaded the Mexican consulate to move to Kansas City from St. Louis, where it had been based for nearly two centuries. The consulate became the center of a conglomeration of Mexican trade offices, known as the "MexiPlex."
Two years later, Kansas City signed a trade agreement with Manzanillo, Mexico, the largest deep-water container port on Mexico's west coast. That deal allows ships to import goods through Manzanillo as easily as through, say, Long Beach, California. Last year, Kansas City signed similar agreements with the Mexican port city of Lazaro Cardenas and the state of Michoachan.
City officials say these agreements let Kansas City lay claim to being the true distribution hub of a North American trade corridor. "We have all the assets--rail, trucks, air, the river," says Kansas City Councilwoman Bonnie Sue Cooper, who has overseen the trade developments for years. "This is all just about utilizing the resources that you have."