Incorporated in 1870, Wichita’s position on the Chisholm Trail made it a destination for cattle drives headed north to access railroads to eastern markets. 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. Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft remain based in Wichita today, along with Learjet and Spirit AeroSystems, and both Airbus and Boeing maintain a workforce in Wichita.
Wichita has several recognized areas and neighborhoods. The downtown area contains landmarks such as Century II, the Garvey Center, and the Epic Center. Old Town is also part of downtown; this 2-3 square mile area is home to a cluster of night clubs, bars, restaurants, a movie theater, shops, and apartments and condominiums, many of which make use of historical warehouse-type spaces.
The two most notable residential areas of Wichita are Riverside and College Hill. Riverside is northwest of the downtown area, across the Arkansas River, and surrounds the 120-acre Riverside Park. College Hill is east of the downtown area, south of Wichita State University. College Hill is one of the more historic neighborhoods, along with Delano on the west side and Midtown in the north-central city.
Wichita's principal industrial sector is manufacturing, which accounted for 21.6 percent of area employment in 2003. Aircraft has long since dominated the industry, and plays such an important role that it has the ability to influence the economic health of the entire region.
Healthcare is Wichita's second-largest industry, employing approximately 28,000 people in the local area. Since health-care needs remain fairly consistent regardless of the economy, this field was not subject to the same pressures that affected other industries in the early 2000s. The Kansas Spine Hospital opened in 2004, as did a critical care tower at Wesley Medical Center. In July 2010, Via Christi Health, which is the largest provider of health care services in Kansas, is ready to open a hospital that will serve the northwest area of Wichita. Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa will be the system's fifth hospital to serve the Wichita community.
Wichita is home to the headquarters of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the United States.
Chance Morgan, a manufacturer of roller coasters, is based in Wichita.