St. Joseph, once the eastern terminus of the Pony Express, is a former frontier and meat packing center that has today evolved into more of a mixed agricultural and industrial center. The diverse economy ranges from fence wire to Stetson hats to Sara Lee baked goods, but the economic outlook is uncertain. The future depends on the city’s ability to attract businesses looking for an alternative to Kansas City.
As reflected by relatively long average commute times, some do commute towards Kansas City. There are some minor cultural amenities and the area has considerable historic interest as a key hub in the Old West with several museums and historic buildings. The attractive downtown, small town feel, very low living costs and a short, 50-mile drive to the KC area are among the area’s principal draws.
The city sits in the broad, flat Missouri Valley in a mainly agricultural area. The climate is continental with frequent alternations between moist Gulf air and cold continental air producing the occasional heavy storm. Summer brings warm days and mild nights with moderate humidity. Winters are not severely cold but have cold snaps. Falls are usually mild and pleasant. Spring is the stormiest season- in 2003, St. Joseph was the center of a tornado outbreak that devastated several nearby towns. First freeze is mid-October, last is mid-April.