How the Kansas City Mill got its start
In April of 1922, the sound of steam excavators digging, the slosh of wet cement, and the pounding of work horses’ hooves filled the air at the partially built Kansas City Mill.
The building and the surrounding nine acres of land had been purchased earlier that year from the Liberty Milling Company with the intent to make it one of Washburn Crosby Company’s finest flour mills.
Once operations began, the mill utilized some of the newest technology of its time, including a brand-new telegraph.
Kansas City was booming with mills – across the area, grain elevators were springing up and changing the horizon of agriculture and manufacturing. Located at the joining of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, in the heart of wheat producing country, and at a major railroad hub, this city was ideal for quickly dispatching large amounts of milled grain across the country.
The early days
The first years of the Kansas City mill saw massive expansion – it started with one grain elevator and added four more over the coming years. By the end of the 1920s, the mill produced 1.3 million pounds of milled product per year, primarily flour.
By the time of World War II in 1944, the Kansas City Mill was one of ten mills in the area producing and shipping flour, and the first to respond to the government’s request for the mills to begin producing granular flour.
This flour was used in alcohol production, and subsequently in the production of synthetic rubber – an important commodity in the midst of a rubber shortage when much was needed for America’s war effort. During this era, many male mill employees were serving in the armed forces, and it was common to see women dressed in workwear loading flour and doing other physically taxing jobs.
Following the end of WWII, the mill employed around 450 people and delivered a high-volume production of primarily wheat flour.
Accelerating with technology innovation
Technology changed quickly over the next decades at Kansas City – more efficient and specialized machinery ensured that the mill continued to produce millions of pounds of milled products such as flour and animal feed.
By the late 1970s, the mill consumed around 40,000 bushels of wheat per day, resulting in roughly 30 railroad cars of flour and 7 of millfeed for livestock leaving the mill each day. During this time, it was General Mills’ number one flour producing mill and was operating 24 hours per day, six days per week.
In 1976, the Kansas City Mill became the first General Mills plant to supply customers with stretch-wrapped pallets of product by using a new palletizer machine. This machine was a hit among wholesalers who saw a decrease in product damage during shipping and ease of storage.
Bisquick’s “baking in a box” mix was the first of its kind to hit market in 1931 and in 1991, the mill began producing Bisquick.
Kansas City Mill today
100 years later, the Kansas City Mill is one of the largest flour mills in North America. The plant produces 2.7 million pounds of flour a day, as well as dry baking products Bisquick and Wondra.
“I think the people are what matter most at General Mills. They create the culture and provide the world with the food people love,” says Arnold Cozart, plant manager, Kansas City Mill. “Being one of the original General Mills plants, I’m extremely proud of the work we do here every day. 100 years means that we are 100 years strong – we are Kansas City strong. We are family and we support each other.”
The plant has great pride in their products, brands and history. The current Kansas City workforce has an average tenure of 10 years.