It began with a family and a chance.
In 1861, Randolph Railroad Company offered nearby residents land and a fresh start to move to its new junction. Patrick Lynch, his wife and six children were the only people willing to move, so he packed up the family’s things and took the risk.
For years, the family lived there alone. But as the Civil War came to an end and shops went up, the town began to blossom.
In less than 20 years, it grew from one family to more than 6,000 individuals.
The Lynches’ story was the first of many examples we found of families taking risks and building foundations for success in Moberly.
The mid-Missouri town of about 14,000 people, located 40 miles northwest of Columbia, was the the second destination for Missouri Business Alert’s Outstate project, a special series exploring entrepreneurship in small-town Missouri.
In Moberly, we encountered a variety of family-run businesses, both new and old.
We heard the story of Orscheln Industries, a family business that started as a dance hall and has since transformed into a global conglomerate. We encountered Encore, a store run by two sisters that was destroyed by a fire but has emerged bigger than before. We caught up with Noviqu, a company with husband-and-wife co-founders working to build a scalable software startup. And we got to know Lanee Riddle, a high school student whose brother’s allergies led her to a business opportunity.
Moberly’s top employers include Orscheln Industries, with about 800 employees, the Moberly Correctional Center, with around 600, a Walmart distribution center, with about 450, and Moberly Regional Medical Center, with more than 350 employees. The city’s largest industries are distribution and logistics, manufacturing and agriculture.
Moberly earned the nickname “Magic City” as a result of its rapid growth in the second half of the 19th century. That growth has long since slowed, with the population hovering between about 13,000 and 14,000 for close to a century.
But there is work underway to spur economic growth. The city is in the midst of a downtown revitalization effort that began in 2017. When the process first started, the entire assessed value of 158 downtown properties was $3.2 million. In the first two years of the revitalization push, private investors have poured $3.5 million into the downtown area. That private investment is working in tandem with public funds generated through a Community Improvement District aimed at addressing downtown’s deteriorating water and sewer systems.
Local officials said they have seen growing interest in investing in the community. They are hopeful that as infrastructure in downtown Moberly improves, so will the businesses that occupy it.