The development of the ATSF spurred Atchison as a destination for other rail companies, including the Burlington & Missouri River, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and the Missouri Pacific Railroads.
As the rail industry blossomed, retail, commercial, and industry followed close behind. From 1870 to 1900, Atchison grew to a vital regional economic focal point. Banking, lumber, grain and manufacturing all played a significant role in the community as the city became one of Kansas' most influential municipalities.
Another significant addition to Atchison was the St. Benedict's Abbey in 1858 and Mount St. Scholastica in 1863. The Benedictine Brothers and Sisters were very influential in the region with the formation of two institutes of higher learning, St. Benedict's College in 1858 and Mount St. Scholastica College in 1923. In 1971, the schools merged to create Benedictine College, a four-year co-educational institute. Currently, the school has an enrollment of nearly 2,000 students and is recognized as one of America's Best Colleges by U.S. News and World Report.
Atchison has always been a progressive community with regards to development. This is evidenced not only by its history, but its current efforts to grow the regional economy. In 1996 (and later in 2001), AnaCon Foods (http://anaconfoods.com), located in Atchison, was considering expanding. An exclusive producer of a patented line of unique snacks and food ingredients wanted to remain close to their source of grain, but lacked the necessary capital to grow. City leaders encouraged AnaCon to work with Mo-Kan Regional Council on a revolving loan fund to finance the planned project. In turn, the company expanded twice and created or retained over 40 employees.
Beginning in 2003, the city started a citywide comprehensive planning process. From this effort, a Comprehensive Plan for the Atchison Area was crafted. The plan led to many proposed improvements, including enhancement to the city's historic downtown pedestrian mall. In 2005, Mo-Kan successfully applied for a Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA-21) grant on behalf of the city. The $1.7 million project refurbished the pedestrian mall, helping to maintain a vibrant business district and create a focal point for the community. The project involved renovating the walking surface of the mall, installing new electrical service and lighting, removing concrete canopies, and adding a new fountain.
From 2006 to 2009, Mo-Kan continued to assist the City in its efforts to grow and improve. Grant applications submitted included an Economic Development Administration Public Works grant for vital wastewater system improvements, a Housing and Urban Development- HOME grant for supportive service, and a Kansas Department of Transportation economic development grant.
In the fall of 2007, Mo-Kan assisted the City of Atchison in preparing a TEA-21 application to place aesthetic lighting on the new Amelia Earhart Bridge. Once the bridge is completed, the proposed lighting will upgrade existing lights to LED lighting, which will give the city of Atchison more color and design options when lighting the bridge. In addition, the lighting scheme will also replace the current light space cannons at the entrances to the bridge. While not directly funded, the application was the basis for a special allocation from KDOT.
In 2008, the agency successfully completed a $55,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Kansas Department of Commerce (KDOC) for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements to Memorial Hall.
Memorial Hall was constructed in 1922 as a memorial to the men and women who served during World War I. The project included renovating the women's restroom and replacing an existing water fountain. The building is owned and operated by Atchison County and was placed on the National Register in April 2007.
On May 9, 2009, Mo-Kan successfully assisted the Atchison County Commission with $32,134 grant from the State Historical Preservation Office's Heritage Trust Fund grant program. This grant was used to restore 14 stained glass windows that were originally installed in 1897 to the historic courthouse.
Later that year, Mo-Kan completed a $100,000 grant application to the Kansas Historical Society on behalf of the city and the Atchison Chamber of Commerce to make necessary repairs to the Atchison Santa Fe Freight Depot. Home to not only the Chamber, but also the Atchison County Historical Society Museum and the Atchison Rail Museum, the historic 1880 structure required significant maintenance. Funds from the grant were used to repair the brick and mortar on the southwest corner of the structure and re-point as needed on the exterior.
In 2010, in an effort to make the Atchison County Courthouse ADA compliant, Mo-Kan completed a successful $164,800 CDBG application on behalf of the county commission to replace an existing non-ADA elevator. The total project cost is $329,600 elevator replacement project.