Omaha's pioneer period began in 1854, when the city was founded by speculators from neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa. The city was founded along the Missouri River, and a crossing called Lone Tree Ferry earned the city its nickname, the "Gateway to the West". Omaha introduced this new West to the world in 1898, when it played host to the World's Fair, dubbed the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. During the 19th century, Omaha's central location in the United States spurred the city to become an important national transportation hub. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the transportation and jobbing sectors were important in the city, along with its railroads and breweries. In the 20th century, the Omaha Stockyards, once the world's largest, and its meatpacking plants gained international prominence.
Today, Omaha is the home to the headquarters of four Fortune 500 companies: mega-conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway; one of the world's largest construction companies, Kiewit Corporation; insurance and financial firm Mutual of Omaha; and the United States' largest railroad operator, Union Pacific Corporation. Berkshire Hathaway is headed by local investor Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, according to a decade's worth of Forbes Magazine rankings, some of which have ranked him as high as No. 1. Omaha is also the home to five Fortune 1000 headquarters: Green Plains Renewable Energy, TD Ameritrade, Valmont Industries, Werner Enterprises, and West Corporation. Also headquartered in Omaha are First National Bank of Omaha, the largest privately held bank in the United States; three of the nation's largest 10 architecture/engineering firms: DLR Group, HDR, Inc., and Leo A Daly; the Gallup Organization, of Gallup Poll fame; and its riverfront Gallup University. Enron began in Omaha as Northern Natural Gas in 1930, before taking over a smaller Houston company in 1985 to form InterNorth, which Kenneth Lay moved permanently to Houston, in 1987. First Data, another Fortune 500 company, was founded in Omaha in 1971 and headquartered there until the late 90's. ConAgra Brands, yet another Fortune 500 company, was headquartered in Omaha until 2014. Both First Data and ConAgra Brands still have a significant presence in Omaha.
The modern economy of Omaha is diverse and built on skilled knowledge jobs. In 2009, Forbes identified Omaha as the nation's number one "Best Bang-For-The Buck City" and ranked it number one on "America's Fastest-Recovering Cities" list. Tourism in Omaha benefits the city's economy greatly, with the annual College World Series and Triple Crown SlumpBuster providing important revenue and the city's Henry Doorly Zoo serving as the top attraction in Nebraska as well as being named the best zoo in the world by Trip Advisor in 2014. Omaha hosted the U.S. Olympic swim trials in 2008, 2012, 2016, and will host them again in 2020.
Notable modern Omaha inventions include: the bobby pin and the "pink hair curler", at Omaha's Tip Top; Butter Brickle Ice Cream and the Reuben sandwich, conceived by a chef at the then-Blackstone Hotel on 36th and Farnam Streets; cake mix, developed by Duncan Hines, then a division of Omaha's Nebraska Consolidated Mills, the forerunner to today's ConAgra Foods; center-pivot irrigation by the Omaha company now known as Valmont Corporation; Raisin Bran, developed by Omaha's Skinner Macaroni Co.; the ski lift, in 1936, by Omaha's Union Pacific Corp; the "Top 40" radio format, pioneered by Todd Storz, scion of Omaha's Storz Brewing Co., and head of Storz Broadcasting, which was the first in the U.S. to use the "Top 40" format at Omaha's KOWH Radio; and the TV dinner, developed by Omaha's Carl Swanson Co. Omaha was also the birthplace of Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States.
Various Native American tribes had lived in the land that became Omaha, including since the 17th century, the Omaha and Ponca, Dhegian-Siouan-language people who had originated in the lower Ohio River valley and migrated west by the early 17th century; Pawnee, Otoe, Missouri, and Ioway. The word Omaha (actually Umoⁿhoⁿ or Umaⁿhaⁿ) means "Dwellers on the bluff".