America’s rural population decline has been well-documented, with more people flocking to urban centers. But a report in Iowa says that isn’t happening in all small towns.
Iowa Watch, a collaborative investigative news group, reviewed nearly 60 towns of 5,000 or fewer people. In a number of cases, communities have seen populations hold steady, according to recent census data. In southern Iowa, Bloomfield – with a population of nearly 2,700 – has seen a slight gain in residents over the past decade.
Mayor Dan Wiegand cited a commitment of locals to support each other.
The research found other common traits of thriving small towns include the infrastructure for high-speed internet, health-care availability and unique attractions. But economic researchers have cautioned that there’s no exact blueprint for towns to follow, since each has its own dynamics.
As for attractions that are hard to find elsewhere, the report pointed to monuments or places that have a story to tell, such as the “Field of Dreams” site in Dyersville. And in the community of Kalona, Krista Hershberger, assistant director of the Chamber of Commerce, said religious customs of the local Amish community draw some attention.
The report also cited the impact of the state’s Rural Innovation Grants, which have totaled $300,000 each of the last two fiscal years. The money is split into grants that go to communities with populations of fewer than 10,000.