A handful of small Iowa towns with populations of less than 5,000 and not part of a larger metro area, bucked the trend and grew their populations in the 2020 census data just released. Growing small towns have one or more factors working in their favor, a summer-long IowaWatch investigation revealed for this special report.
We asked leaders in several rural Iowa towns for ways small Iowa towns could be vital. Jobs are a given, although those interviewed said having jobs, alone, does not guarantee vitality if other dynamics are not present in town.
HUMESTON, Iowa — A small group of businesses in one southern Iowa town has found a way to stay open by banding together to attract spending customers to town, rather than compete against each other. “Why not Humeston?” Leigh Ann Coffey, owner of Sweet Southern Sass, said when asked why business owners choose to open a business in a small town. This report is the result of an IowaWatch Simpson College Journalism Project involving student journalists in Simpson’s spring 2019 journalism seminar. Reporters for the project were:
The journalists worked on this story starting in January 2019 with Lyle Muller of IowaWatch and Mark Siebert, Simpson assistant professor of multimedia communication. Sweet Southern Sass, Snyder’s, Grassroots Gallery & Cafe, Snips of Thread Quilt Shop and Grampa Jims formed a group “Shop Humeston.”
Iowa’s estimated 2014 population of 3.1 million marked a 2 percent increase from when the 2010 census was taken, a rate slower than the 3.3 percent national population growth in that same time. This IowaWatch Connection podcast takes you deeper into the story.
Here’s a challenge: go ask a bunch of 5-year-old kids what they want to be when they grow up. Spoiler alert: most kids probably aren’t going to say biomedical engineer, computer scientist, or electrical engineer.