Iowa State University releases Waukon results following 20-year study of Iowa's small towns

Iowa State University recently released the results of a 20-year study of life in Iowa’s small towns. In 1994, one town was selected from each of Iowa’s 99 counties to participate in a survey regarding various aspects of small-town living, with Waukon being the town selected to represent Allamakee County and 150 surveys distributed. The surveys were sent again in 2004 and a final time in 2014. Those three survey years were then used to identify trends and generate an average in the various categories to use as a baseline for comparison.
Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) Business and Tourism Coordinator Ardie Kuhse said that the study shows that Waukon is not that much different from most small towns across the state, adding that there are a lot of positive things in the survey results. “We should be proud of what we have,” she said. “The City Council works hard and the economic development team works hard,” noting that the Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has done a lot of work in recent years to address a shortage of housing.
Waukon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Dugan agreed with Kuhse, saying that WEDC, the Chamber and other local volunteers have also put a lot of energy into attracting people to Waukon, citing the expansion of Corn Days as an example. She also pointed out that the economic development team can’t do it all alone. “We need more members and more participation,” she said.
“Economic development needs community support,” said ACED Executive Director Val Reinke, adding that it’s a struggle to recruit volunteers for events but that she finds it odd that survey respondents claimed that their top reason for not volunteering is that they hadn’t been asked.
Reinke said that while Waukon is not a “river town,” there are plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. She said that the survey results don’t contain any big surprises - streets repair is a high concern, along with housing and jobs, adding that the Comprehensive Plan recently developed by Waukon Works and approved by the Waukon City Council addresses those very issues.

Items of note from the 2014 survey results include that 39% of those surveyed agree that Waukon has a lot going for it compared to other small towns in Iowa. Just 19% of those surveyed rate the variety of downtown retail as good or very good, and 42% of those surveyed trust local elected officials. Significant differences from 1994 to 2014 survey results include a decrease from 56% of those surveyed in 1994 agreeing that local clubs and organizations are interested in what is best for all residents to just 42% agreeing with that statement in the 2014 survey. Likewise, in 1994, 65% agreed that when something needs to get done, the whole community gets behind it, with that percentage plummeting to 27% in the 2014 survey.

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