ISU survey of small towns

St. Ansgar, IA

KIMT NEWS 3 – The state of Iowa has almost 3.1 million people, and more than half of them, live in an urban area. Everyone else is in some sort of smaller or rural community.

While those numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau may not be surprising, there are still questions to be asked. Like what goes on in those small towns? And who’s living there?

Therefore, the department of sociology at Iowa State University wants to hear from you. They’ve selected 99 towns to be surveyed. It’s all being done to understand the well being of these smaller communities. And their hope is to understand why these towns continue to exist and even thrive, in Iowa.

But, if you asked those like Nora Springs Resident, David Lund, Why live in a small town?  He’ll give you a reasonable answer.

“The smallness. Everybody, almost everybody knows everybody else.  They know who your kids are, you know who their kids are. Pretty close knit community,” said Lund. Lund has lived in Nora Springs for more than 20 years. He says his biggest reason for staying in Nora Springs is the everyday “wave-to-your-neighbor” type of community that Nora Springs is.

Lund says the unfortunate part of living in towns like this is watching businesses leave. And he believes that’s because of bigger towns nearby “We lost a hardware store that I personally used quite a bit, but others didn’t because of the big box stores over in Mason,” said Lund.

And it’s that type of information that professors in sociology from Iowa State University are looking for. They’re planning to send out a survey to 150 families to towns like Nora Springs, to find out how things are going in small town Iowa.

Residents in St. Ansgar will also be getting survey letters in the mail.

“Its very important that people fill these out and give their honest opinions about what its like to live in rural Iowa and in these smaller towns, so that it gives other people good information, so they can make decisions,” said Gary Hall.

The survey will include questions like: Do you go to church in your community? Do you shop here? Do you trust your neighbors?

ISU Extension Regional Director Gary Hall says, “Small towns are the heart of Iowa and that’s a fact. It’s the quality of life. I think people get to know each other around the small towns, the businesses you can interact with, leave your doors unlocked,” said Hall.

And, Lund agrees. “There is a lot to offer here. Like I say, the community fellowship. People seem more apt to be willing to accept you, your friendlier,” said Lund.

In 2004, Nora Springs residents filled out a survey done by the same group Some of the results included: 56% belonged to at least one organization in their town. Less than 40% said they keep their doors unlocked and 24% say they would not report their neighbor if they were selling drugs.

A professor from the ISU program says the results will first be reported back to city leaders. Then, they’ll go to extension offices to see if they are able to help with improvements. Finally, professors from across the nation will study the results to see how well small towns are really doing.

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