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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Iowa made national headlines last week after securing the top spot on the “Best States” rankings released by U.S. News and World Report. The magazine called Iowa the “best in the nation when it comes to infrastructure, healthcare, opportunity and education.” Last year, Iowa placed sixth.

The news came as no surprise to Iowa’s top official, Governor Kim Reynolds. In an appearance on a nationally broadcast TV show, she touted the state as a “place where if you work hard and dream big, anything is possible.”

Closer to home, news of the honor caught few people off guard. 

“I feel that the educational, recreational and cultural opportunities that exist even in small towns like Elkader make it easy to see how Iowa attained the number 1 spot,” said Opera House Manager Kay Moser. The Mosers were vacationing with good friends Barb and Tom Chandler when the Register contacted Kay for a comment. The Chandlers noted that their two daughters have moved back to Iowa after living in Colorado and California, which they believe speaks to the quality of life here.

The town’s top elected official, Mayor Josh Pope, offered these comments on the ranking: “I’m not surprised by the results,” he said. “If you look at the criteria that were considered—education, low crime rate, opportunity, quality of life—you can see that Iowa excels in each area. Even in small towns like Elkader we offer excellent schools, safe communities, and support the entrepreneurial spirit. Our own community survey in 2016 ranked Elkader’s quality of life as good or excellent by 91 percent of the respondents. So locally we have data to support the statewide ranking.”

Like other town leaders contacted, Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp was not surprised by the survey results.

“I believe the ranking comes down to our morals, values and work ethic,” he said. “I think of the floods last year and how our student body and staff dropped everything to go help our community. We even had contractors working at the school with no attachment to our local community down helping—that’s what makes Iowa different. I am also excited about the investments we are making in our state, specifically towards recreation and tech. I spent a good part of my life living in Cedar Rapids, and Cedar Rapids looks much different today with investments in their downtown. Des Moines, very similar. We have a nice balance between rural and urban in Iowa and something to offer everyone.”

Central Community Hospital CEO Brooke Kensinger took a broader look at the rankings relative to healthcare and noted that the state ranked in the top 10 in many areas, including Child Wellness Visits (#1), Healthcare Affordability (#2) and Infant Mortality Rate (#2).

Rounding out the top five states were, in order: Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota and New Hampshire. At the bottom were Mississippi, 49th, and Louisiana, 50th. The survey considered 77 metrics across eight categories. Here’s how Iowa ranked in each category:

Infrastructure, 1st

Health care, 3rd

Opportunity, 4th

Education, 5th

Quality of life, 9th

Crime, 15th

Economy, 17th

Fiscal stability, 21st

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