ISU Tracking How Rural Iowa Towns Survive And Thrive - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

ISU Tracking How Rural Iowa Towns Survive And Thrive

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Residents in 99 small towns across Iowa will be mailed surveys from Iowa State University to help improve life in small towns by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. The survey will track how small towns have changed over the decade, according to its residents.

Three communities in the QCA have been chosen to participate in the survey: Fruitland, Grand Mound and LeClaire.

LeClaire residents and business owners said their town has been growing tremendously in recent years, showing how a community of just 4,000 people can really overcome challenges many small towns face.

"It's vibrant, it's alive we've got multiple businesses that continue to come in town," said local business owner of Grasshoppers, Rodney Collier.

Collier walks through downtown LeClaire, pointing out the drastic changes the town has seen in the last 5 years.

Collier and his wife kim are local business owners who have watched their shop, Grasshoppers expand over 17-years. But they said it wasn't easy starting out in a small town.

"There literally were two, three people coming in a week," said Collier. "She was working for cents on the dollar those first three years and I looked her and said what are we doing, why are we doing this."

They stuck it through and got more involved in the community.

"We just knew this place had potential and we wanted to be apart of it," said Collier.

Something another local business owner said he saw when he was looking for somewhere to start.

"The street-scapes and the business development on all the things that had happened here, especially in the late 2000's are the things that drew us to town and have this downtown area really thriving while other rural communities are really struggling," said owner of Mississippi River Distilling, Ryan Burchett.

But how did LeClaire do it?

"The businesses that hung in there in the leaner years, have grown and stayed here and they were the foundation," said LeClaire tourism manager Cindy Bruhn. "A lot of the pieces of the puzzle came together and we were able to grow on that."

"Bring in diversity, don't just try to be the same type city," said LeClaire Mayor Robert Scannell. "Don't think it's going to stay the same or you're going to get people out here. You have to keep changing all the time."

Within the next two weeks researchers from ISU will randomly contact residents by mail in Grand Mound, Fruitland and LeClaire to find out the quality of life in rural Iowa from the people themselves.

ISU said each person who receives a survey will represent 20-to-35 other town residents. They will be asked to assess local services, social atmosphere and the leadership structure of the town, among many other questions.

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