Community inclusion criteria
Based on a set of factors thought to indicate community vibrancy and growth, researchers selected 128 locales within Iowa for the RRCI. First, communities were selected based on their positive level of economic activity. Next, we identified communities that were county seats, which typically provide significant employment, access to resources and services, and opportunities for social, leisure, and civic activities.
Finally, we looked for communities that met some of the above criteria but also had unique features to offer, such as a college or university, art and cultural events, scenic areas and natural amenities, shopping and dining venues, and community festivals and activities. Iowa communities included in the RRCI range in population from 727 to 27,740.
Larger communities within Iowa with populations over 50,000 such as Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and Iowa City and their surrounding communities where not included in this project. The goal of the RRCI project was to focus on smaller Iowa communities for which there is less available marketing and promotional information.
Initial features for the index were identified by examining "best places to live" indices such as those from bestplace.net, Money magazine, and Progressive Farmer magazine. A team of Iowa State University researchers compiled important features such as: demographic makeup of the community, community diversity, economic growth and business development, quality of education, cost of living and housing, quality of available health care, transportation and roadways, recreational events and activities, availability of high speed Internet service, overall life quality factors (air and water quality, length of commute time, weather), culture, arts, and leisure activities (including shopping and dining), and community involvement and leadership.
Information for the above community features came from recent non-governmental and governmental (U.S. and State of Iowa) sources such as scorecard.org, Bestplaces.net, epodunk.com, National Register of Historic Places, festivalusa.com, iabedandbreakfast.com, bbonline.com, Iowa Museum Organization, 2008 Survey of Hospitals by the American Hospital Association, 2007 NAICS county business patterns, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000 U.S. Census, 2006 State Library of Iowa statistics, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, State Historic Society, Iowa Utilities, Iowa Department of Education, traveliowa.com, Iowa State University 2007 data on ethanol plants, and the Iowa Department of Transportation. Data were also drawn from ReCap, a report developed by Iowa State University professor, David Swenson. Community leaders (e.g., city clerks or chamber of commerce representatives) from each community were asked to provide updated data and documentation for features such as number of churches, fitness centers, or nature parks.