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Waterloo, IA
Waterloo-Cedar Falls
MSA: Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA
Best places ranking: #17 among small metro areas
Population: 164,220
Waterloo and Cedar Falls are two communities joined at the hip. Waterloo, with a population of about 60,000 and three John Deere factories, is predominantly a manufacturing town. John Deere, in conjunction with the city, recently developed a biotechnology research center called Cedar Valley Tech Works. Over the past decade, Waterloo has also built two industrial parks, and offers tax abatements and free land to businesses that meet certain criteria.

Cedar Falls, once considered a Waterloo suburb, has developed its own identity. With a population of about 40,000, Cedar Falls is a thriving college town -- the University of Northern Iowa has a student population of 13,000. It's also the home of a wide range of technology, service, and advertising businesses. Target operates general merchandise and food distribution centers here.

Cedar Falls has a moderate tax structure and operates its own utility company, which translates into lower rates than the national average. The city is also aggressive about offering tax abatements. And because it owns an industrial park, Cedar Falls has a more than two-decade history of giving free parcels of land to qualifying businesses.

But out in the heartland, nature takes its toll. In 2008, a tornado hit Cedar Falls, and some parts of the city that flooded are still in the process of recovery. -Coeli Carr

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Waterloo, IA


Local smallbiz lenders

  • Ohnward Bancshares
  • QCR Holdings
  • Northwest Investment Corp.
  • Hills Bancorporation
  • Dupaco Community Credit Union
See all local lenders

Waterloo Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
3,931 3,516
Small business growth rate
1.3% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
44 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
33% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
424.9 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
2,968.8 3,395.2
Population growth
1.6% 4.93%
Per-capita income
$33,555 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
23.5% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
$6,861 $4,952
GDP growth
37% 33%
Average hourly wage
$16.36 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
4,701 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$633 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.2% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.1% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
14% 0.1%

All statistics are for the full Metropolitan Statistical Area. For a complete list of data sources, see "How we picked the Best Places."

From the November 2009 issue
"I knew there was a need for this type of shop, and when my co-founder and I decided to launch, the only placed we wanted to be was historic downtown Cedar Falls." -Gretchen Behm
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Waterloo?
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Do you prefer a place that is: Small Medium Large
The factors that matter most to me are:
 Affordable wages  Few foreclosures
 Educated workers  Low housing costs
 Low crime  High local incomes
 A growing economy  Population growth
 Growing small business population

ireportTell us why: Low taxes? Talented workers? An active small business community? Send us your photos and videos, and you could be featured in our upcoming coverage of reader-picked Best Places to Launch. More
This year we partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to find the 50 most business-friendly communities in America.

With help from Robert Fairlie, an economist and leading scholar of entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we developed a methodology and sifted through such data on factors such as per capita income, hourly wages, workforce quality, crime rates, taxes and foreclosures. More

Comments? E-mail the editors
Data partners

This package was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Foreclosure data provided by RealtyTrac.

Housing price-to-income data provided by Moody's