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Old 01-02-2016, 12:59 PM
 
9 posts, read 9,234 times
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We are trying to decide where to live and need some help! After doing some browsing around on this site, I've discovered the town of Decorah--which seems beautiful and perfect for our family. We're looking primarily for an affordable yet "earthy" city with outdoor opportunities nearby. Also vegan-friendly and with a decent farmer's market and local organic farms and orchards. I've also seen that Iowa City was voted a top outdoor city in Outdoor magazine, but it doesn't seem to have the ruggedness of the driftless area.

My questions are: are these places welcoming to newcomers? My husband has family and connections to the twin cities, so we're not unfamiliar with the midwest, but have never lived there, especially in a smaller town there. Also, my husband is in carpentry, specifically "sustainable building," and would need to find work, but the housing market in Decorah specifically seems to be doing ok. I don't know how hard it is to find work without connections there, again.

Any other suggestions? We've also looked at La Crosse and even Madison (which seems to have a lot of jobs but is quite expensive), I'm not sure which place might be best and would love feedback from the locals. Thanks!!
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Old 01-02-2016, 10:01 PM
 
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I worked there and lived just north of there for a time. You are looking in the right area for yourselves, as self described, I think. You will find many people who share your lifestyle and values.


Both towns have GREAT food co-ops and farmers markets, and lots of outdoors and culturally interesting things to do.


As for friendliness - well, the area is historically majority Norwegian in background, and I wouldn't describe them as overtly friendly people. However, both LaCrosse and Decorah are college towns, so new people are coming in all the time and you will be accepted by the new people crowd, if not the long time locals.


As for jobs - I don't know. There is a lot of demand for housing, especially housing with acreages right now, so I would bet construction jobs are in demand.


I just saw the most wonderful farm for sale in the Viroqua area (google Long Arm Farm). You might consider living in that area too. Viroqua/Westby/Coon Valley are all nice towns close enough to LaCrosse to commute for work if you have to. But both Minnesota and Iowa have a lower tax burden than Wisconsin.


Lots of people do try to have successful small specialty farms in the Driftless. Some succeed, but many fail - which is why you can often find really pretty properties there - but prices are getting higher and higher as more and more people are discovering the region.


Prices of everything in Decorah are getting higher too, as it gets "discovered" by retirees and wealthy people who want second homes in the area. In fact, downtown Decorah has gotten a little "chichi", IMHO. Housing can be hard to find - nice places get snapped up as soon as they hit the market. If you're willing to do a lot of fixing up you will have more housing options.


This is the website on which most things Decorah are listed: Decorah Now: Building Local Community Through Arts, Cultural, & Recreation Events, and the Exchange of Goods and Services


Anyway, it's a nice area. I just wish the Driftless hadn't been "discovered".
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Old 01-03-2016, 07:10 AM
 
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Thanks for your reply! Dunno if it'll help, but our family is mostly Norwegian too... Haha. Not culturally, though.
seems like it might be a good fit. Especially if housing is doing well.
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Old 01-03-2016, 07:47 AM
 
Location: Sun City West, AZ
529 posts, read 389,401 times
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If you haven't already, I would strongly suggest a visit to Decorah.... spend a few days. Get the feel of the area, the people, the economy, housing, etc. I have been to Decorah a couple of times - the company I used to work for has a manufacturing facility there - and I always liked it. Very scenic. The people I encountered were friendly, but that was limited exposure to the company employees.

I would not recommend Iowa City to anyone. There is a lot of cultural things to do there, and definitely vegan / organic / eco friendly, but housing costs and taxes are very high, as is the crime rate.

Not sure where you live right now, but also do not forget to consider the winter weather in Iowa. It can be a challenge!
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Old 01-04-2016, 04:19 PM
 
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I've been thinking about this, and want to clarify my answer because I don't want to give the wrong impression. There is in no way a construction boom in Decorah. Decorah would be the last small city in the universe to allow unlimited growth and acres of tatty developer's houses. The reason that housing in Decorah is hard to find is because there is limited growth and limited new construction.


If you want to find an area where there is a fair amount of new construction going on, look to the north to Rochester, MN. In fact, that is an area that OP should explore, in addition to LaCrosse and Decorah.
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Old 01-05-2016, 06:37 AM
 
Location: Jonesboro
3,168 posts, read 3,034,803 times
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Decorah is a small jewel of a town but I'd add the Dubuque area to the mix of the places 601halfdozenOtherother mentioned if you need to be around a more vigorous mix of housing construction activity.
In addition to it's beautiful setting on the Mississippi River valley & the edge of the driftless region, it has a nice mix of housing rehabbing & new construction activity occurring.
Plus, it's a culturally active small metro & the home of multiple institutions of higher learning.
The ethnic mix in greater Dubuque is much less Scandinavian oriented though but they are still well represented among a population that is dominated by Irish & German Catholics.
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Old 01-05-2016, 07:41 AM
 
195 posts, read 146,327 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atler8 View Post
Decorah is a small jewel of a town but I'd add the Dubuque area to the mix of the places 601halfdozenOtherother mentioned if you need to be around a more vigorous mix of housing construction activity.
In addition to it's beautiful setting on the Mississippi River valley & the edge of the driftless region, it has a nice mix of housing rehabbing & new construction activity occurring.
Plus, it's a culturally active small metro & the home of multiple institutions of higher learning.
The ethnic mix in greater Dubuque is much less Scandinavian oriented though but they are still well represented among a population that is dominated by Irish & German Catholics.
I'll second that. Dubuque's got an admirable growth plan and the diverse population leads to far more interesting restaurant and cultural opportunities. It's only about a 5 hour drive to Chicago if that's of interest. We're originally from Chicago, moved to the Waterloo area 15 years ago and still think Dubuque's got a lot going for it.
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Old 01-05-2016, 02:41 PM
 
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Oh yes, I agree, Dubuque is a nice small city (although to me it seems very seedy in some of the older areas.) But there are some very cool historic buildings and homes, and the Mississippi River Museum is fantastic. Dubuque's economy seems to be in good shape right now.


Really, the area between Dubuque to the south and Rochester/LaCrosse to the north, Decorah to the west and WI Hwy 61/27/14 to the east is just lovely.


I hope too many more people don't move there.


So, for those reading this: take a vacation there, but don't move there and clog it all up with more human detritus.
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Old 01-06-2016, 04:23 PM
 
387 posts, read 480,228 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ION1010 View Post
I'll second that. Dubuque's got an admirable growth plan and the diverse population leads to far more interesting restaurant and cultural opportunities.
Diverse population? Compared to what?

Blacks and Hispanics combined make up less than 5% of Dubuque's population. It's a very WHITE city, even by Iowa standards.

Davenport is 12.4% Black and 8.5% Hispanic. Des Moines is 10.8% Black and 13.3% Hispanic. Cedar Rapids, while less diverse than the aforementioned, still has 6.3% Black and 3.7% Hispanic.

Those three cities have at least 10% minority populations. In fact, Davenport and Des Moines both exceed 20% minority. Dubuque can't even get to 5% in those two categories.

How does that make Dubuque diverse compared to other larger cities in Iowa?
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Old 01-07-2016, 08:32 AM
 
Location: MetroWest Boston
316 posts, read 270,396 times
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So much of whether a town 'is right for us' is relative. Decorah is a fine town if you like northeastern IA small town living. A better measure may be where you are coming from? Have you experienced small town life before, or life in the Midwest?
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