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Courtesy of Waukee
Population 16,696
Median Income $76,577
Job Growth 15.1%
Median Home Price $195,109
Property Tax $3,535

Stand in the center of Waukee's Triangle Park and there is no doubting you’re in the Midwest: silos of grain tower across the street, residents gather under a quaint wooden gazebo, and wide-open blue skies stretch across the nearby prairies. But don’t mistake this for a slow-paced farming community: up-and-coming Waukee is one of the fastest growing towns in the state.

Des Moines, a 20-minute drive away, offers great jobs in the financial, healthcare, and education industries, and two Fortune 500 companies are headquartered there. Waukee is also surrounded by a dozen higher education institutions, like Iowa State University, less than an hour to the north. Waukee’s 5-year job growth projection of 15.1% is almost double the national outlook, and its unemployment rate stands at a super-low 2.7%.

Great jobs attract great families from outside the area, which is why Waukee’s fast-growing school district boasts 55 languages spoken by students, 16 of whom have been named National Merit Finalists in recent years.

One standout display of community pride can be seen in the town’s new festival: BACooN Ride. Here residents combine three things to love about the area into one day-long event: the local 72-mile Racoon River Valley trail, biking, and Iowa’s famous bacon. Participants start in Waukee and bike part or all of the trail, stopping for bacon snacks.

Humid summers and frigid winters are a downside to the area, as is the relative lack of cultural amenities compared with some of the other towns on our list. But Waukee is planning a 1,500-acre mixed-use development, including a cultural and civic center, in the coming years. —Michaela Ross

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