Last summer, Iowa Lakes Corridor staff began collecting data for a Cost of Living Index for communities. The Cost of Living Index is designed to provide a useful and reasonably accurate measure to compare and contrast cost of living among urban areas, but also has a small cities component. Four communities in the Iowa lakes Corridor region are part of the small cities component that currently includes 14 small communities from Texas, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Utah, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma and the Virgin Islands.
Items on which the index is based have been carefully chosen to reflect different categories of consumer expenditures. Prices are collected at a specific time, in strict conformance with standard specifications, and provide a sound basis for constructing a gauge of differences in the cost of consumer goods and services.
"Employers have asked for cost of living data for many years as they search and relocate professionals to live, work and play in the Corridor region. We felt participating in this survey each quarter was important and would help the region's overall workforce recruitment efforts," Kathy Evert, president and CEO of the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation, said.
The index has several key areas: food, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services. There is a separate index for each area as well as a composite index. The Corridor staff conducts the surveys in person at area grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and other shops, as well as by phone. Area business support is greatly appreciated and will help ensure an accurate index is developed each quarter.
The average for all participating communities is 100. The composite scores for each town were slightly above average. Estherville's composite score was 103.3, Spencer was 101.1, Spirit Lake was 100.9, and Storm Lake was 100.4. Utilities ranged well below average in all communities, from a low of 79.0 in Spencer to 96.8 in Storm Lake.
A cost of living calculator will be available for the public to use on the Corridor's website as a part of its workforce recruitment efforts. The cost of living calculator uses continuously updated data pulled directly from the highly regarded ACCRA Cost of Living Index to make these comparisons. The ACCRA Cost of Living Index data is based on the prices of more than 60 goods and services, updated quarterly and is highly regarded as the most accurate and reliable source of data comparing costs from city to city.
"The calculator will help individuals determine the salary needed to live in another community based upon their current salary," Evert said. "It will include all of the small cities and the urban areas that participate in the ACCRA survey and will be another tool in our toolkit."
Corridor staff will continue to gather and release COLI data each quarter. The next gathering time is Jan. 10-12.