Is this Iowa town the future of rural tech jobs?

A new rural tech hub in Iowa? The small town of Stanton, Iowa has made heavy investments into tech, remote, and hybrid workers by bringing a robust fiber optic connection to every home. As remote work takes hold and they launch a new technology park, has their time come? Kevin Cabbage, CEO of Farmers Mutual Telephone Company (FMTC) explains why he believes Iowa towns with fiber optic internet have an edge in the new world of work.

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Fiber Internet in Stanton, Iowa?

Stanton is home to 678 people as of the 2020 Census. Their investment in the future of remote work started in 2011 with a USDA program, the Rural Utility Services telephone, and infrastructure loan program. The town qualified for some low-interest loans, and FMTC made it happen and completed the rollout in 2017, long before most Des Moines Metro homes were connected to fiber internet.

What does it mean to have fiber optic cable to every Stanton home? “What used to take you hours over traditional DSL modems, you can download 4K movies in less than 5 minutes on our network. And probably even faster,” Cabbage said.

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Iowa towns with fiber optic internet

Any Iowa towns with fiber optic internet have an advantage as remote become unshackled to workplaces in bigger, more expensive towns. Stanton, Iowa is positioned to be the rural location of choice for tech and remote workers who need lightning-fast connections.

Even before the pandemic, Stanton was positioning itself to attract remote and hybrid workers. When the world responded to Covid-19 by shutting down schools and businesses, Stanton didn’t blink. Cabbage says their capacity easily handled the spike in traffic, and today they’re ready for rapid growth.

Fiber internet is everything in this connected age, and Cabbage says other rural communities are taking note. He sits on The Connect Committee in the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Task Force. This task force’s goal is to bring broadband internet to Iowa.

“I know there has been a lot of emphases placed, and support by the state of Iowa to really look at how we can develop these rural areas and rural communities.” He said. “I feel all rural Iowa communities have the same opportunity, again; it’s just where are they with the amenities and infrastructure to handle that kind of growth.”

Stanton Technology Park

The connectivity is also enabling a new technology park in Stanton. While many other towns in their area focused on industrial recruitment, something unique to SW Iowa is its focus on tech and remote workers.

In the northern part of Stanton, a 20 Acre parcel has been divided into 4 to 5 smaller lots and 4 to 5 larger lots for larger tech facilities and operations. The dirt work got started late in the fall of 2022.

Stanton is unique in that it sits on Iowa’s broadband fiber optic network backbone. The network is provided by Aureon, the state’s fiber-optic network provider, of which FMTC is a shareholder. The town has 4 different fiber optic routes leaving the town. When you layer FMTC’s redundant network on top, it provides attractive redundancy and dependable connection for large tech operations.

This connectivity is key for servers and data-heavy applications like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and critical cloud services that require 100% uptime.

Today, the internet is everything, and word is getting out, presenting a few new challenges. Housing and daycare. Other Iowa towns with fiber optic internet will soon be taking note.

Rural Housing and Daycare

Young families are moving in to connect to nature, find a quieter neighborhood and get out of the city, but that means daycare capacity is at its peak. There’s currently a waiting list of 25 children, and that number is growing. That’s why they’re currently building a new $3.2M 12,000 square-foot daycare facility.

As for housing? The town of Stanton is using a large scaled 3D Printer to print houses. You read that correctly. FMTC has partnered with Alquist 3D. The company has already printed four homes in Virginia with Habitat for Humanity, and Cabbage is hopeful this tech will spearhead new housing projects needed to scale Stanton. Jason Clayworth wrote a great summary at Axios (read it here). That printer is now in Stanton.

There’s also a new downtown facade project at Stanton that will finalize March of 2023.

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