Most small towns are battling residents leaving for larger communities, but not Huxley.
The city of roughly 3,500 and counting, in southern Story County, has experienced unprecedented growth in the last 15 years - the 2000 census at Huxley showed 2,316 residents, while 2010’s saw 3,317. Ground will soon be broken on a new Fareway food store - Huxley’s first major corporation store - near the housing development just north of the new Ballard High School. Meanwhile, the city has signs up promoting commercial lots for sale along U.S. Highway 69 on the south side of town as part of the Huxley Business Park, which is managed by the Huxley Development Corporation.
I’m really proud of this community,” said Mayor Craig Henry, mayor since his election in November of 2011 and a resident of Huxley since 1992. He had been on the City Council since 2000.
“It’s a wonderful and dynamic community,” said Henry. “We have several neighborhood parks, the 3C’s Community Center, great police and fire departments and a strong religious community. The addition of our ambulance service has been a great testament to the hard work and dedication of our EMS volunteers.”
The community also supports a food and clothing pantry. Huxley will celebrate twenty years of its annual Prairie Festival on Aug. 22, 23, and 24. Henry said the rapid growth reminds him of his hometown, Indianola, which has grown from a population of 4,500 when he graduated from high school in 1969 to just under 15,000 today.
“It’s a lot like where I grew up,” says Henry about Huxley. “Indianola is a college town and there are a lot of similarities, with our proximity to Iowa State.”
While Henry is aware of and appreciates the closeness of Ames and Iowa State University (about 10 miles away, depending on your destination), as well as Interstate 35 (two miles away), he feels that Huxley has enough to offer on its own. “I don’t want [Huxley] to be known as a shirt-tail community,” said Henry. “We have such a vibrant and dynamic community right here and I think we have a lot to offer for commercial and residential growth.”
Henry talks often with business leaders in Huxley and the other communities that comprise the Ballard school district (Cambridge, Kelley and Slater) about ways to attract even more business to the area. The four communities recently decided to band together and form the Ballard Business Association. In addition to the Fareway store, Huxley alone hosts national companies like Monsanto and Kreg Tool.
“We have a thriving and dynamic business community throughout the Ballard area,” said Henry. “Some people disagree, but I see the synergy of our Ballard community as a good thing.” More workers means more families moving with them, and the Ballard Community Schools help bring families to the area and keep them in the area. “People see the quality of our schools and communities here as unique magnets,” said Henry.
All the commercial and residential growth led Henry and the City Council to approve infrastructure improvements over the last few years, including a new water treatment plant and a new wastewater treatment plant. While these have been the cause of some friction between local residents and government, Henry still feels the right decision was made.
“I’ve been criticized by some for borrowing money to upgrade our infrastructure,” said Henry. “It is difficult to determine the return on the investment, but it was needed and necessary. I think we are beginning to see a portion of that money coming back to us now.”
Another area where Huxley has invested is the economic development of the city. In addition to the current visioning process, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and Trees Forever, Huxley contracts its economic development promotion through the Ames Economic Development Commission.
“Dan Culhane and his staff have the experience, expertise and know what we need to do and what we need to focus on,” said Henry. “Their staff, as well as our city staff, have created a great team that has worked to help the local businesses, and looking back, it’s been a good investment for the community.”
Henry is quick to point out that nothing in Huxley or any city gets done by one person. He credits the City Council and city staff for their dedication and genuine interest in the well-being of the community where they work and live.