Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy snaps a photo of the Carroll Depot Business Center, a former Walmart building that is now a growing commercial hub.
Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy snaps a photo of the Carroll Depot Business Center, a former Walmart building that is now a growing commercial hub.
May 8, 2013

Smithsonian Magazine has named Fairfield, Iowa, one of the top 20 small cities in the United States to visit in 2013. The city's veteran mayor, Ed Malloy, saved business leaders in Carroll a drive to the southeast part of the state by bringing the Fairfield story to the Carroll Area Development Corp. Tuesday during the organization's noon luncheon.

The City of Fairfield is a hive of business innovation and cultural activity boasting the second-highest educated population in Iowa, behind only Iowa City and Ames. Nearly 40 percent of the city's residents have a bachelor's degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census.

"We've been called the entrepreneurial capital of the United States by several of the past governors," Malloy said.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, one of the those former governors, refers to Fairfield as a "model for small-town success."

Smithsonian Magazine says it's the seventh-ranked small city to visit this year. Gettysburg, Pa., is ranked No. 1.

"The economy started perking in the 1980s with e-commerce and dot-coms, earning Fairfield the name 'Silicorn Valley,' then launched start-ups devoted to everything from genetic crop-testing to investment counseling," Smithsonian reports.

Since 1989 the Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association has played a role in developing more than 4,000 jobs and bringing $280 million in investment capital to the city.

Some of the companies in Fairfield include:

- The Sky Factory, which manufactures digital videos of sky, land and sea for placement on ceilings and walls.

- iPhone Life Magazine, a popular publication on the leading Apple products.

- Cambridge Investment Research, a leading independent broker/dealer with a major campus and hundreds of employees.

- Green Building Supply, an environmentally friendly home center.

- Ideal Energy, a company that maximizes energy efficiency at businesses and residences.

In 2007, the city opened the 32,000-square-foot, $8 million Fairfield Arts and Convention Center, which holds a convention and exhibition area as well as a performing arts theater and other amenities.

The community also developed an intra-city trails system.

Many businesses in Fairfield are installing solar panels to reduce electricity bills. With a raft of federal and state and utility incentives, the panels can go up for 25 percent to 30 percent of cost, with a return on investment in just a few years, Malloy said.

"It's one of those things that's a little bit of a secret," Malloy said.

A private entity in Fairfield is proposing the development of a solar-energy utility that would pull power from the sun on 60 acres.

"You have to believe that those things can happen almost anywhere," Malloy said.