About North Iowa

Internationally recognized architecture. Sandy beaches and clear waters. A culture of entrepreneurship. A legacy of art, music, and the performing arts. Short commutes and top-tier schools. North Iowans enjoy all the benefits of a small-town atmosphere, as well as affordable housing and amenities — without sacrificing quality of life. 

The North Iowa region, centered on Mason City, is located in the heart of the Midwest, a two-hour drive on Interstate 35 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to the north and Des Moines, Iowa, to the south, easy for a day-trip or weekend getaway. This north-south corridor intersects four other major highways, and North Iowa also has daily flights out of the Mason City Airport via United Airlines. Together, these transportation options make the area convenient for general travel as well as business travel, allowing easy access for suppliers, clients, and corporate hubs. 

Life in North Iowa combines the beauty, comfort, and safety of rural living without the hassle and high prices of a metropolis. It means having access to Broadway-level shows at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) and going white-water kayaking in Charles City or jamming with a nationally-known band at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake — itself a great place to be when summer hits.

Community partner

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) is the strategic community outreach arm for the college, working with regional entrepreneurs and early-stage startups in its nine-county service area. The Pappajohn Center’s mission is to operate as a full-service entrepreneurial support center driving development and growth, creating innovative and scalable new businesses, and accelerating high-growth potential businesses. It is one of five John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers in Iowa. Together, they have supported 237,500 individuals, launched 6,123 businesses, and created 11,941 jobs since 1996. 

Working with the North Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), JPEC functions as a fully integrated business assistance and adult entrepreneurial education center, and has a proven track record of success. JPEC clients’ five-year business survival rate continually exceeds both the state and national rates.

What RIN means to North Iowa

"The Rural Innovation Network will provide North Iowa access to collaborate with a dedicated group of communities working to bring the benefits of the digital economies to rural parts of the United States. The networking and lessons from these relationships will provide us the ability to scale our programming faster and better understand how to build a growth model for financial sustainability."

Tim Putnam, Director of NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center

Explore our Network

Today, these local leaders are focused on educating and training local residents in digital skills (especially those traditionally excluded from the tech industry), employing them in new economy jobs, and empowering them to launch startups that will drive a prosperous 21st-century economy. Diverse in geography, economic origin, and demographics, these communities represent the full spectrum of rural America.