#8. Cedar Rapids
There’s been some big money spent to improve Cedar Rapids, but it’s not coming out of the pockets of residents. The city and private investors have spent more than $1 billion on revitalization of the downtown area, renovating historic cultural venues while adding innovative restaurants, office spaces and housing. Cedar Rapids may be the largest corn-processing city in the country, but the city’s entertainment offerings, parks and low cost of living make it one of the best affordable cities to live in.
Last year we ranked Cedar Rapids as the 10th best affordable city, but new a cost analysis and examination of income levels moved the city up two spots to No. 8. Most residents spend less than 24 percent of their annual incomes on housing, and they pay about three percent less for utilities. The median household income in Cedar Rapids is $54,465.
Residents find great deals on a variety of things to do in Cedar Rapids. Tickets to watch the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a minor league baseball team, can be purchased for as little as $7. Activities like strolling along the pathways at Indian Creek Nature Center, viewing artifacts at the Masonic Library & Museum and listening to music at McGrath Amphitheatre are free. Note: Many concerts at McGrath are not free, but they are reasonably priced.
The economy in Cedar Rapids is rooted in agriculture, manufacturing and food processing. Rockwell Collins, a tech company that produces equipment and systems for airplanes, and food makers Quaker Oats and General Mills are among the top employers in Cedar Rapids. The city has also become a hotbed for wind energy, and it is home to two dozen Fortune 500 companies and nearly 300 manufacturing plants. Unemployment levels have remained low here.