Recognition, both from the public and the media, can be a hard thing for small towns nestled between major metropolitan cities to achieve.

In a recent end-of-the-year survey,, a online residential publication, ranked the 20 of the best small towns in Iowa, using science and data-based algorithm.

Four small towns from Story County earned a spot on the list that used a formula that factored a town’s population density, unemployment rates, housing cost and demand, adjusted median income, level of education among adults, commute times and insurance rates.

Those towns are Roland at No. 8, Gilbert at No. 12, Slater at No. 17, and Story City at No. 20. They each earned a ranking among a pool of 100 small towns with a median population under 5,000.

“I like that recognition because we have available property for bringing in more homes, we’re a vibrant community that welcomes developers, as well as new young families,” said Roland mayor Andy Webb. “We have a great education system here in Roland, students here get the opportunity to participate in many activities in our school district.”

With a population of 1,336 and a top-10 ranking, Roland earned high scores in unemployment (0.5 percent) education, housing affordability ($608 median rent), and commute time.

The city of Gilbert, with just under 2,000 residents at the time of the study, received near-perfect scores for education and employment rate, while placing in second-tier ranking in jobs and affordability.

Slater kept pace with its fellow Story City communities with high-grades in employment, education, and commute and housing.

While Story City, with the most residents of its counterparts, scored the highest commute rate of all four and posted strong totals in safety, education, affordability and employment.

Fairfax, of Linn County ranked No. 1 on the list with perfect scores in affordability, education, and safety, followed by Walford of Benton County and Robins, also of Linn County, rounding out the top three.

Story County had the second-most towns listed in the ranking with four, right behind Linn County, which had five.