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Home to land-grant Iowa State University, Ames is a pleasant college town a short distance north of Des Moines along I-35. Downtown is typical of most small college towns, clean, attractive and containing a variety of independent small businesses. The economic base is steady, anchored by the university and other state agencies and an assortment of mostly agricultural, pharmaceutical and biotech-related manufacturing and research facilities for companies like 3M, BASF, Ball Plastics and Boehringer Ingleheim.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Animal Disease Center makes its home in Ames, Most residents work locally and commutes are very short – the shortest on average in the U.S. Educational attainment is high; schools are strong and have won national recognition. The Cost of living is reasonable for the profile. The city has a strong parks and recreation system, but outdoor activities are generally not abundant in the surrounding area. Ames has a solid Midwestern feel, but some may not find enough to do in the area nor in Des Moines to the south.
The terrain is mainly flat to slightly rolling and agricultural, with the Skunk River flowing through town in a shallow valley. Climate is typically continental with strong seasonal variations. Summers are warm and humid with frequent showers and thunderstorms, some heavy. Winter brings mostly cold, dry air from the north with short periods of precipitation, mainly snow. Below zero temperatures, strong winds and wind chills occur occasionally. Fall is dry and pleasant. First freeze is early October, last is early May.
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