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ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Orange City is growing faster than Iowa. Orange City is younger than the rest of Iowa. Orange City residents earn more income and enjoy a higher rate of employment than other Iowa communities.

For these factors, and others, the Sioux County seat has been deemed to be the "happiest city in Iowa."

An Internet site called "HomeSnacks" used an October 2015 Harris poll to determine how happy folks were across Iowa. Orange City was found to be the happiest place, based on percentage of residents with a college degree, average commute times, employment rates, cost of living, crime, sunny days and more.

Sioux Center rated second among Iowa's "happiest cities." Locally, Sheldon and Le Mars were ninth and 10th.

State rankings in the survey showed Iowa holding down the second-place spot, trailing only Nebraska.

"HomeSnacks" reported that nearly 80 percent of residents in "The OC" own their home, the second highest rate in Iowa. And while almost nobody is unemployed (the unemployment rate was 2.8 percent and maybe has fallen since that time), the average commute to work is just 10 minutes.

The news likely brought a smile to the face of Mark Gaul, Orange City's community development director. It could be another "ace in the hole" he can use when marketing the city he's called home for the past 2 1/2 years.

"I don't like to just make general statements about how Orange City is better than another community," says Gaul. "We try to get the facts out there."

To wit, says Gaul: Orange City's population grew 7.6 percent in the last U.S. Census cycle, outpacing Iowa's growth of 4.1 percent; Orange City's median age is 29.1 years, younger than the 38.1 state average; and median income at $55,000 in Orange City tops Iowa's median income level of $50,000.

Highlights in 2015 that kept Orange City residents working -- and smiling -- include the Orange City Area Daycare Center, which realized the construction of a 10,380-foot addition to essentially double its capacity.

The Stadscentrum opened for the Orange City Tulip Festival in May. This downtown building now houses the Dutch wooden shoes and Dutch organ. It was a popular site throughout the year, especially during the Tulip Festival when thousands converged on the Sioux County seat for a show of tulips, dancing and all kinds of Dutch traditions.

That nod to the "Old World" shows all throughout the community as businesses that remodel or build still have the Dutch Front Committee suggest or sign off on construction plans that contain some sort of Dutch architectural features.

"The Dutch fronts give us something unique to market," Gaul says. "And that sets us apart from other communities."

And gives the development director, and residents, something to feel "happiest" about.

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