The Fairfield Story
Fairfield Business Review • 2010
In 2006, Mother Earth News named Fairfield one of the ideal places to live in America in their first list of “great places you never heard of.” Their criterion was simple, “an ideal place would have beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities; civic pride and a healthy economy; and a community of people who care about the environment, sustainability, alternative energy and fresh, wholesome food.”
Fairfield has world-class amenities.
Fairfield is home to the world’s premier ayurvedic health spa, the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco, the David Lynch Foundation and is headquarters for sixty companies that lead their industries.
Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy was named one of the Fifteen Greenest Mayors in America, in 2009 by MSN.com.
Fairfield’s Go-Green Sustainable Strategic Plan is both timely and forward thinking. The Sustainable Living Coalition and the newly formed Fairfield Green Business Council is fostering energy efficiency, cost savings and new and clean business development.
Fairfield is an award-winning city.
Fairfield was named an Iowa Great Place in 2006. Fairfield was the inaugural winner of the Grass Roots Entrepreneurship award from the National Council of Small Communities and the Community Vitality Centers Entrepreneurial Community of the Year in 2003. The Fairfield Art Walk, held on the first Friday of every month has received the Iowa Tourism of the Year award.
The most important awards are those that we give locally for entrepreneurial success and civic contributions. The Fairfield Entrepreneur of the Year, Fairfield Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, Fairfield First award and Citizen of the Year are examples of the recognition to the innovation, creativity and contribution of Fairfield’s business community.
Civic and Social entrepreneurship in Fairfield is robust. There are over one hundred and sixty non-profits and foundations with assets in excess of $270 million. Jefferson County ranks as the number one county in Iowa in per capita giving.
In the summer of 1979, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi asked 2,000 attendees at a World Peace Assembly at the University of Massachusetts to move to Fairfield, the home of Maharishi International University, to live and start businesses in a social experiment to create world peace. The practice of the advanced TM-Sidhi program in groups had been shown to reduce crime and stress in society. Maharishi predicted that the square root of one percent of a country’s population would make it invincible to negative influences.
There weren’t a lot of job opportunities in Fairfield. What followed was a lot of trial and error in terms of entrepreneurial startups of every type imaginable. Young entrepreneurs started looking to emerging markets due to the deregulation of television advertising or telecommunications for business opportunities. Others created software companies to provide products for the exploding number of personal and business computers.
Parsons College, Fairfield’s largest employer closed in 1973 after ninety years, leaving a vacuum in Fairfield and the local economy. Parsons College enrollment exploded from eight hundred to over nearly five thousand students during the 1960‘s and early 1970‘s because of their “open enrollment” policy. Parsons was a Mecca for young men who were seeking a quality education and a draft deferment during the Vietnam War. When the Vietnam War was over, there was no longer the threat of the draft and enrollment declined Concurrently, Parsons lost its accreditation for a variety reasons and enrollment plummeted.
MUM moves to Fairfield in 1974
In 1974, Maharishi University of Management, (MUM) founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, moved to Fairfield from a temporary, rented facility near the University of California-Santa Barbara in Goleta, California. The Fairfield was attractive for several reasons. There were enough single room accommodations for over eight hundred students and the 260-acre campus provided ample room for expansion.
The MUM curriculum was innovative and included practice of Transcendental Meditation and the theoretical Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI). This consciousness based approach to education was cutting-edge. What began as an effort to teach ancient Vedic principles of health and peace to Americans has spread into many aspects of life in the community, including architecture and preventive medicine.
Two miles north of Fairfield is Maharishi Vedic City, where all homes are designed and built according to the principles of ayur-vedic architecture, in which each building faces east and has a central silent space called a brahmasthan and a golden roof ornament called a kalash. The sale of non-organic food is banned in the city. One hundred acres of greenhouses, powered by wind and solar energy, provide year-round production of organic food. Fairfield has the most homes with solar energy or other
green building features in Iowa. The county has the most acres of organic cultivation in the state. Cypress Villages, a third city is being developed between Fairfield and Maharishi Vedic City as first all-green, sustainable city in Iowa. All the buildings will be platinum LEED certified.
The county has the most acres of organic cultivation in the state.
FEA’s 20th Anniversary
Fairfield hosts an Eco-Fair every year, and has the most homes with solar energy or other green building features in Iowa. The county has the most acres of organic cultivation in the state. Cypress Villages, a third city is being developed between Fairfield and Maharishi Vedic City as first all-green, sustainable city in Iowa. All the buildings will be platinum LEED certified.
Town Turned into Incubator: Creating an Entrepreneurial Class
This is the twentieth anniversary of the Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association (FEA), one of America’s leading peer-to-peer network that has helped create 4,000 new jobs and attract $280 million in investment in startup companies.
Entrepreneurial Development System
The Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association started in 1989 and is now considered one of the leading entrepreneurial development organizations of its kind in the U.S. today. The FEA has created replicable entrepreneurship and incubator development systems that communities around the country have replicated. Whether it a Biz Bounce for seed stage businesses, entrepreneur relocation program, mentoring-networking programs for startups, microenterprise loans or CEO roundtables for established businesses, there is support for every type of entrepreneur.
Economic Gardening Hot Spot
The virtual entrepreneurial support system in Fairfield makes use of economic gardening hot spots such as the Fairfield Public Library and local coffee shops and bookstores for convenient low cost meeting spaces and resource centers. It could be said that every restaurant becomes an economic gardening hot spot at lunchtime. This is one of the reasons why Fairfield has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco.
The social and business networks in Fairfield are robust. It is commonplace to share resources, business contacts and experiences.
Fairfield nurtures, supports and celebrates its entrepreneurial class because these entrepreneurs not only create jobs and wealth: They become the angel investors, role models and mentors for successive entrepreneurial ventures.
Silicorn Valley: Entrepreneurial Capital of Iowa
Fairfield has been described as Silicorn Valley by dozens of major newspapers and magazines. It is a testament to companies leveraging the Internet, driving e-commerce and commercializing on new technologies. 100-megabit fiber is common in Fairfield. By the spring of 2010, most businesses and homes will have access to 1-gigabit Internet connection.
Entrepreneurial Capital of Iowa
Since the 1980’s the entrepreneurial activity, startups and investment has diversified the local economy. There have been nearly a billion dollars generated by IPO’s, mergers and acquisitions of Fairfield-based companies. Many business magazines and newspapers such as Wired, Business 2.0 and the New York Times referred to Fairfield as Silicorn Valley the high tech business boom and use of the Internet. Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad called Fairfield the “entrepreneurial Capital of Iowa” due to the fact that a third of venture capital in the entire state was invested in Fairfield-based companies.
Go Green Plan
The City of Fairfield collaborated with the Iowa Power Fund and Alliant Energy to implement planning and energy savings that will save the City nearly $100,000 per year. The city, in collaboration with Iowa State University Extension, hired Scott Timm as a full-time sustainability coordinator for three years. The new plan envisions everything from conserving energy to supporting local farms.
Sustainable learning is one of the fastest growing departments of Maharishi University of Management. MUM was the first college in the U.S. to offer 100% organic food service.
The FEA, Sustainability Coalition and Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa recently received a grant from the Community Vitality Center to foster a solar hot water heater revolving loan program and micro-enterprise loans for local food and energy-related businesses.
Fairfield First! is a non-profit created to promote local economy issues and sustainability issues related to food, energy, local commerce, local banking and local giving.
Follywood: Creative Economy
Fairfield has emerged as the entertainment capital of Iowa. Way Off Broadway is the only professional theater company in Iowa and performs in the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. The Sondheim Center hosts world-class live theater, comedy and classical music. There is an emerging digital media cluster of small businesses. Filmmaker David Lynch host an annual weekend on the MUM campus on consciousness and creativity. The Beach Boys recorded an album in Fairfield.
Over five hundred Fairfield area residents make their living as artists, authors, book cover designers, casting directors and videographers. Several artists have created art-based businesses such as the Sky Factory and Bovard Studio.
Innovative: Trend-Setting City
Fairfield has been an innovative community since it was first formed in the 1800’s. City fathers early on recognized the importance of infrastructure and transportation. Securing the Rock Island Railroad intersection with the Union Pacific railroad was an important step in attracting and expanding manufacturing businesses in Fairfield. They were able to attract Turney Wagon Works and Dexter. Turney Wagon Works made the legendary Charter Oak wagon that was considered the “Cadillac” of wagons. Louden Machinery Works turned out to be the largest freight hauler of the Rock Island line.
Fairfield is home to the first golf club west of the Mississippi River and one of the earliest Carnegie libraries. Fairfield businesses were one of the first communities to leverage the Internet for e-commerce. Local entrepreneurs provided the first Internet services. Fairfield is considered one of the most wired communities in the country and will upgrade to 100 gigabit (200x faster than DSL) service by the summer of 2010.
Meditation and ayurveda have gone mainstream in the U.S. but Fairfield was the place, more than any other, that adopted and popularized these practices.
The direct response television business started in Fairfield and continues to be dominated by Hawthorne Direct. Cambridge Investment Research, one of Fairfield’s fastest growing employers also helped create the spot market brokerage business for the oil industry.
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