Underwood, North Dakota

As a community marketing plan example we are highlighting one of the six communities who has moved forward with their planning since the end of the research project. Underwood, North Dakota has effectively designed and implemented their community marketing plan and strategic plan. Underwood is a community of about 800 people, as of 2011, located near energy resources and development. Prior to the research project Underwood's main concern was growth due to a decreasing population.
Website: underwoodnd.net


History of Underwood, ND (2009-2011 Strategic Plan)

The town of Underwood was established in 1903 and quickly grew to over 600 people by 1907. The presence of the railroad and the construction of Garrison Dam in the 1950s contributed to Underwood's early growth but with the introduction of US Hwy 83, the region's main trade corridor, the town began to experience a change in its growth patterns.

The boom of the automobile and road drastically changed the town of Underwood since it was further away from circulation and the new market place built by US Hwy 83 than neighboring towns. As a result, "shotgun growth" emerged east of the railroad, while the downtown corridor slowly lost a significant amount of its retail business. A sprinkling of businesses currently lines US Hwy 83 near Underwood, but provides little draw into the community itself.

During the 1970s the population of Underwood grew significantly due to the openings of the Coal Creek power plant and the Falkirk lignite mine, but the population steadily declined from its 1980 peak of 1,329 residents. According to the 2000 US Census, Underwood had a population of 812, but the 2009 number was closer to 750. The K-12 Underwood Public School was experiencing an eroding population as well as, a significant economic leakage of business activity from Underwood to larger trade areas.

The Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation was incorporated in September 1990. Through its efforts, as well as the actions of the Underwood City Council, and several private citizens and benefactors, Underwood began its initial stage of "re-energizing", which was fortified in 2004 through the completion and creation of several projects and developments.

In 2009 Underwood took part in the Rural Community Marketing project. Then the Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation, through its participation in the Northwest Area Foundation's Horizons Program, developed a two-year Strategic Plan for the City of Underwood focusing on five goals and specific areas. In 2010 Underwood completed their first marketing plan, focusing on the areas established in the strategic plan. Due to these plans and assistance Underwood has experienced economic and community growth since 2009. Underwood is currently (2011) revamping their strategic plan and marketing plan to incorporate these community changes.

HF paradeCommunity Stone Soup Meeting

Assets (2008 Horizons Study Circles)

In addition to the school and the medical facilities, the town's assets include:

  1. An active and engaged City Council, who together with the Underwood Area Economic Development Council, is focused on Underwood's growth.
  2. A strong employer base in the energy park south of town, which includes the Falkirk Mine, Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station, and Blue Flint Ethanol. This trio of employers hosts a monthly roundtable for discussion of both employer and community issues for Underwood and Washburn.
  3. A significant investment in infrastructure for residential lot development. Over 30 city-owned lots are ready for development.
  4. Awareness by the elected officials of the need for elderly housing. A pilot program funded by the Essential Function Bond program is fully-leased.
  5. A recently re-opened grocery store owned and operated by new residents. 2009 Homecoming
  6. An active Park Board that is interested in improving existing recreational facilities, including an outdoor pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, and volleyball courts.
  7. The 18-hole Westridge Golf Course.
  8. The McLean County Fairgrounds and Speedway.
  9. The Friends of the Library and other civic groups who organize community-wide events.
  10. Attractive residential areas that indicate pride of ownership.
  11. Six churches of different faiths.
  12. A growing number of citizens who are aware of the community's strengths and weaknesses.

These assets became the town PRODUCTS

  • Underwood is a growing community attractive to all who want to be part of a compassionate, caring and accepting place. We provide recreation and services for those who want to grow, prosper and retire in a place they can call home.
  • Underwood public school is the pride of the community. It provides world class education and activities in a dynamic learning environment for youth and adults.
  • We are a diverse and vibrant business community that excels in quality and service from the perfect T-Bone steak to the best medical care. Residents and visitors alike can find it all in Underwood.
  • Our beautiful city has a proud history and a promising future.

Economic Mission
  • To promote, encourage and assist in the development and advancement of business prosperity and economic well-being of this community; to stimulate growth of new and existing businesses which will in turn maintain the economic stability of this community and provide employment possibilities in this area.

  • Goal 1: Increase the population of Underwood by five (5) families each year. (Growth)
  • Goal 2: Increase the physical attractiveness of Underwood. (Beauty)
  • Goal 3: Increase levels of acceptance to instill a sense of belonging and pride by all community residents. (Caring, compassionate community)
  • Goal 4: Partner with the Underwood School to achieve and maintain world class status in helping students and community members lead full lives and reach their potential. (Dynamic learning environment)
  • Goal 5: Retain and expand the quality and variety of retail, recreational, and human services to help diversify the local economy and respond to global change. (Diverse and vibrant business community)

Strategies (strategic plan 2009-2011)
  1. Branding: includes community words and images with a specific message that have meaning to new residents and represent community.
  2. Leadership Training: helps reinforce the "energized" brand-suggest all public officials, community leaders and business leaders participate.
  3. Entrepreneurship: helps reinforce "energized" brand-classes can help spark creativity & provide tools. Assistance from ND Small Business Development Center.
  4. Buy Local Campaign: regionalize outreach and buy local efforts, create a "sustainable community". Possibly coordinate with Satellite Center.
  5. Additional Strategies: Internal Marketing, External Marketing and Promotion (traditional & internet)
Strategic Plan

2009-2011 Strategic Plan(pdf) Underwood Horizons Celebration

Consists of:

  • 5 Main Goals
  • Community Description
  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement
  • Strategies per each goal-different ways of reaching the goal
  • Action Plans per each strategy-including: Objectives, Date of Completion, Responsibility, and Status/Date
  • Board Member Authorization

Underwood is currently working on a strategic plan for 2012 that will provide an in-depth focus on leadership training, entrepreneurship and the Buy Local campaign.

Marketing Plan

Underwood Marketing Plan

This was presented to the Underwood Community in anticipation of creating a usable marketing plan. It includes some possible ideas and examples for the community. Created by Cheryl-Burkhart-Kriesel, University of Nebraska-Extension.

2010 Marketing Plan Draft Underwood is currently working on completing their official 2012 marketing plan. This is the first draft created in 2010, based off the 2009 strategic plan.

Consists of:

  • Introduction of community & plan
  • Current Picture of Underwood progress
  • Key Competitive Assests
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Internal Marketing (Generating Community Pride)
  • External Marketing (Business Recruitment)

The photo is an outline of the marketing plan Underwood presented to the community in 2010.


Underwood residents were invited (see invitation) to participate in a discussion on test-marketing a powerpoint presentation developed by NRI for marketing Underwood. This presentation and meeting were designed to help identify the marketing strategies that best suited Underwood specifically. Fourteen people attended the meeting and held a two-hour discussion. It was decided to have a follow-up discussion and each person committed to bringing at least one other community member.

A regional TV station did a story on economic development in Underwood. The interview was held Fall of 2010. It focused on the Underwood Inn, which was restored by a local group of investors. Becky Bowen also discussed the two restaurants reopening, the sale of the lumberyard, the new home construction, the highway signage, the new consignment store, and the beautification projects.


Several committees were formed: Trails/paths committee, Business recruitment committee, and the Welcome wagon and Events committee.

Becky Bowen was nominated as Professional Developer of the Year and Underwood was awarded Entrepreneurial Community of the Year by Market Place Ideas for their work in successfully re-developing the Underwood Community.Go Loco for Local

Launched Buy Local Campaign with "Go Loco for Local" supported by the Underwood Business Alliance/Underwood Civic Club and the Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation. "We started the Underwood Business Alliance in the fall of 2011 with the idea of making it easier for Underwood residents to live a local and more sustainable life."
Go Loco for Local Brochure

Launched the First Annual Underwood Mid-Summer Classics: along with car owners, enthusiasts, and community members, this show attracted over 300 bikers.

Updated Website (underwoodnd.net) "It is still not perfect, but gives a lot of information. More than a lot of other small towns do. We are planning to update it again." -Beck Bowen


Plan to hold a series of community meets, starting in January, to prepare a new strategic plan. This is particularly important because Underwood is a "fringe area" community in terms of the oil expansion western North Dakota is experiencing.

January 19 Underwood will be hosting a region-wide meeting to discuss how to prepare for the expected oil impact.

Renovated & Newly Opened Businesses
  • T-Bone's Steakhouse and Lounge: Opened August 1, 2010-Scott and Dawn Sackman purchased an old Cafe, tore everything out and started new.
  • The Underwood Inn: Opened 2011-Underwood Commercial Properties, Inc., invested over $200,000 in renovations to the historic building.

T bonesUnderwood Inn

Updated economic development and marketing goals and implementation plan currently used by Underwood