Community Cupboard of Underwood is set to open

The Underwood Community Cupboard will be opening its doors with its first food distribution on October 22 from 10 am-12 pm. The community cupboard is a food and household goods pantry that will be serving the food needs of community members in Underwood and the surrounding area. Underwood has been served by the Great Plains Mobile Food Bank for the past 3 years. The mobile food pantry was meant to serve as a temporary service for communities that did not have a food pantry. 

In order to continue to serve food and household good needs of the area, a group was formed to start a community food pantry. There were a few things the group needed to be able to start a food pantry. They needed a place to house the food pantry, a 501c (3) non-profit designation, and food and monetary donations to operate the pantry. 

The Community Cupboard of Underwood (CCU) was formed and just recently got its official paperwork from the Secretary of State stating they are an official 501 c(3). A local community member had a building that was curently vacant and offered the use of the building to the food pantry rent free. The CCU had some work to do to get the building cleaned up and ready to house the food pantry. Carpet needed to be removed, ceiling tiles needed to be repainted, and a bathroom needed to be refinished. There was electrical wiring and heating work that was needed. In addition, the floor in the building had to be competely repainted.

In order to make all the improvements to the building, the CCU needed to raise money. The food pantry received monetary donations from local businesses and community residents. They also applied for and received a grant from UAEDC's Main Street Program to help update the exterior of the building as well as a grant from the Sale & Use Tax fund.  Great River Energy has also been a big supporter of the food paantry through a grant and will also be holding an employee food drive that will help to stock the shelves.  In addition to the monetary donations, there have been many great volunteers that have helped wih carpet removal, clean up and painting. The CCU held several community wide help days, Augustana Church and the Lutheran Youth organization also helped with the clean up of the building. There were several people that were giving of their time and professional skills including K&L Services painting celiing tiles, Mark Wood painting the floor and hauling and installing ceiling tiles, Denise Joahnnes helping with electrical, Levey Heating & Plumbing for a generous discunt on services and area businesses for the use of their dumpsters as the building was cleaned out.

This has been a great project that the community has come together to support. Without help from different grant programs and the generosity of the people and businesses in the Underwood community this would not have been possible. The UAEDC was happy to be able to contribute to this project. From an economic development lense, the Underwood Community Cupboard is utilizing a Main Street building that has been empty and is also something that adds value to the community. This is one more reason Underwood is a great community to live in and be a part of. 

The Underwood Community Cupboard is located at 208 Lincoln Ave. Food will be distributed on the 1st Thursday, 4-6 pm and the 3rd Saturday, 10 am-12 pm each month. The CCU is acepting donations of canned/boxed food, cleaning and personla care items. Donations can be dropped off at the Underwood Public Library. To contact the CCU email Underwoodfoodpantry@gmail.com or call (701) 595-0320. To keep up to date with the latest information on the food pantry, like their page on Facebook-Community Cupboard of Underwood.

Patrie to Speak at UAEDC Annual Meeting

The Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation’s Energized Community Meeting has been re-scheduled for Wednesday, May 20th at 6pm at Underwood's City Hall. The keynote speaker for the event is Common Enterprise Development Corporation (CEDC) Executive Director Bill Patrie. Patrie has worked in economic development in North Dakota for over 40 years. He has spearheaded the creation of more than 30 enterprises, many of them cooperatives, which have created hundreds of jobs. Prior to starting CEDC in 2009, Patrie worked as the director of cooperative business strategies for Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund/Foundation.  He was the rural development director for the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) in Mandan for 16 years. He also served as North Dakota’s Economic Development Director under Governor George Sinner and helped organize the Fort Berthold Agricultural Cooperative at New Town and the Twin Buttes Land Owners Energy Cooperative at Twin Buttes and completed an assessment of economic trends on reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. At CEDC, Patrie leads projects in the areas of cooperative health care, community development, value-added agriculture, rural and reservation housing, outreach and technical assistance. Patrie is retiring this year and will speak about what he’s learned about leadership and strategies needed for rural communities to thrive.

A meal will be served prior to Patrie’s presentation. After Patrie speaks the UAEDC will give a brief summary of 2014 accomplishments and lessons learned. UAEDC board members will then facilitate community breakout sessions in which all in attendance can choose a topic related to the UAEDC work plan they’d like to discuss in more detail. Work plan topics include:

1.      Housing/Population Growth

2.      Community Beautification

3.      Community Pride & Inclusiveness

4.      Strong School System

5.      Highway 83 Business Development

6.      Downtown Business Development

7.      Recreational Organization Development (Park Board, Golf Course, Arts Council…etc)

Input and feedback from community members is incredibly valuable in determining how to prioritize projects and invest UAEDC resources. We’d love to have you participate in these community discussions.

The UAEDC recently sent out 2015 annual membership letters to households and businesses in and around Underwood. The UAEDC appreciates your support and will continue working to strengthen our community. When you renew your UAEDC membership or become a member for the first time, you can designate which UAEDC program your membership dollars will be applied to:

·        Underwood Revitalization Fund (low-interest revolving loan fund for businesses)

·        Underwood Main Street Program (grants for improvements businesses)

·        Underwood Down Payment Assistance Program (grants for new homeowners)

·        Beautification Day Projects

·        General Operating Funds

Over the past six years, these programs have supported economic growth in our community, including the purchase of homes and residential lots, the purchase and renovation of new and existing businesses, and the beautification of important community spaces. If you do not receive a 2015 UAEDC membership letter and are interested in becoming a member, please give me a call at 701-595-1259 or email tyler@cedc.coop to request a membership application.  

Do You Want an Underwood Farmer's Market?

          An Underwood farmer’s market has been brought up in a few discussions about economic and community development.  A farmers market is a place used by two or more local vendors to assemble together at a regularly scheduled time (most commonly once/week) to sell products directly to consumers. The market is typically organized by a group made up of both vendors and consumers. Farmers markets serve social, community, and economic activities. Their festive atmosphere provides a relaxing place to shop and meet with friends. They also give farmers/vendors and consumers the chance to interact. Shopping at a farmers market is a different experience than shopping in a super market and often provides access to higher quality, more nutritious produce and other unique value added products including breads, salsas, jams, and non-food items such as crafts and hand-made clothing.

For vendors, farmers markets are a direct marketing outlet. By cutting out the middleman involved in selling through a typical retail outlet, they offer farmers and other vendors a more profitable way to sell their products. Over the last decade, local and regional food has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Grocery store operators are taking notice. A National Grocers Association poll last year found that 85% of consumers choose a grocery store in part based on whether it stocks food from local producers. The growing demand for local, source-identified food is a major consumer trend affecting food-related business strategy.

Gary Adam, owner of Warehouse Grocery, has said he is willing to host an Underwood farmers market at the Warehouse Grocery parking lot. We know that a grocery store is a critical local business for rural communities. A report from the Center for Rural Affairs of Nebraska examines the importance of grocery stores to rural communities and the people who live there, explaining that the lack of a grocery store means residents have less access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, and the elderly and others without reliable transportation will tend to buy their food at convenience stores with more limited selections or go for longer periods of time between visits to the store. Also new residents and young families are unlikely to want to live in a community without a place to purchase food, and purchase patterns get set as people start and become accustomed to purchasing food in another community.

To organize a farmer’s market we need people willing to commit some time. I can do some of the legwork related to ensuring the market and market vendors have the right permits, liability insurance, and meet public health department requirements. The North Dakota Farmer’s Market and Grower’s Association has some great resources on their website at www.ndfarmersmarkets.com. Do we want our market to include non-food vendors? Do we want to promote local agriculture, encourage community interaction? What vendors do we want to recruit for the market? Producers, consumers and even youth can be the initiators of the farmer’s market. Are you interested in being part of an organizing team for an Underwood Farmer’s market? If so, Please give me a call at 701-595-1259 or email tyler@cedc.coop. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

 

              

Community Beautification

        Underwood has made a commitment to maintaining the appearance of our public spaces. Community beautification efforts have been organized in Underwood each spring since 2009. Typically held on the second or third Saturday in May, volunteers from Underwood come together to tackle projects in public spaces. Past projects include sprucing up Pioneer and Veteran’s Parks, improving the Underwood entry sign, replacing trees, cleaning out the Rose Theater, and the painting of downtown buildings.

In Underwood’s strategic community development plan there are five goals identified. Goal #2 is to increase the physical attractiveness of Underwood. In addition to the annual beautification efforts, to make headway on this goal we have:

·       Launched the Revitalization Loan program, funded in part through a grant from USDA Rural Development,  which provides low interest loans to Underwood Businesses

·       Launched the Main Street Grant program which provides a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $10,000 to incentivize downtown businesses to invest in the appearance of their building

·       Completed a comprehensive update of Underwood’s Zoning ordinance

Research shows that community appearance is one of the top three factors in creating community attachment, or loyalty, to your particular town. Just one community beautification project, such as a massive tulip planting or new park benches, generates positive publicity.  A pleasant community appearance adds to home values, helps attract business investment, and improves the neighborhood reputation.  

The Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation is organizing the 7th Annual Underwood Beautification Day to be on Saturday, May 16th. We are looking for projects to take on for this year’s effort. What would you like to see cleaned up, spruced up, painted, planted, moved, replaced, or added? Should we continue maintenance of Pioneer and Veteran’s Park? Should we plant some trees or add some flowers? Could we prepare a space for a community orchard or garden? Should we improve the look of some of our unused buildings by adding window dressings or display items? These are your projects and your input would be greatly appreciated. Please email tyler@cedc.coop or call 701-595-1259.

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USDA Rural Development Grant Programs Available

USDA Rural Development has been a valuable partner to the Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation. USDA Rural Development funding has supported several Underwood projects, most notably the Revitalization Revolving Loan Fund and the McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center. USDA Rural Development has several grant programs available to new or existing businesses, farmers, ranchers, ag producers, and non-profit groups. These programs include the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG), Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG), and Rural Development Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP).

The primary objective of the Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) program is to promote sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional needs. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Indian tribes, institutions of higher education, and rural cooperatives are eligible to apply. Examples of eligible uses include community economic development, technology-based economic development, feasibility studies and business plans, leadership and entrepreneur training, rural business incubators, long-term business strategic planning. The maximum grant amount is $100,000.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) creates opportunities for economic development for rural businesses by supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, via loan guarantees and grants.  REAP provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies. The program provides assistance to qualified applicants to finance renewable energy (renewable biomass, anaerobic digesters, geothermal for electric generation, geothermal for direct use, hydroelectric (30 megawatts or less), hydrogen, small and large wind, small and large solar and ocean (including tidal, wave, current, and thermal) and energy efficiency projects. It expands the existing private credit structure by providing a credit enhancement via a loan guarantee. The REAP Renewable Energy System Grant and Loan Guarantee provides financial assistance to agriculture producers and rural small business for the specific purpose of purchasing, installing and constructing renewable energy systems.  This type of assistance may require that a business level feasibility study be completed by an independent qualified consultant as part of the application.

The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program’s purpose is to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the end goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain project (typically involving multiple producers cooperatively marketing value added product). VAPG funds may be used for eligible economic planning activities, or for eligible working capital expenses.  Economic planning activities include conducting feasibility studies and developing business plans for processing and marketing of the proposed value-added product.  Eligible working capital expenses include processing costs, marketing and advertising expenses, and some inventory and salary expenses directly related to your value-added project. You cannot use grant funds to purchase property or construct facilities, or to purchase equipment. The most you can be awarded is $75,000 for planning projects and $200,000 for working capital projects.

The Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program is available to rural public entities (towns, communities, State agencies, and authorities), Indian tribes and rural private non-profit corporations. Examples of eligible fund use include: Acquisition or development of land, easements, or rights of way; construction, conversion, renovation, of buildings, plants, machinery, equipment, access streets and roads, parking areas, utilities; pollution control and abatement; training and technical assistance; distance adult learning for job training and advancement; rural transportation improvement; and project planning. Any project funded under the RBEG program should benefit small and emerging private businesses in rural areas. Small and emerging private businesses are those that will employ 50 or fewer new employees and have less than $1 million in projected gross revenues. There is no maximum level of grant funding. However, smaller projects are given higher priority. Generally grants range $10,000 up to $500,000.

If you think any of these programs could apply to your business or a project in you are thinking about, I’d be happy to help you sort through the project and assist with the grant application process. Please give me a call at 701-595-1259 or email tyler@cedc.coop.

 



 

 

 

The Value and Challenges of a Rural Grocery Store

 

            I didn’t have time to pack a lunch last Wednesday before driving to Underwood. At lunchtime, I went to Warehouse Grocery to grab a meal but I ended up buying more than lunch as there were several items priced lower than what I could find in Bismarck, most notably Taylor Farms salad mixes (the ones in the plastic containers) for $3 and Grimmway Farms baby carrots priced at $5 for five bags. While I love Grimsley’s Hot Ham & Cheese sandwiches, Taco Tuesday at the Underwood Grill, and the homemade tater tots at the Rusted Rail, I appreciate having access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Underwood. Especially this time of year when I always seem to be carrying an extra 10 to 15 pounds caused by holiday indulgences and winter weather’s chilling effect on my motivation to get to the gym.

              Of course Warehouse Grocery provides Underwood with much more than fresh fruits and vegetables. The grocery store is a valuable institution of rural communities and in rural life. Not only does a grocery store provide convenient food access, it fills the roles of economic driver, community builder, employer and meeting place. Having a grocery store also helps attract new residents to a town. Similar to a school, a post office, restaurants and churches, a grocery store makes a community a more attractive place to live. Unfortunately, many rural communities across the nation are losing local grocery stores, and residents are forced to leave their communities to purchase food, often at great expense due to great distance. In the last fifteen years or so many rural communities have lost their grocery store. Some sobering data from the Center for Rural Affairs:

·       In Iowa the number of grocery stores with employees dropped by almost half from 1995 to 2005, from about 1,400 stores in 1995 to slightly over 700 just 10 years later. Meanwhile, “supercenter” grocery stores (Wal-Mart and Target, for example) increased by 175 percent in the 10-year period.

·       In rural Iowa, 43 percent of grocery stores in towns with populations less than 1,000 have closed.

·       In Kansas, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,500 people have closed since 2007, and nearly one in five rural grocery stores has gone out of business since 2006. In total, 38 percent of the 213 groceries in Kansas towns of less than 2,500 closed between 2006 and 2009.

Several factors have contributed to the declining numbers of rural grocery stores. Some of these factors are (1) the number of rural residents out-commuting to urban centers for work (and grocery shopping),  (2) improvements in highway travel efficiency making it easier for rural grocery shoppers to drive to urban markets, and (3) aging store owners and the lack of interested buyers to succeed them.

Sorry for writing about this somewhat depressing information. The good news is that Underwood is well served by a strong local business in Warehouse Grocery, and we’re grateful for the products and services Warehouse Grocery provides. Support your local grocery store whenever you can. 

Year in Review

January

The Zoning Ordinance Committee was working with SRF Consulting to complete a comprehensive update of Underwood’s zoning ordinance. Underwood’s previous zoning ordinance was written in 1974. The new ordinance eliminates dated language, facilitates consistent interpretation and enforcement, and provides regulatory direction that aligns with the City’s strategic plan for growth.

The UAEDC was working to update Underwood’s community marketing brochure. The new brochures were distributed in March 2014.

February

The UAEDC Board approved Revitalization Fund loans to Grimsley’s Fuel & Convenience and The Rusted Rail Bar & Grill for $20,000 each. Grimsley’s added four diesel fuel pumps and the Rusted Rail opened their restaurant in the Highway 83 commercial district.

March

Badlands Investment Group purchased the former Prairie View Nursing Home from Sanford Health. The nursing home had been sitting vacant after Sanford Health closed the facility in March of 2013. Through a small business incubator client, the UAEDC connected with Badlands Investment Group and facilitated conversations that led to BIG purchasing the nursing home building and repurposing it for office space and commercial truck driver accommodations.

April

The Underwood Rural Fire Protection District received a $100,000, 0% interest loan from the Rural Development Finance Corporation to be used in purchasing a new pumper truck costing $220,000. The URFDP also received a $15,000 grant

May

The Library kicked off its summer reading program with a free children’s concert by performer Steve Weeks in the North Country Bank parking lot. The Northern Expressions Arts Council provided a free photo booth from Digitally Yours Photography.

The UAEDC organized the sixth annual Beautification Day, which resulted in potting and placing of flowers in the downtown business district and Underwood entry sign on Highway 83, and new paint for the Underwood Senior Center.  Ten volunteers assisted with the projects.

June

The Minot Magic Fund awarded the City of Underwood $3500 for community marketing.

July

Common Enterprise Development Corporation advertised for a new community & economic developer in Underwood. By November of 2014 three candidates were interviewed for the position but it was determined CEDC had not found the right person and that current developer Tyler Demars would be stay in the role.

The UAEDC started managing a charitable gaming pull tab machine at Underwood Grill & Lounge in July of 2013. Over the first 12 months of gaming operations the UAEDC contributed almost $5,000 to the Northern Expressions Arts Council and the Bring Back the Rose! Project.

September

This Main Street Grant Program supported two Underwood businesses. The Underwood Body Shop received a $10,000 grant to support the addition of a commercial paint booth and other facility upgrades (total project cost: $110,000). The Black Nugget received a $7,265 grant to support costs for new exterior paint and replacing flooring (total project costs: $14,530).

October

The 4th Annual Go Loco for Local Chili Cookoff was held in downtown Underwood. Over 90 participants submitted chili grading ballots and the Underwood Clinic defended their “Best Chili” title.  The Northern Expressions Arts Council worked with several of Underwood’s young people to provide a Haunted House in the Rose Theater.

November

Through the Vision West McLean County Planning Initiative, the UAEDC was able to secure funding to support the McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center into 2015 and beyond. Over $10,000 was contributed by the McLean County Growth Coalition. These funds will be matched by Small Business Administration funding. The MS SBDC had been supported with funding from USDA Rural Development, the Small Business Administration, and the City of Underwood.

In 2014, The McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center served over 40 clients from Underwood, Washburn, Turtle Lake, Pick City, Coleharbor, Wilton, Bismarck, and Garrison.

December

The Northern Expressions Arts Council works to organize the Second Annual Underwood’s Got Talent Show, scheduled for January 31st, 2015.

Overall it was a good year for the Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation and we are looking forward to 2015. What do you think was Underwood’s most valuable development in 2014? What would you like the UAEDC to focus on in 2015? Give me a call at 701-595-1259 or email tyler@cedc.coop. Happy New Year!

 

Underwood's Got Talent is Back!

 In April of 2013 the first Underwood’s Got Talent Show was organized by the Northern Expressions Arts Council. Sixteen different acts from Underwood put their talents on display for four judges and a crowd of over 100 people. That crowd was treated to musical acts by individuals, couples, and groups. The evening’s big winner though, was Diane Eslinger who performed a standup comedy set as the “Idiot of the Prairie”, telling self-deprecating stories from her personal journey of becoming a farmer’s wife.  The first Underwood’s Got Talent was a success, providing a venue for local residents to display their talents and a fun event for people to attend.

The Northern Expressions Arts Council is organizing the second Underwood’s Got Talent Show, scheduled for Saturday, January 31st at 7pm at the Underwood City Hall. Awards will be given in four categories this year: (1) Best under 12 years old, (2) Best from 12 to 17, (3) Best from 18 and older, and (4) Best Overall Performance.  All performers will be given a free professional-grade video of the show. Dakota Media Access of Bismarck is providing the recording equipment. If you are interested in performing in this year’s show please pick up a performer registration form available at Underwood City Hall and most Underwood businesses, fill out, and drop off with Diane Schell or Deb Swanson at Underwood City Hall. The Show will be limited to sixteen performances and the registration deadline is January 23rd so sign up soon!

This year’s Underwood’s Got Talent will be headlined by 2013’s winner, Diane Eslinger performing as the “Idiot on the Prairie”. Since her winning performance at Underwood’s Got Talent in 2013, Eslinger has been performing at several different venues and has made a name for herself as a talented local comedian.

The Northern Expressions Arts Council (NEAC) will be accepting free will offerings at the door with a suggested contribution of $5 per person.  Baked goodies and beverages will be available for purchase with all proceeds going to the Arts Council and the Bring Back the Rose! Project.. The NEAC is a North Dakota non-profit corporation that was formed in December 2011 to promote events to help the arts flourish in our community and surrounding areas.  Its first undertaking was the purchase of the Rose Theater in Underwood in April 2012, which is being renovated into a multi-purpose theater and community center.  By providing a venue and assisting in creative opportunities our community’s youth, local artists, and their audiences, the NEAC strives to provide a permanent venue and appreciation for the arts in south-central McLean and western Sheridan Counties.  The NEAC and the Bring Back the Rose! Project are making contributions to all five of Underwood’s strategic development goals, most apparently in creating a sense of belonging and community pride, in increasing the physical attractiveness of Underwood, and in expanding the variety and quality of recreational services to help diversify the local economy.

Current NEAC board members are Tyler Demars, Mark Wood, Pastor Anna Haugen, and Becky Bowen.  The NEAC board focuses on three areas of service:

·       Program Service focused on community events, educational activities and arts programming.

·       Building service focused on planning the renovation of the Rose, and hiring contractors and organizing volunteers to complete the work.

·       Fundraising Service focuses on marketing, fundraising initiatives, and recruiting new NEAC members.

The NEAC is an energetic and capable group doing important work in our community. To learn more about this important work please check out the new promotional video developed by the NEAC at www.underwoodnd.net. Do you have an interest in helping to “Bring Back the Rose” in Underwood? Do you have ideas on how the NEAC could promote the arts? Are you a plumber, electrician or handy man who could help the building committee?  If you are interested in getting involved email northernexpressionsac@gmail.com, tyler@cedc.com, or call me at 701-595-1259.

 

 

Only In A Small Town

I grew up in Minot, have lived in Grand Forks and Fargo, and now reside in Bismarck. I have never lived in a community with a population of less than 30,000 people. Both of my parents grew up in rural, farming communities. My Dad in Oakwood, ND just West of Grafton. My mom in Oslo, MN which is 25 miles North of Grand Forks on the East side of the Red River. Growing up our family made regular weekend trips to Oslo and I remember well the Sunday morning routine of going to church and then to the Oslo café for brunch. We got along well with our cousins (and still do), they always made us feel welcome, and we genuinely looked forward to visiting them. There was a bit of disconnect in that our family was the non-farming one, the family that moved away to the “city” of Minot, most notably in the fact that I couldn’t drive four wheeler or snow cat (all Minnesota snowmobiles are “snow cats”) as well as my cousins. I’ll never forget the time I bounced an Arctic Cat off of a power line pole trying to keep up with my much faster cousin. I’ll always been grateful to my Uncle Ronnie (owner of said Arctic Cat ) for being understanding of his nephew’s sub-par snowcat-ing skills.  Prior to working for CEDC and Underwood, these two or three times per year trips to Oslo are the most notable experience I’ve had in rural communities.

I’m pointing this out because I was running errands around Underwood last week and was struck by something - I feel fully a part of this community and have for a while. The other realization I came to was that to understand the value of living in a small community you have to be present in that community.  You can talk about the lower cost of living or the low crime rates or being able to see all the stars at night, and these are all good things, But I think there is a subtle distinction between living in a smaller community and being part of that community.   

Last Tuesday my errands started with a stop at the Underwood Grill & Lounge to conduct a weekly audit of the pull tab machine (FYI - all proceeds from this pull tab machine support the Northern Expressions Arts Council and the Bring Back the Rose! Project). Walking in the door to the Grill I am greeted with welcoming smiles and “Hi Tyler’s” from the friendly staff.  While there I chat with Sue about how business has been. After finishing the pull tab audit I head over to the bank to make a deposit. At North Country Bank I know Bob and Chastity and Ryan and Tom and Rachel; and they know me. Next I stop at Warehouse Grocery to grab some baby carrots and beef jerky for lunch (watching my post-Thanksgiving waistline). Again, I’m greeted with a smile and “Hi Tyler” by Leann who is walking up from her back-of-the-store duties to ring me up at the till. I chat with Gary about his after-hours wine & cheese tasting event he has coming up (Thursday, December 11th from 8pm to 9pm at Warehouse Grocery– free food samples from the Rusted Rail – wine tasting, Tom & Jerry’s– must be 21 to attend. Should be a good time.).  Then I get back to the office to eat lunch and realize I made the boneheaded mistake of locking my keys in the car. Not a problem – Roger from the Underwood Body Shop will be right over to unlock my car for me. As always, Roger is his helpful,  genuine, and easy going; letting me know the reason I locked my keys in the car is that I probably have too much on my mind. He refuses to bill me for the service (pretty sure it would have set me back $90 in Bismarck).

That was a memorable two hours on a December Tuesday in Underwood.  I’m grateful to be part of this community. What is it that you value most about living in Underwood? What is your most memorable Underwood experience that would only happen in a small town? Would love to hear your stories if you have any to share. Please email to tyler@cedc.coop or mail to PO Box 368 in Underwood.

Business Support Available


 

You would think that economic developers would be used to the ups and downs of the business cycle, but I for one, am not.

I love the high of when a new business opens. You can feel the energy when you walk in the door. You smell a fresh coat of paint and smile at each creative touch that shows in the ambiance, customer service, or offering of the hopeful new owner.

In contrast, I hate the low of when a new business closes. The fact of the matter is, however, that most of them do. Statistically, seven out of ten new businesses fail. What distinguishes the winners from the losers is hard to identify, and unfortunately blame is often unnecessarily placed on the wrong persons for unrelated reasons.

 No one wins when a news business fails. The community loses, the lender loses, the employees lose, and most significantly, the owner loses. Some business failures can’t be prevented – the business may never have been feasible. But some failures can be prevented.

The McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center (MSSBDC) has been working with businesses and organizations in Underwood for over three years now. We have worked with over 80 clients, many of them entrepreneurs working to start new businesses.  We have also worked with several existing businesses on improving operations, marketing, financial management, and business expansion. All services are 100% free. Services include

  • Business Feasibility Analysis
  • Business Plans
  • Financial Analysis
  • Operating Challenges
  • Purchase or Sale of a Business
  • Securing Capital
  • Loan Packaging
  • Marketing and Sales Assistance
  • Business Research
  • Procurement Contracting
  • Technology and E-commerce
  • Exporting

 

The strength of any rural community is tied to the number and quality of locally owned businesses in that community. The McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center is a valuable resource available to small business owners in Underwood. If you have an existing small business or are thinking of starting a small business and would like to talk about what the McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center can do for you. Please give me a call at 701-595-1259 or email tyler@cedc.coop.

Update on Open Developer Position

 

A few months back I wrote a column about Common Enterprise Development Corporation (CEDC) starting a search for a new Economic & Community Developer for Underwood. My role at CEDC will be evolving over the next 12 months as Executive Director Bill Patrie transitions into a reduced role and eventual retirement. We were not able to find a candidate that fit what we were looking for, so I will be staying in Underwood for the foreseeable future.  I value the work we do in Underwood and am happy to continue this work. Patrie will be CEDC is always looking for good people. We will take a grassroots approach to finding Underwood’s next community/economic developer, reaching out within our networks and building relationships with people we’d trust with this important work. 

Some UAEDC updates:

Office space – The UAEDC has agreed to terms on a lease to stay in our current office through 2015.

Veteran’s Park Donor Recognition – We will be putting up a new display case in Veteran’s Park for the donor recognition plaques that were previously displayed on decorative bricks embedded in the ground.

Northern Expression’s Arts Council – The Arts Council is raising funds for the next step in renovating the Rose Theater – installing a permanent repair for the damaged roof and insulating the building.  Estimated cost for this work is $25,000. The Arts Council does have an open spot on the Board of Directors. Please give me a call if you are interested in getting involved with this exciting project.

Highway 83 Industrial Park – The City and UAEDC is continuing to gather data on options and costs for developing a commercial/industrial park north of the McLean County Speedway between the Highway 83 Loop and Highway 83. We are also recruiting businesses as anchor tenants in the park. It is likely the City will ask contractors bidding on the water diversion project to also submit a bid for the road network and water/sewer connection needed for the industrial park.

SBDC – The McLean Sheridan Small business development center is currently working with 10 clients: four  from Underwood, two from Garrison, two from McLusky, one from Mercer, and one from Bismarck.

If you have questions or comments about any of the work we do at the UAEDC please give a call at 701-595-1259 or send an email to tyler@cedc.coop. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

The Dignity of Work

 

              Last weekend I read an interview with Pope Francis in which he identified 10 tips to be a happier person, based on his own experiences. The Pope encouraged people to be more positive and generous, to turn off the TV and find healthier forms of recreation, to work for peace and even to stop trying to convert people to one’s own religion. Most tips on the list seemed like good, although predictable advice. One tip that wasn’t so predictable and struck a chord with me me was to “find innovative ways to create dignified work for young people”.  Well that seems to be aimed directly at economic developers. What is the Pope really saying here?  It’s useful to break down and clearly define the main ideas in the statement so that we aren’t making any false assumptions:

Innovative: introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking

Dignity: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect

Work: activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result

So Pope Francis is recommending we create new opportunities for young people to do respectful and honorable work.  

“Young People” is harder to define. I assume he means those just entering the workforce. This could be a high school student taking a summer job for the first time, someone starting an apprenticeship in a trade such as welding or carpentry, or a college graduate taking their first professional position. Looking at other quotes from Pope Francis, there may be more to what he is saying. Take this quote,

“The young person is essentially a non-conformist, and this is very beautiful. It is necessary to listen to young people, give them places to express themselves and to be careful that they aren’t manipulated.”

It’s clear that Pope Francis is referring to Millennials. Millennials is a term used to describe people born from 1982 to 1994. Beyond defining Millennials by their age, they are generally thought to follow a set of values distinct from previous generations. Being the first generation to grow up in the internet-fueled age of information and connection, they value opportunities to collaborate. They value creative ideas and innovation. They value equality. Most apparently, they value experiences and contributions to society over money.

A question for Underwood and other rural communities to ask themselves is, “What does dignified work look like to young people?” I’d like to hear Underwood’s millennials answer this question. If you are between the ages of 14 and 32, how do you want to earn a living? What is your dream job?  Are you finding dignified work in Underwood and McLean County? Please email tyler@cedc.coop. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Go Loco for Local was Awesome!

Thank you to all who participated in the 2014 Go Loco for Local Chili Cook Off held this past Friday, October 24th, helping to make the event huge success. We had 90 chili grading ballots submitted, which is 31 more than were submitted in 2013. Congratulations to The Underwood Clinic who defended their “Best Chili” championship belt, winning for the second consecutive year. The Underwood Clinic also took the prize for “Best Overall Experience” for their “Hocus Pocus” movie-themed decorations and costumes. Prizes were also awarded for best costume in four categories:

Adult Female: Ellen Berg as a disco queen

Adult Male: Leon Weisenburger as the witch “Sarah” from Hocus Pocus

Youth Female: Bailey Gross as a sumo wrestler (with a really cool inflatable costume)

Youth Male: Dawson Beck as Willy from Duck Dynasty

Congratulations to the costume contest winners. The competition was tough this year as there were several great costumes to choose from in all but the Adult Male category where Leon Weisenburger was the only participant – he was still an incredibly deserving winner in his Hocus Pocus witch costume.

Attendance at the Rose Theater Haunted House organized by the Northern Expressions Arts Council, exceeded expectations. Between Friday and Saturday the Arts Council lead over 180 people through the haunted house. The attraction received rave reviews thanks to the work and convincing performances from the cast and crew. Cast and crew volunteers were: Larae Sckachenko, Kenna Wilson, Maria Wirtz, Mika McConnaughhay, Chase Backer, Tina Hirschkorn, Eden Johannes, Gabby Austin, Paige Backer, Riley Weisenburger, Kennedi  Fischer, Callie Hirschkorn, Mackenzie Boutilier, Erika Fischer, Bill Abbot, and Mark Wood.  The Northern Expressions Arts Council is planning to include this as a part of Go Loco for Local every year.

The next event the Northern Expressions Arts Council will be working on is the 2nd Annual “Underwood’s got Talent” talent show, to be scheduled for late January/early February of 2015. The Arts Council will be looking for acts for the talent show so if you or someone you know has a talent, whether that in music, dance, comedy, or other that could make for a good performance, please let the Northern Expressions Arts Council know. The Arts Council can be reached by email northernexpressionsartscouncil@gmail.com.

Go Loco for Local is Here!

 

              The 4th Annual Go Loco for Local Chili Cook Off, organized by the Underwood Business Alliance and the UAEDC, is this Friday, October 24th from 5pm to 9pm. The Chili Cook-off and tour of businesses will go from 5pm to 7:30pm. The evening will end at City Hall with Bingo starting at 7:30 and announcement of prize winners as soon as the votes are tallied. Prizes will be awarded for:

  1. Best Chili – last year’s award went to the Underwood Clinic.  This year’s winner will take the awesome Go Loco for Local Crockpot trophy that has been proudly displayed at the Underwood Clinic for the last twelve months. That trophy is kind of a big deal. Do not take your chili grading lightly.

  2. Four best costume winners – Adult male, adult female, youth male, and youth female. All four winners will be awarded $50 in Underwood Merchant Bucks.

  3. Door prize winner – anyone who stops at ALL 15 participating Underwood businesses and turns in their scorecard at City Hall by 7:45pm is entered into a drawing for a $100 in Underwood Merchant Bucks.

So you can start at North Country Bank any time after 5pm. We’ll get you set up with a chili grading card, offer you your first chili sample to grade, and send you on your way to check out other Underwood businesses. You can walk or drive Lincoln Ave, stopping to sample/grade chili and talk to business owners, managers, and staff. Don’t forget to wear your costume if you have one. One added attraction this year is a Haunted House at the Rose Theater, brought to you by the Northern Expressions Arts Council and featuring Underwood youth as performers. The Haunted house will be run from 5pm to 9pm on Friday, October 24th, and from 7pm to 10pm on Saturday, October 25th. The Haunted House is offered free of charge but the Arts Council will be accepting free will donations. Come check it out if you’re not too scared.

Most importantly, the event is an opportunity to meet and chat with several of our local business owners, managers and staff in one evening.  The strength of any rural community is tied to the number and quality of locally owned businesses in that community. The number of locally owned businesses is tied to the level of support and patronage those businesses attract from the community. What can we do to grow and expand the number of locally owned businesses in Underwood?  Hands down, the single most effective way for you to contribute to the strength of your community is to shift the way you shop - buy local, whatever you can and whenever you can. Money spent in Underwood likely stays in Underwood, sustaining the businesses that contribute to Underwood’s quality of life, affirming the decision made by local business owners to invest in Underwood, and growing our community’s social and financial capital. Shift the way you shop and invest in your community.

Why Underwood?

 

              Last week I had a meeting with a commercial real estate firm in Bismarck to discuss industrial/commercial park development in Underwood. We discussed land prices, infrastructure costs, demand for industrial/commercial land on Highway 83, and lessons they’ve learned from watching similar developments in other rural communities, among other issues related to the park. After about 45 minutes of discussion one of the realtors asked the critical question, “Why Underwood?” His tone wasn’t condescending or implying that he didn’t think there were reasons to invest in Underwood. He was simply asking an honest question, “Why would a business want to locate in Underwood?” Their experience North Dakota commercial real estate indicates that most businesses either want to be in the heart of the Bakken or in Bismarck, Fargo, or Grand Forks. The primary reason they cited for this trend was workforce preference. That is, Underwood’s proximity to the Bakken relative to Bismarck is trumped by employee’s preference to live in urban areas rather than a smaller, rural community.

              Why Underwood? We’ve been working on answering this question for a long time. The answer starts with our vision statement:

Underwood is 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.

But a vision statement can’t come close to capturing everything that Underwood is. Let’s add some details about the people and organizations that work to put that vision statement in to action:

  • An active and engaged City Council, who together with the Underwood Area Economic Development Corporation, is focused on Underwood’s growth.
  • 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 quarterly roundtable for discussion of both employer and community issues for Underwood and Washburn.
  • A significant investment in infrastructure for residential lot development. 
  • Our local Warehouse Grocery Store owned and operated by Underwood residents.
  • An active Park Board that is interested in improving existing recreational facilities, including an outdoor pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, and volleyball courts.
  • The Westridge Golf Course.
  • The McLean County Fairgrounds and Speedway.
  • The Underwood Civic Club, Underwood Business Alliance, Northern Expressions Arts Council, and Friends of the Library who organize community-wide events.
  • Underwood Commercial Properties is a development group investing in rehabilitation of vacant commercial spaces
  • Attractive residential areas that indicate pride of ownership.
  • Six churches of different faiths.
  • A growing number of citizens who are aware of the community’s strengths and weaknesses. 

That is an impressive list of assets, but we know there is more to tell in answering the question, “Why Underwood?” What makes you most proud to call Underwood home? Why do you choose to live here? What ideas for Underwood’s future are you most excited about? Please email tyler@cedc.coop or give me a call at 701-595-1259.

Volunteers needed for a Community Haunted House

 Northern Expressions Arts Council is supporting an effort to create a Haunted House at the Rose Theater as part of the Go Loco for Local event scheduled for October 24th. This attraction will also be offered to the community on Saturday, October 25th from 7pm to 10pm. The Haunted House will be appropriate for all ages and should be a fun way for the Underwood community to start making memories in the Rose Theater.

Haunted house preparation at the Rose Theater began Wednesday, October 1st.   We will continue putting the attractions together during setup afternoons on consecutive Wednesdays October 8th, 15th, and 22nd between 4-7 PM. The haunted house will be in the entryway and gallery area of the Rose (not in the main theater space). We will be setting up temporary walls, constructing displays, and adding lighting and other sensory effects. If you are willing and able to help with set up please join us.

The Arts Council could also use donations of various supplies. If you have any old Halloween decorations, we will happily accept them. Please drop them off at the Underwood Grille and Lounge with manager Bill Abbott.

In addition to helping with setup, we are also looking for volunteer actors to participate as ghouls in the haunted house. We have four volunteers committed but could use three to five more. Being part of the Haunted House should be a unique and fun experience so please let us know if you are interested.  Rehearsal for Ghouls will be Thursday, October 23rd from 4-8pm

If you are interested in assisting with the Haunted House by helping with facility setup, volunteering as an actor/actress, or donating decorations, please call Mark Wood at 701-442-5861 or Tyler Demars at 701-595-1259. Thank you!

Improving Underwood

 

Research shows that community appearance is one of the top three factors in creating community attachment, or loyalty, to your particular town. Just one community beautification project, such as a massive tulip planting or new park benches, generates positive publicity.  A pleasant community appearance adds to home values, helps attract business investment, and improves the neighborhood reputation.   

Our community takes pride in maintaining a clean, welcoming appearance and has made a commitment to maintaining the appearance of our public spaces. Community beautification efforts have been organized in Underwood each spring since 2009. During beautification day residents from Underwood come together to tackle projects in public spaces, projects such as sprucing up Pioneer and Veteran’s Parks, improving the Underwood entry sign, replacing trees on Tree Boulevard, cleaning out the Rose Theater, and the painting of downtown buildings.

In Underwood’s strategic community development plan there are five goals identified. Goal #2 is to increase the physical attractiveness of Underwood. In addition to the annual beautification efforts, to make headway on this goal we have:

  • Launched the Revitalization Loan program, funded in part through a grant from USDA Rural Development, which provides low interest loans to Underwood Businesses. There have been four Underwood business improvement projects supported by the Revitalization Loan Program.

  • Launched the Main Street Grant program which provides a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $10,000 to incentivize downtown businesses to invest in the appearance of their building. The Main Street Program has funded five business improvement projects in Underwood.

  • Launched the Business Marketing Grant Program which provides a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $2,000 to incentivize Underwood businesses to invest in marketing their business and our community. This new program has funded one Underwood business marketing project in 2014.

  • Completed a comprehensive update of Underwood’s Zoning ordinance.

There are two opportunities coming up to contribute to both Underwood beautification efforts and the Bring Back the Rose project. On September 25th at 3pm we will be moving theater seats donated for Bring Back the Rose by Bismarck’s Grant Theaters from a storage unit to the Rose Theater. With five volunteers the job should take approximately two hours. Also, the Northern Expressions Arts Council will be removing the “Sophia’s Fancies” sign from the façade of the Rose Theater and are looking for cost effective Rose Theater sign to act as temporary replacement until a permanent marquee is put in place.  This is an opportunity for any Underwood community member with creative or artistic talents to improve the appearance of the Rose Theater and help market the Bring Back the Rose project.

If you are willing and able to help with moving theater seats or September 25th or with replacing the “Sophia’s Fancies”  sign, please email tyler@cedc.coop or call 701-595-1259. Thank you!

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UAEDC September Work Plan

 

We are always busy at the UAEDC. Here is a brief update on some of the initiatives we are working on:

Office space – The UAEDC is looking for new office space to move into in 2015. The rent at our current location at 79 Lincoln Ave is paid for with Small Business Administration (SBA) funding granted to the UAEDC for running the McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center. That SBA funding will no longer be available in 2015. As a result, the UAEDC needs to find a more affordable, smaller office.

McLean County Website – The McLean County website is getting an update as a result of the work done by the McLean County Vision West ND steering committee. The new website will include all of the functionality of the current website with an improved, modern interface. The website should go live by the end of September.

Main Street applications – The UAEDC is working on Main Street Grant applications with three Underwood businesses. The Main Street Grant Program provided a one-to-one match of up to $10,000 to businesses located in the downtown commercial district to make improvements to their buildings.

UAEDC Director – We are currently interviewing candidates for the UAEDC director position. We’d like to have the new director in place by the end of the year. If you or someone you know is interested in the position please email me (tyler@cedc.coop) or give me a call (701-595-1259).

Veteran’s Park Donor Recognition – We will be putting up a new display case in Veteran’s Park for the donor recognition plaques that were previously displayed on decorative bricks embedded in the ground. The new case will feature the donor plaques behind Plexiglas mounted on wood posts.

Northern Expression’s Arts Council – The Arts Council is raising funds for the next step in renovating the Rose Theater – installing a permanent repair for the damaged roof. The group is working with a contractor to determine if a permanent spray foam applied to the interior of the theater’s roof will work.

Highway 83 Industrial Park – The City and UAEDC is continuing to gather data on options and costs for developing a commercial/industrial park north of the McLean County Speedway between the Highway 83 Loop and Highway 83. We are also recruiting businesses as anchor tenants in the park.

SBDC – The McLean Sheridan Small business development center is working with fourteen active clients: eight from Underwood, two from Garrison, two from McClusky, one from Mercer, and one from Bismarck.

If you have questions or comments about any of the work we do at the UAEDC please give a call at 701-595-1259 or send an email to tyler@cedc.coop. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

The Arts Mean Business

 

The Northern Expressions Arts Council and the Bring Back the Rose project are making contributions to all five of Underwood’s strategic development goals, most apparently in creating a sense of belonging and community pride, in increasing the physical attractiveness of Underwood, and in expanding the variety and quality of recreational services to help diversify the local economy. Findings in a recent study titled Arts & Economic Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations found that the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the US generates $166.2 billion in economic activity annually—a 24 percent increase in just the past five years. This spending supports 5.7 million full-time jobs right here in the U.S.—an increase of 850,000 jobs since a similar 2002 study. Also, because arts and culture organizations are strongly rooted in their community, these are jobs that necessarily remain local and cannot be shipped overseas. America for the Arts President Robert Lynch is quoted in the study, "Understanding and acknowledging the incredible economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture, we must always remember their fundamental value. They foster beauty, creativity, originality, and vitality. The arts inspire us, sooth us, provoke us, involve us, and connect us. But they also create jobs and contribute to the economy."

            The Northern Expression Arts Council (NEAC) is a North Dakota non-profit corporation that was formed in December 2011 to promote the arts in McLean County and provide opportunities for local and regional artists.  Its first undertaking was the purchase of the Rose Theater in Underwood, ND in April 2012, which is being renovated into a multi-purpose theater and community center.  By providing a venue and assisting in creative opportunities for our community’s youth,  local artists, and  their audiences, the Northern Expressions Council strives to provide a permanent venue and appreciation for the arts in  McLean County and the surrounding area.  The NEAC and the Bring Back the Rose project are making contributions to all five of Underwood’s strategic development goals, most apparently in creating a sense of belonging and community pride, in increasing the physical attractiveness of Underwood, and in expanding the variety and quality of recreational services to help diversify the local economy.

Building renovation progress includes removal of cold storage materials, demolition and cleanup of the entry way, lobby, and theater sections of the facility.  The NEAC has raised almost $30,000 for the project. In addition, materials donated to the project include a sound system from Underwood Public Schools, theater seating from Grand Theaters in Bismarck, and lighting from St Bonaventure Catholic Church. The NEAC is now in Phase two of the fundraising plan, working to raise an additional $50,000. Phase 2 work includes a more permanent roof treatment, replacing the front and rear doors, installing two restrooms and a concession area, installing/repairing the HVAC, installing seating, and installing house and minimal stage lighting systems. 

Current NEAC board members are Marcie Blotske, Mark Wood, Pastor Anna Haugen, Bryce Tellmann, Tyler Demars,  and Becky Bowen.  The NEAC has three working committees:

  • Program/Events committee working on community events and artist opportunities

  • Building committee working on the renovation of the Rose, hiring contractors and organizing volunteers to complete the work

  • Fundraising committee organizing fundraising initiatives and recruiting new NEAC members.

The NEAC is an energetic and capable group doing important work in our community. To learn more about this important work please check out the new promotional video developed by the NEAC at www.underwoodnd.net. Do you have an interest in helping to “Bring Back the Rose” in Underwood? Do you have ideas on how the NEAC could promote the arts? Are you a plumber, electrician or handy man who could help the building committee?  If you are interested in getting involved email northernexpressionsac@gmail.com, tyler@cedc.com, or call me at 701-595-1259.

Attracting Young Families to Underwood

 

               Young families are an important part of thriving rural communities. These members of the under-40 demographic are young families with school-aged children; young farmers and ranchers, business owners and future leaders who will bring new energy, economic activity, and community development to Underwood.

Some of the community characteristics that attract young folks also attract others: a town that is clean and attractive; provides available and affordable housing, a great place to raise kids, and a place that makes them feel welcome. Much of the discussion on attracting young people to rural communities focuses on primary sector job creation. University of Minnesota Rural Sociologist Ben Winchester has been researching rural community dynamics and feels this approach is misguided. “When it comes to the reasons 30- to 40-year-olds say they want to move to a rural area, jobs isn’t even in the top 10,” Winchester said. “Quality of life is No. 1. Others are a slower pace, lower cost of housing, and safety and security. Many of these people are creating their own jobs.” There is a growing number of Generation Y’ers (defined as those born between 1977 and 1994) who sees tremendous value in rural living. “Discussions about the future of rural communities can have a negative tone, but this isn’t your grandfather’s rural,” Winchester said. “You look at the numbers and you can see the rural narrative is being rewritten.”

In Underwood, we’re working on strategies to ensure we are part of this rewritten rural narrative. The Center for Rural Affairs identifies four areas to focus on in attracting young families to rural communities:

Entrepreneurial support – Generation Y tends to be very entrepreneurial, so it is important for communities to support and nurture entrepreneurship. Fairfield, Iowa, is an excellent example. Monthly entrepreneurial activities are held along with an annual “Idea Bounce” to generate new ideas and businesses. While this type of activity may challenge very small communities, collaborating with other towns to broaden capacity can address the challenge. In Underwood we have a business incubator and Small Business Development Center, along with financial incentives for new and expanding businesses. Combined with a strong local economy, Underwood is providing resources that help entrepreneurs thrive.

Farms and Ranches - Communities should identify those farmers and ranchers interested in transitioning or retiring and identify beginners who want to get a start. Access to land is a THE challenge for young farmers and ranchers. The UAEDC and McLean Sheridan Small Business Development Center can assist a farmers and ranchers to explore succession planning.

Social connections – Members of Generation Y think like entrepreneurs, but relationships and family often come first. They want to connect with others their own age. Garden County, Nebraska, organizes gatherings for young people living within the county and provides occasional evenings of music, good food, good conversation and babysitting. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good gathering place. In Underwood the Northern Expressions Arts Council is working to renovate the Rose Theater into a modern movie theater and community center. This community gathering place will be a tremendous asset in attracting young families.

Advertise and market your town - Reach out to this demographic, and be creative about it. Hartington, Nebraska, has set up an alumni Facebook page; other communities have created websites that draw people in. But don’t forget the personal touch. A call or letter allows them to connect on a personal level – something that is also very important to this generation. As far as I know Underwood does not have an alumni website or Facebook page. This could be a valuable networking venue to keep Underwood alum updated on business and community developments.

We are already doing much of the needed work to attract young families to Underwood but could be doing more. Please email tyler@cedc.coop or call me at 701-595-1259  if:

  • You are interested in starting an Underwood Alumni Facebook page.

  • You are interested in getting involved with Bring Back the Rose project and the Northern Expressions Arts Council.

  • You have any suggestions for improvement to the Underwood website (www.underwoodnd.net).

  • You are or know of any farmers or ranchers looking for assistance with succession planning.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.