The Dalles is in the running to be on a TV show that would bring a $500,000 investment to six local small businesses and the community.
It was recently named a top 10 finalist to be featured on “Small Business Revolution,” a web series available on Amazon Prime and Hulu. To make it to the top five, The Dalles needs to generate lots of social media buzz, say organizers. To win the entire contest, the community needs to generate even more online votes: last year’s winning town had one million.
The web series, also available at smallbusinessrevolution.com, is preparing for Season 5 of the show, which is co-hosted by Ty Pennington of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Trading Spaces.”
The show’s tagline is that its “on a mission to revitalize small towns, one small business at a time.”
The Dalles was selected from nearly 6,000 nominations of 200 towns to make it to the final 10, according to a press release from Deluxe Corp., a small-business services provider and the creator of the show.
The top 10 towns will be winnowed down to five on Jan. 14, and one measure of who makes the cut is who can make the most noise on social media right now about their town and the show, local backers said.
To that end, The Dalles Main Street, an entity that seeks to revitalize downtown, is asking the community to flood their social media accounts with #TheDalles and #SmallBusinessRevolution, to interact with other posts that do the same, and to encourage all their connections to get involved too.
They ask people to like and follow Small Business Revolution on social media and comment #The Dalles as often as possible.
After the top five are announced, they will have just one week, from Jan. 14-21, to generate as many votes for their town as possible. Last year’s winner, Searcy, Ark., a town of 22,000, generated a million votes, said Don Warren, president of The Dalles Main Street.
Each email account can vote once each day from as many different devices as the account holder has access to. Warren, for example, has about five email accounts and plans to vote from each of them across multiple devices.
Meadow Outdoor Advertising is helping by putting three billboards up about the contest and how to help get the word out and how to vote for The Dalles if it makes the top five.
A new website, called “Love The Dalles,” will be created to direct voters to the link where they can cast their vote, “We all love the Dalles and let’s all get together and love it so hard we get half a million dollars and help ourselves grow,” Warren said.
Part of the judging criteria leading up to the Top five announcement Jan. 14 is how well the town works together and can mobilize itself to promote itself, Warren said.
Oregon City is also a finalist, as are Benicia, Calif., Bisbee, Ariz., Brunswick, Ga., Fredonia, NY., Livingston, Mont., Spearfish, South Dakota, Waseca, Minn., and Xenia, Ohio.
The businesses in the winning town will get help with everything from business branding to remodeled space to business planning.
Each season is eight episodes. The first is about the town overall, where it was and where it wants to be. Then the six businesses are featured in one episode each, and the last episode shows all the services and help that Deluxe Corp. provided to the businesses.
In addition to money for businesses, some community projects are also done, such as pocket parks or tree plantings.
Todd Carpenter, co-owner of The Last Stop Saloon, said the call to action for social media mobilization was a community effort “because if we all get together and support this we all see the benefit of it.”
He added, “We think we have a really good shot at the top five.”
The winner is announced Jan. 28, and each town on that day has a big event, and “If you’re the winner, Amanda Brinkman comes out from the wings and the whole place goes crazy,” Warren said.
Brinkman is the creator and co-host of the show.
From there, small businesses can apply to be one of the six businesses that get a makeover on the show. Usually about 200 businesses apply, Warren said.
Then, the six winning businesses are announced at another big event. Filming runs from late February to May, then the show runs in late summer.
The show is looking to showcase a small town in the 10,000-20,000 population range. “They don’t want to put $500,000 into a town that’s a wreck because it won’t make a difference,” Warren said. They also don’t want to choose a town that’s perfect, “so they’re looking for a town that’s on an upward arc like ours.”
“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” he said. “The whole Main Street is coming back to life.” He mentioned the renovated Granada Theatre, the Last Stop Saloon, and the plans for the recently sold American legion Building.
He said people who grew up here and moved away and have done something out in the world now want to come back home and do something big here, he said. And a lot of people are aging out of their businesses, so “there’s a lot of opportunity here.”
Warren said about five weeks ago Small Business Revolution reached out to The Dalles Main Street’s email address about the show. He responded and got a phone call about a week later from the show.
Then, another phone call took place awhile after that, and a few days later, word came that The Dalles was in the top 10.
On Dec. 2, staff from the show came to town and spoke to business and civic leaders for about two hours in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day talking to small businesses.
Show staff said they were most impressed that each business they talked to referred them to someone else to talk to next. “They said, ‘Your small town businesses are so interconnected.’”
Carpenter said, “I think we fit their wheelhouse. The leaders and historians that spoke to them, they told a good story, they identified a couple challenges and they shared the momentum.”