NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It's all over but the counting for five communities hoping to become this year's Small Business Revolution - Main Street winner.
The city's weeklong push to collect as many votes as possible toward the $500,000 economic development boost ended at midnight on Thursday.
Five municipalities across the nation were trying their best to reach out to every resident, visitor, celebrity, official and sympathizer they could find to get as much support as possible.
Next Wednesday, Deluxe Corp. will announce the winner of the second season of the Small Business Revolution — and which community will get technical aid, consulting and physical improvements worth a half-million dollars.
The community and about five of its businesses will be featured in an online series with the opportunity for national exposure.
The effort was initially spearheaded by City Council President Benjamin Lamb and Events Coordinator Suzy Helme. Soon more people jumped on board — particularly Eric Kerns, Becky Miner, Keifer Gammell, Julia Dixon and Jodi Joseph of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
The big break was when North Adams, the smallest city in the state, was selected as one of eight semi-finalists — out of 14,000 nominations. Last month, Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe, arrived with a camera crew to meet local small-business owners, talking with them about their goals, their challenges, their successes and their needs.
Last Thursday, shortly after 7 a.m., Brinkman and her SBR co-host Robert Herjavec, best known for "Shark Tank," announced the five finalists that included North Adams. Online voting began immediately, with votes able to be cast once every 24 hours on any device or browser.
Deluxe, a Minnesota-based company that had its start in printing checks and now also provides small-business solutions and financial services, started the Small Business Revolution after traveling the country seeking 100 business to feature for its 100th anniversary.
The next year it asked for nominations to help improve a downtown, with Wabash, Ind., becoming the first winner of the Main Street initiative. Some 180,000 votes were cast in total last year.
That's been far surpassed in this last week's voting, according to communications from Deluxe. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, it said the volume of voting was so high that some people were having connection errors and decided to extend the deadline from 9 p.m. Thursday to midnight:
"It is a TIGHT race. A dead heat at the top, and very close throughout the rankings. It's still anyone's game. Thank you for your patience and good luck to all five towns!"
The #MyNorthAdams team admitted to "shamelessly" contacting as many celebrities and social media powerhouses they could find. That included current and former politicians, reaching out sports teams, and connecting artists. Both James Taylor and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spread the message. They may have hit the jackpot when movie star and Pittsfield native Elizabeth Banks sent out a tweet to her 2.28 million followers as the deadline loomed.
The final days also had supporters on a whirlwind tour of radio and television stations, a "snow angel" flash mob in the middle of a blizzard and photo pose with the Empire State Building — or at least a scale model of it.
North Adams has been solidly in third place through the week, except for a quick shift to second that last about three minutes. But Wabash was reportedly 11,000 votes down right before it won.
The results will be announced on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m. in Club B-10 at Mass MoCA. It will be preceded by a showing of Episode 1 of Wabash's season at the North Adams Movieplex at noon and followed by a party at Bright Ideas Brewing.
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