EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
The Marinette and Menominee High School Bands and the West Shore Choral Group entertained the Marinette/Menominee crowd at Enstrom Helicopter as they welcomed Amanda Brinkman from the Small Business Revolution television show Thursday at Enstrom Helicopter in Menominee.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

The Marinette and Menominee High School Bands and the West Shore Choral Group entertained the Marinette/Menominee crowd at Enstrom Helicopter as they welcomed Amanda Brinkman from the Small Business Revolution television show Thursday at Enstrom Helicopter in Menominee.

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MENOMINEE — After months of preparation and anticipation, an enthusiastic crowd and a double dose of sound from the two high school marching bands welcomed Amanda Brinkman and her team from Deluxe Corp. to the Twin Cities Thursday.

The rousing reception from the Menominee and Marinette high school marching bands was accompanied by the cheers and applause from more than 450 local small business owners, city officials and other citizens invited to the event at Enstrom Helicopter Corporation.

The reception was the icing on the cake of a multi-day visit from the Deluxe team, which arrived in Marinette and Menominee Wednesday and spent that afternoon and evening, all day Thursday and the morning today visiting as many small businesses they can in the area.

It’s all part of the advance work done by Deluxe to choose the next winner of a $500,000 business and community makeover and a spot on the “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” reality show going into its fourth season on Hulu.

Marinette and Menominee were chosen among the Top 20 of more than 12,000 communities that entered the competition this year and in December, the Twin Cities — as a collective — was selected by Deluxe to be in the Top 10.

Brinkman, Deluxe’s chief brand and communications officer and the creator of the program, made several visits of her own throughout the community Wednesday, meeting with small business owners as well as some of the people working behind the scenes to push Menominee and Marinette into the Top 10, and hopefully, the Top 5 come Feb. 12.

“We love small businesses,” Brinkman said of her company, which specializes in helping small businesses with marketing their unique services or products.

She thanked everyone for the warm welcome she and her team received on their visit and recognized that the work done locally to bring the two cities together over the years and especially in this competition, “is an incredible example of exactly what Small Business Revolution is meant to do.”

She said the intent of the program is to create a movement across the nation that stresses the importance of supporting small businesses, whose owners support their own families and create jobs for others “and provide something incredible for their communities.”

Brinkman said Deluxe looked for communities that were already working toward that goal, and found 10 communities that, regardless of whether they end up in first place, “have the experience to use that momentum and carry it forward.”

She said Menominee and Marinette had already made steps toward working together, but it was exciting to see how the process of preparing for the competition “brought you guys together at a whole new level. And that is something that is a true prize. You guys are already winners.”

“There’s something about people coming in from the outside and saying, ‘you have something special here,’ that just reaffirms the thing I know you guys already know,” she told the crowd of Marinette and Menominee business owners and residents. “We’re very excited to see what happens next.”

She introduced the Deluxe team, which included camera crews and marketing specialists, which had broken off into teams over the past two days to cover as many businesses as they could to get a feel for the community.

She had the crowd chant “Marinette Menominee” repeatedly, so it could be filmed, as well as a rousing cry to “Vote Marinette Menominee!” before sending the crowd out to mingle and talk with Deluxe team members.

The event featured food from many of the area’s restaurants, including: Hippo Subs, Scoops, Downtown Sandwich & Ice Cream Shoppe, Jack’s Fresh Market, Thai Cuisine, Pearl Eatery - Drinkery, The Landing, Laurie’s Wildflower Cafe and Bagel Shoppe, Railhouse Restaurant & Brewpub, Dexter’s, Colonel K’s Pasties, Ogden Club, 35th & Coffee, Serving Spoon and Finishing Touches. Beverages were provided by Forgotten Fire Winery, Jack’s and Upright Distributing. The food and beverages were sponsored by KK Integrated Logistics.

After the Deluxe team returns to Minnesota today, it will prepare to visit the remaining seven cities in the Top 10 before making the decision Feb. 12 which five cities will be involved in the national vote to pick the winner.

In a news conference prior to the reception, Brinkman said that communities will “have one week to rally as many votes as they can,” after the Top 5 are chosen in February, adding that people can vote one time per day, per device, such as a cell phone, laptop, tablet or personal computer.