MARINETTE — Support for the Marinette Menominee Small Business Revolution (SBR) effort widened last week with the approval of a proclamation by the Marinette County Board of Supervisors.

The proclamation starts out by noting that the twin cities of Marinette and Menominee have been elevated into the Top 10 communities in the nationwide SBR competition.

“Whereas the opportunity for community development and economic development is bolstered through participation in this process, and whereas a newly-found unity in our region is further solidified by working together with our neighbors in this effort, and whereas a more vibrant community is the goal of the organizers of the #mymarinettemenominee campaign,” the proclamation states. “Now be it resolved the members of the Marinette County Board of Supervisors hereby proclaim their support of the grassroots community effort to achieve the top spot in the Small Business Revolution.”

A decision on the Top 5 from nearly 12,000 initial nominations will be made Feb. 12 and then a week-long nationwide vote will decide which community will receive $500,000 and professional consultation for the development of downtown businesses.

Making a presentation to the board before the vote on the proclamation were Kim Brooks, a Marinette businesswoman and Wausaukee resident, and Keith KIllen, a Marinette resident and Menominee businessman.

“Keith and I took the opportunity in October to participate, in the Small Business Revolution,” Brooks explained. “This starts out looking like a competition between 10 cities, but we’re using this as a vehicle for community development. This is an opportunity for local communities to get together side-by-side for the long-term goal of improving the region.

“Our goal is a more vibrant community. We would like to see the talent that comes here for short-term employment to choose to stay and make homes here and bring their families here. We’d like to see the talent that graduates from our high schools to make this their long-term residence and raise their families here as well.”

She said “we started out among 12,000 cities back in October and we quickly moved into the top 20 and then into the top 10. Two weeks from today we’ll find out if we’re in the top 5 nationwide.”

“Then this will go to a nationwide vote,” Brooks explained. “We will be visited by the folks from the Deluxe Corp. on May 8.

“In the forum, each of us who owns a small business can learn from their professional expertise at no charge. That’s a gift from their corporation to us for making it this far in the process.”

She said the next phase in the process if Marinette/Menominee advance to the top 5 will the nationwide voting.

“We hope that we can count on each of you to help us in the voting,” Brooks said. 

Killen explained that the competition was not set up for a twin community to be entered and that it was the first time that an entry like Marinette/Menominee was accepted.

“It caused a little bit of challenge for them to figure out how to do that,” he said. “We were very flattered that they did.”

He said if the Twin Cities advance to the top 5 in the competition, “we’re going to need millions of votes from across the county.

“We feel confident we can do that, but we have to start out with an army of networks to do that,” Killen said. “Think about your household and how many (online-accessible) devices you have and the email addresses that you have.

“A person for seven days can vote once each per each device and email address.”

He also said a person can establish a network of voters from relatives and people in the community that don’t know about the effort.

“Everyone across the globe can participate,” he said. “This opportunity doesn’t leave much time for contemplation.”

Killen said organizers of the effort are reaching out for help to publicize it from every forms of media they can think of. 

He said locally, businesses and other entities are looking at providing voting places for people that don’t have internet access.

“One thing we’d like to say is we don’t really have a budget for advertising,” Brooks said. “We’ve been very aggressive to reach out regionally to every organization we can think of. But we don’t have the ability to buy advertising.”

Killen said the team from Deluxe that came to the Twin Cities in January included “very genuine people that are sincere in what they are doing.”

“Ultimately they choose six businesses for the program,” he explained. “When the show airs, everyone across the country gets to see what a small business owner is like and have a much better understanding of what relationship they can have with those small businesses.”

Brooks said the money awarded to the winning community is “not direct cash payments, it’s a direct investment into those properties. It’s a windfall for them for sure, but this changes communities.”

She said changes from the funds allocated in the first three seasons of the competition have included steep decline in vacancy rates in downtowns, and added that all participants can learn from the expertise of the Deluxe team.

“The businesses are selected through an application process and then it’s narrowed down with interviews,” Killen explained. “When the Deluxe team interviews them, they are looking for what makes a great show and what is it they (the small businesses) are trying to accomplish.”

Brooks said appearing in front of audiences like the Marinette County Board is crucial “for what we believe is a very important cause” and “each of these is used to reach out to media.”

“We need you help, there are just a handful of us driving this thing,” she said. “Anything you can do to support this effort, whether it be with the press or your own voting network, is appreciated.

“Or challenging businesses in this community to get more involved. We’re hoping that that is one of the benefits of being here today. I thank you for supporting this proclamation.”

“We have a (Wisconsin) counties association meeting on Feb. 5 (Tuesday) and I’ve asked them (the organizers of the local SBR effort) to create a three-minute video on this very topic to spread it across the State of Wisconsin,” said board chairperson Mark Anderson. “Hopefully that will help them.”