SEARCY, Ark. — Time is running out to help Searcy win the biggest prize in the city’s history: half a million dollars for small businesses and a spot on a hit TV show.
“We’re starting to get a little tired,” Amy Burton said, “but we are powering through because we really feel like we can win this.”
Burton, Executive Director of Main Street Searcy, has helped lead the team campaigning on behalf of Searcy’s nomination for Season Four of “Small Business Revolution Main Street."
“This whole process has just been a phenomenal movement for our community,” she said.
The producers of the show announced Monday that, with one day left in the public voting, Searcy had fallen behind Durant, Oklahoma into second place. The winning city will be featured in the next season of the Hulu show and win $500,000 for small business development.
“Winning this for Searcy, it can be life-changing,” Burton said. “A lot of our small businesses around the entire state are just hanging on by a thread. So, if we can bring this program into Arkansas, strengthen the small businesses in our community, it really has the potential to have a strong economic impact through the whole state, because a lot of our Searcy businesses do business with businesses in other towns in the state, so it really has the potential to increase supplies and really spread throughout everywhere and see a positive economic impact.”
Ben DuBose has already felt the show’s impact. Dubose, owner of Benjamin’s Salon, said camaraderie within the business community in Searcy has changed as the city has advanced in the contest
“The spirit of unity, and of working together for a common goal, a common cause, has been a lot of fun,” he said. “And it’s really already blessed our community, just having this opportunity to try for something together.”
Benjamin’s is one of many downtown businesses that has a sign in its window urging people to vote for Searcy.
“A change that I’ve noticed the most is, there’s an attitude that things could change,” he explained. “So much of the time, we focus on the negative. ‘Oh, it’ll always be this way. There’s nothing to do in our sleepy little town.’ And now we have this little glimpse that, maybe, maybe things could change. Maybe there could be something more. There could be something around the corner.”
Burton and a handful of volunteers sat around a conference room table at Think Idea Studio updating social media pages and honing their strategy for the final day of voting. Burton said she has been impressed by the reaction to the campaign.
“To see the way the entire state has come together has been, just, it’s really made me proud to be an Arkansan,” Burton said.
Searcy had led the voting for most of the final week, but promotion from Blake Shelton and a Las Vegas giveaway helped Durant, Oklahoma become the front-runner. Arkansas celebrities like country singer Justin Moore, actor Mary Steenburgen, North Little Rock police officer Tommy Norman, and Governor Asa Hutchinson tweeted their support for Searcy on Monday. Main Street Searcy also began a giveaway of a cruise vacation for people who shared proof of their votes on Facebook.
“It has really been a phenomenal process to watch how the community has engaged. We see yard signs and banners. If you drive through Searcy, all of the businesses’ electronic signs—whether it be a pharmacy or a bank—have Small Business Revolution, ‘vote today, ‘GoSearcy.com.’ So, it’s really been pretty amazing to watch how the community has pulled together to make this happen for Searcy.”
Voting closes Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. and the results will be announced Tuesday, February 26. Each of the six finalist cities will host watch parties that night, but Burton said Searcy’s will be a “launch party,” instead.
“With the momentum that has been created within our community…obviously, we hope to win. We plan to win. But if we don’t,” she said, “we’ve really seen the small business community come together, and we’re going to continue the push, regardless. We’ve already kind of talked about some of the promotions and the projects that we can continue on, now that we have so many people engaged. We have a whole new round of volunteers that are willing to engage in the community and be a part of something bigger just a single small business owner can tackle on their own.”
“Even if we don’t win,” DuBose added, “it’s already been phenomenal for us. The validation they’ve given us by saying, ‘hey, this little town has a little bit of growth happening. They’re doing something. It looks like fun. It might work for our show.’ And they’ve shined a little bit of a spotlight where maybe it would’ve taken a couple more years before people saw the growth that we’re trying to make happen.”
People may vote once per day per email address by visiting GoSearcy.com. Burton explained that voters can use one email address on their computer, for instance, and another on their phone.