Downtown Ventura is the only California neighborhood remaining in IKEA’s $50,000 \”Small Business, Big Dreams\” Makeover Contest.

The fledgling Downtown Ventura Organization has landed what at least 50 other communities wanted last week: attention. And not just any attention, but national attention—well, at least from the Swedish super-store IKEA.

Downtown Ventura has made the final cut in a $50,000 \”Small Business, Big Dreams\” main street makeover contest \”furnished by IKEA.\”

The super-popular Swedish home furnishings giant selected 10 historic downtown \”main street\” neighborhoods out of 50 applicants to vie for $50,000 worth of furnishings and a team of IKEA designers to \”makeover\” the small business’s interiors.

Now you, Ventura County, and the rest of the American public will choose a winner by voting online within the next two weeks. Did you ever waste a buck voting for a loser on Idol? Well now is the time to cast a vote for a local favorite that has a chance to win big. You get one vote per e-mail address that you own. (Here’s where you read between the lines and do exactly what your conscious tells you not to.) View them all and vote here:

http://business.ikea.com/mainstreet

Ventura was one of five California cities in the top 50 applicants that included Antioch, Danville, San Mateo and Sorrento Valley. It is, however, now the only California town remaining in the top 10— and, in fact, in the entire southwestern U.S. Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. each have one neighborhood in the mix; Illinois has two and Michigan boasts three towns in the final 10.

Do we have a chance? You betcha. At no point in the past week has Downtown Ventura’s video ever been anything less than tied for first — out of 50 contestant cities.

Our little no-budget video focused on Ventura’s humble roots, Main Street’s artsy and progressive vibe as well as the new fabulous boutiques. We purposely did not tout us as the next La Jolla or an O.C.-wannabe with high-end galleries everywhere. This effort was earnest — we just want to give a few of the many worthy small independently owned retailers a hand-up, without asking for a hand-out. Which is why I am spending the next two weeks of this national voting period going from business to business collecting “matching grants”— commitments from other businesses to also be a part of our future makeover excitement.

Why? I think IKEA would be further impressed by one more thing: resourcefulness. I want to show IKEA that we won’t spend the next two weeks waiting around for an award. And I think this is an opportune time to land some small business financing for exterior makeovers as well. Local banks, hardware stores, interior designers, general contractors and anyone who wants to be a part of the winning team — and we will win — should consider lending their support. Consider yourself invited to the party.

We’ll take donations of time and talent, products and services, too. For Ventura to win we’ll need a group effort worthy of selection for such a large prize — and the national exposure that will come along with it. We will certainly get lots of press even if we just place (as there is more to win than just the grand prize).

But first we need everyone to vote online. Resurrect those old e-mail accounts and then tell your friends to, too. I’ve read several other candidates’ blogs and they say they’ll do “anything to win this thing” … and I’m guessing you will, too. Would our high school cheerleaders don blue and gold and form the Swedish flag on the beach? (I doubt St. Louis could pull that off.)

How about homemade banners that say “Vote For Ventura” on every freeway overpass? … campaign lawn signs that just say “VOTE” and the IKEA Web address … or paint it on the back window of your mom’s minivan … how about blue and gold streamers all over the outside of your house — or your least favorite neighbor’s house for that matter … film it and then put it up on YouTube … go nuts Ventura. I know you have it in ya. We want both Anderson Cooper and Ann Coulter commenting on how remarkable Ventura’s thirst for glory is. Are you in?

C’mon, it’s for a worthy cause — the barstools in your favorite Main Street wine bar depend on it!

Rob Edwards is the new Executive Director of the Downtown Ventura Organization, a newly funded nonprofit created to improve Ventura’s historic downtown shopping district.