In 2018, we narrowed thousands of nominations for towns from across the country as we sought one special small town that needed a boost. Five finalists went up for a weeklong public vote, and after a fierce battle, Alton, Illinois was named the winner!
The transformation was captured in an original eight-episode series telling the story of the inspiring people we met and the challenges they faced. Take a look below to learn more about what makes Alton so special, and then be sure to check out Season 3 to see their story unfold starting October 4!
About the Town
Few communities have as deep and rich history as Alton, Illinois. Located in the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, Alton has hosted debates with Abraham Lincoln, is home of the Underground Railroad during the time of slavery, boasts the birthplace of the world’s tallest man and is home to jazz legend Miles Davis. Separated from St. Louis by the mighty Mississippi, the town’s rich history and spirited community make it ripe for a revival.
With nearly 30,000 people, Alton, like many small towns throughout the upper Midwest, has seen its share of booms and busts. In the middle of the 20th century, manufacturing jobs were plenty and Alton’s population rose to more than 50,000 people. Now, this bedroom community to St. Louis is finding its footing with new small businesses propping up the economy.
As a community, Alton has grown through the combination of towns, from Upper Alton to North Alton to Central. With multiple “Main Streets,” Alton is seeing growth and revitalization throughout its myriad districts. Today, Alton is in the midst of an entrepreneurial reinvention. New businesses have begun to line East Broadway, the town’s main thoroughfare. From a restaurants to taps rooms to beauty supply shops and manufacturing hubs, Alton’s unique businesses draw a diverse crowd, and the community has also attracted artists from around the country to participate in the river town’s current renaissance. Residents are hoping the Small Business Revolution can help contribute to the next chapter in Alton’s story.