On Friday, El Paso Inc. will open up the vote for Best of El Paso and I am asking each of you to participate. Please cast a ballot.

Best of El Paso is El Paso Inc.’s version of a people’s choice award. We’ve been doing some form of it since 2004, but this year we’re introducing a major overhaul. It starts with an updated name – Best of El Paso – and has a renewed vision and purpose.

Like other publications across the country, our Best Ofs have done a great job polling the community and naming winners in a set of categories.

It’s very useful for the winners. Businesses want accolades to prove legitimacy and tell their stories. It’s exposure and recognition. And for many, a local Best Of award may be the only one they get. The winners are showcased in a copy of the publication, get an official plaque and, of course, bragging rights.

The publication moves on to its next deadline and the Best Ofs are archived in some special section and some webpage deep on a website. There it sits mostly dormant until awoken for next year’s vote.

Meanwhile, every day across our community people are clamoring for recommendations on everything from food to health care. It’s one of the top things I see on social media. For example, last holiday season I ran across countless posts from people asking where to buy tamales. We’ve done this category for years! We already put a lot of work into finding community consensus on a winner, runner up and finalists. We have an excellent list of options.

We’re excited to announce that this year we’re expanding the program. Beyond a printed publication with many more categories, we’re introducing an interactive digital platform that will bring El Paso’s top recommended businesses and services to your fingertips. It’s a community-vetted shortlist of everything from food, home and fitness to beauty, shopping, auto, health care and much more available as a mobile app and website.

It all starts with a really strong, quality vote where voter integrity is key. We have a few more rules and regulations than your average publication.

For starters, we are serious about kicking out the cheaters. We monitor and toss them out as they come in. We also only accept local votes. And we only allow one ballot per person – we’re not trying to get you to come back every day during voting. We want community members who are willing to participate across a broad set of categories so we require voting in at least 25 of them. What we really hope is that you will weigh in on as many categories as you feel you have legitimate knowledge of.

It will only cost you some time and I hope a positive diversion from the crisis around us. It’s an easy way to support local businesses, which need you to remember them more than ever.

To vote, go online to BestofElPaso.com. Voting will be open from July 10 through July 31.

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