Ilkeston traders have joined the race to revive the town with backing from retail guru Mary Portas and government cash.
By the end of March, they need to come up with a range of ideas to boost the area as well as a video to support their claim to become one of the 12 winners.
Chamber of Trade chairman Sharon Flint said: “This is a one-off opportunity and let’s go for it.
“We need to see if we can get Ilkeston back on the map again,” added Ms Flint, a chiropodist.
The national competition has already attracted dozens of entries and 12 towns will become ‘Portas Pilots’, where the former Harrod’s window dresser will try to help turn around their fortunes.
The government has put up £1m for the scheme but each winning town will get no more than £100,000 of that.
Each area will have a ‘town team’, which will work under the guidance of the ‘High Streets Review’ drawn up by Ms Portas with the backing of the Prime Minister.
In her national plan to revive towns, she suggests ‘affordable’ car parking and incentives to get empty shops back in use. But she does not oppose more out-of-town complexes.
Ms Portas said: “The model of the High Street is so out-dated. It is working in the same way that it did in the 1960s but the sixties are no longer here.”
Local government minister Grant Shapps said: “Our high streets have faced stiff competition from internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres.
“This has left them underused, unloved and under-valued.
“The internet is not going to go away and for our high streets to survive they need to offer something new and exciting.”
Erewash Partnership’s market town co-ordinator Paul Calladine said: “There is a tight deadline which involves getting support from landlords, retailers, local business people, transport and disabled groups.”
Chamber of Trade secretary Nicki Spencer said the town could benefit from action to reduce the number of empty shops and also to promote market days. Larger retailers could mentor small shopkeepers.
And Margaret Thorniley said the town would become more vibrant if empty properties were turned into homes so more people lived closer to the centre.
At a meeting of the chamber, members voted unanimously to take part in the competition to win help from Ms Portas.
They will meet again shortly to draw up a range of ideas.
Other Portas suggestions include getting business rates to provide more support for traders, getting ‘town centres running like businesses’ and cutting red tape.