Downtown leaders from around state visit Franklin

Published 10:41 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

FRANKLIN—Downtown Franklin has faced its share of challenges over the past decade or so, Mayor Jim Councill told downtown boosters from across the state assembled at Franklin Baptist Church for the Virginia Main Street Summer Toolkit.

“We’ve been through two floods, a huge storm and then we had our last catastrophe in October and it’s really taking a toll,” he said as he welcomed the group Thursday morning.

The Virginia Main Street Program and the Downtown Franklin Association hosted the toolkit, which was designed to foster entrepreneurship in downtowns.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development manages the Virginia Main Street Program. Franklin is one of three charter member communities, along with Bedford and Winchester, whose membership dates to 1985. There are now 23 communities affiliated with the program.

The toolkit program, which wrapped up Friday, featured discussions on downtown business recruitment and retention, thinking and acting like a developer, an analysis of downtown entrepreneurship and cultivating and visualizing a downtown marketplace.

Boykins Mayor Spier Edwards was one of five representatives from the town attending Thursday’s session.

“I think it will be very beneficial to all of us, small towns and big towns,” he said.

Eddie Bumbaugh, executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, spoke about downtown business recruitment and retention Thursday. He told attendees that it’s important to recognize what their city or town has to offer, such as historic architecture or location.

“Identify your own strengths and your own unique qualities,” he said. “Every downtown has them.”

Despite the closure of the International Paper Co. mill, Councill said there are big things on the horizon for the city.

“It isn’t the end of Franklin by a long shot; it is just a hiccup—a big one—but nonetheless a hiccup and we’re excited about what’s coming,” he said.