An anti-business reputation

Published 9:31 am Friday, December 23, 2011

By all indications, the City of Franklin is on the verge of having a new city manager. A number of qualified candidates have been identified, a favorite has been selected and, but for the crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s, an announcement appears imminent.

All of which means the outgoing city manager, June Fleming, will finally be able to ride off into the retirement sunset she has been eyeing for 3½ years and that she richly deserves.

Ms. Fleming deserves tremendous credit for her time as city manager. Beginning her tenure as essentially an unpaid interim volunteer, Fleming stayed in the role much longer than she originally anticipated. As it appears her time at the helm is running short, we wish her well and thank her for her years of service.

Now that City Hall is preparing to come under new management, it should be used as an opportunity to change the way business is being done in Franklin. Literally.

For years, dating to long before June Fleming became CEO, there has been a commonly held perception among those in the Franklin business community that Franklin isn’t the easiest place in the world to do business. The appointment of a Business Friendly Committee a few years back was a good step, but it doesn’t seem to have helped. Franklin’s reputation as anti-business must change, and the new city manager must set the tone.

Whether or not it is difficult to do business in Franklin is a subjective debate, ultimately defined by hundreds and thousands of unique and individual experiences and opinions. Yet there have been enough consistent complaints, ranging from oppressive sign ordinances to long turnaround times for permits and licenses that, with that much smoke, something’s probably on fire.

Open and honest dialog between City Hall and the business community is essential if there is any hope of bridging the gap. The business community has been ready and willing to do its part. The Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, for example, maintains seats on its board of directors for the Southampton County administrator, the president of Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. and the Franklin city manager. For at least the last two years, the Southampton County administrator and FSEDI’s leader have been regular attendees at the Chamber’s monthly board meetings, where business leaders meet to voice and share their concerns and ideas. Meantime, the city’s seat at the table has been empty.

We look forward to welcoming Franklin’s new city manager and wish him or her well in a very important and demanding job. The business community will have expectations, however, and we hope the new CEO of City Hall is prepared to meet them.