Business Friendly Committee progress reviewed

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

by Barry Cheatham

The Franklin Business Friendly Committee began meeting in October 2008.

Members of the committee are comprised of businessmen and women representing various companies from all areas of the city.

The purpose of this committee is to recommend and establish business-friendly policies to submit to city staff and City Council. Objectives are to urge the council to consider the economic impact of ordinances, determine the barriers to opening a business in Franklin and conduct annual reviews to keep city codes up to date to help implement the economic development plan.

The committee discovered that most issues could be resolved by better communication, including customer-service training for staff.

The first action was to restructure the business-license application process. The Commissioner of the Revenue’s office became the single point of contact to insure that the prospective business owner knows what steps to take.

The committee reviewed the daily interactions that staff has with persons who are seeking business licenses and development permits.

Community Development Director Donald Goodwin met with representatives from the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Commissioner of Revenue’s office to discuss strategies for providing support to new businesses.

A comprehensive web page was developed for those thinking about starting a business in Franklin. This offers step-by-step instructions, contacts and a questionnaire that allows someone to understand what their responsibilities are as required by law.

It also provides contact information to other governmental agencies that can provide guidance through the business license process.

An informational handout package was developed for those who are seeking a business license that provides a one-stop shop. This package is available at the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office.

The committee examined the sign ordinance for changes to make the rules more palatable to business owners. Meetings were held that included other business owners and non-committee members to review the sign ordinance. Numerous amendments were recommended to the planning commission in partnership with the committee members, business owners and the Downtown Franklin Association.

The planning commission embraced the recommended changes and forwarded them to City Council for subsequent adoption in 2011.

The community development director and the commissioner of revenue held a day-long training session with their staff to cross train each other so that each department could better understand the process for zoning clearances and business licenses.

DFA and members from the Franklin Farmers’ Market Advisory Board met with the committee to discuss the business license issue for the farmers’ market. The procedures were reviewed for the registration and the business license.

After numerous discussions with the commissioner’s office and the DFA, several changes are being implemented to streamline the process for those seeking to operate at the farmers’ market. They include:

• Temporarily waiving the market’s $50 fee

• The commissioner’s office is streamlining the checklist and license package for the farmers’ market and are providing one-on-one assistance to prospective farmers’ market operators to obtain their $10 city business license and are mailing separate notices for renewal.

The committee reviewed the Protective Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for the Pretlow Industrial Park, the Franklin/Southampton County Commerce Park and the Franklin Airport Industrial Park.

The committee felt that the Protective Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions approved by the Industrial Development Authority and adopted by City Council in 1990 created additional barriers and unnecessary hurdles for potential businesses and industries that were looking to come to Franklin.

To insure that the city was protected from undesirable uses, the committee reviewed the Franklin and Isle of Wight M-1 and M-2 Industrial Zoning District regulations that regulate the land-use in these industrial parks, and it was found that the zoning regulations were adequate. However, city staff and Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. are reviewing the city ordinance to determine if additional changes are necessary.

As a result of the review, the committee sent a recommendation to City Council that asked them to abolish the documents. City Council and the Industrial Development Authority voted unanimously in favor to remove the Protective Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions from the Pretlow Industrial Park, the Franklin/Southampton County Commerce Park and the Franklin Airport Industrial Park. This action is significant and will help pave the way for new businesses and industries.

The Committee seeks input on how to welcome and support new and existing businesses. Ideas can be sent to

BARRY CHEATHAM is vice mayor for Franklin City Council and chairman for the Franklin Business Friendly Committee. He can be reached at