$7 million investment: Love’s Travel Center coming to South Street in Franklin
Published 2:18 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2013
FRANKLIN—“What a good day it is,” enthused Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn on Tuesday. She and other officials joined together to hold a virtual groundbreaking ceremony at the Franklin Business Incubator building and to announce the welcome of Love’s Travel Center to town.
The new business will mean a $7 million investment and 50 new jobs for Franklin and the surrounding area. A projected date of construction will be first of next year, with the center opening for business in July 2014.
Love’s Travel Center will be located on a 20-acre tract on South Street at the Highway 58 bypass. A restaurant, convenience center, a tire center and two fueling stations will be featured.
The new business venture all began when Mayor Johnson-Ashburn received an email from a developer showing interest in the property. She contacted Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Amanda Jarratt, and from there the ball began rolling and included a lot of work to culminate in Tuesday’s announcement.
John Janson LLC is the new owner of a 62.8-acre parcel, recently rezoned to a general business district by city council.
Janson has entered into a contractual agreement with Love’s Travel Stops to sell the approximately 20 acres for development of the new facility.
The announcement was met with wide applause by the city, county, state and federal officials gathered. The program featured a welcome by both Mayor Johnson-Ashburn and Southampton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dallas Jones. Del. Rick Morris, R-64th, was also in attendance.
The mayor said Tuesday marked both an end and a beginning — “an end of business as usual and a beginning to a wonderful new project to benefit Franklin and Southampton County.”
“This project represents opportunity, it represents growth, it represents partnership and cooperation and it represents forward progress,” she added.
The mayor also said she was proud to be associated with the project, which required intense preparation on the part of the council, planning commission and the FSEDI.
“It is a promise to each other, our children and generations to come,” she said.
Jones agreed, and said, “It is a wonderful day. Somebody in Southampton County is going to get a job. I am so happy we are working together and I can see the potential for great things.”
Councilwoman Mary Hilliard, in whose ward the new business will be located, offered the invocation.
City Manager Randy Martin provided an overview and made the official announcement. He said he realized the economic potential of the Highway 58 corridor when visiting Franklin in 2011.
“I encouraged the City Council to pursue as a priority refocusing on the economic development potential of the 58 corridor. The council responded positively and a course was set,” Martin said.
He maintained the city was fortunate that the framework for a partnership with Southampton County had already been set when the two agreed upon a Revenue Sharing Zone along and near Highway 58.
“With a common goal of overcoming the self-imposed limitations of jurisdictional boundaries, the City and County have come together as equal partners,” he stressed.
Martin further outlined major community benefits involved with the project including:
Being a major step toward improving access and exposure to Pretlow Industrial Park through construction of a service road; developers will partner in water supply infrastructure upgrades that will not only serve the new business, but also address long needed upgrades in fire protection and water pressure for the entire area along South Street from College Drive to the site; and the project plans include construction of the initial phase of a multi-purpose paved trail for walking and biking.
He added that the water line extension would benefit future development into Southampton County’s side of the 58 corridor.
“Every business is important,” Congressman Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, said when he took the podium, and praised Franklin and the county for realizing that. He mentioned the rainy weather and said it was appropriate because, “As long as I’ve known you (collectively), you have either been digging out from a problem or building something up.” He mentioned the flood and how the area built back and then IP shutting down. “You just rolled up your sleeves. This is what America is all about.”
Bill Gleeson, Real Estate project manager for Love’s, said the project would make a huge difference to the future. He said construction would begin the first of next year and the facility would be open by July 4, 2014. He said Tom and Judy Love started the company and built the first Travel Stop in 1984. Today the company employs 10,000 people nationwide, has 300 stores and has a $17-billion dollar annual revenue.
“We are very excited about the location here and look for great things. I am thankful to the city and the county – for everybody who has come together,” Gleeson said.
FSEDI Chairman Warren Beale wrapped up the program by saying the Love’s investment is the beginning of a new and positive business relationship between Franklin and Southampton County. “We are beginning to see the fruits of our labor and additional investment will come. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Love’s and Mr. Janson.”