Downtown businesses deserve meaningful action

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To play off of a headline that appeared on the front page of Sunday’s edition of The Tidewater News, it’s not just Downtown Franklin business owners who are concerned about the future.

Business owners city-wide are wringing their hands in worry over the state of our local economy, and what the future may — or may not — hold. In most communities, the downtown business district is a good indicator of a city’s overall economic health. Franklin’s would indicate we need to call a doctor, stat.

Several months ago, this newspaper’s publisher wrote a column (“Revitalizing Downtown Franklin,” Aug. 3, 2014) outlining some of the challenges and opportunities downtown. Some downtown leaders took offense. Others were in total agreement.

Regardless, little is available in the way of meaningful evidence to prove that the city is seriously addressing the decline of downtown Franklin in a serious and meaningful way.

The businesses that have been loyal to downtown by not relocating, perhaps to their own detriment, deserve better than a keg party on Thursday nights in the summer.

They deserve a meaningful effort to develop a tourism industry that will bring new visitors, not just the same locals, to downtown while businesses are actually open.

They deserve meaningful economic incentives to not only keep them there, but to attract new investors. Charging downtown property owners a 25 percent premium, above and beyond the regular real estate tax rate, makes no sense considering how little they get for their investment.

And they deserve an opportunity to continue to operate their businesses profitably in a location that they have been loyal to, in some cases, for more than a half-century.

Downtown Franklin, for all its flaws, has as much charm and potential as any other downtown that has seen significant revitalization. For all those currently contributing to the cause, we salute you. But they need for the city to get serious and send in reinforcements.

And the sooner, the better.