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Main Street celebrates 35 years of volunteer support

By Ann Ferguson

Impact.” That’s the way young entrepreneur Brigitte Bradshaw, owner of The Travel Girl Company, describes her experience as a Main Street Franklin volunteer. As a new member of Downtown Franklin Association’s Board of Directors, Bradshaw will serve on one of its four Main Street Committees: Economic Vitality; Promotions; Design; or Organization. “I see this as a valuable learning opportunity that will prepare me to be a future leader of Main Street Franklin and our community.”

Franklin was one of the first communities to become a Virginia Main Street in 1985, when the National Main Street program was in its infancy. Originally conceived by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the program is based on Transformation Strategies shared by small and large towns in the Main Street network across the United States.

Main Street revitalizations positively impact local economies by creating small business revenue, tourism opportunities, new jobs, and quality-of-life features to attract relocating businesses and corporations.

The Main Street program is a gem for revitalizing downtown districts in cities and towns of all sizes,” said Dan Howe, executive director of Downtown Franklin Association. “Our volunteer board members have attended Main Street training conferences across the country, learning about best practices in marketing, physical planning, organizational sustainability, and financing.”

Main Street Franklin has benefited from new businesses in recent years, with part of the growth attributed to the success of the Business Start Up grant competition. Downtown Franklin Association started the competition three years ago, using a Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Community Business Launch grant of $60,000 and additional funding provided by local organizations and corporations. In 2019, the program awarded three grants to new businesses in Franklin and Southampton County. All competitors participated in educational workshops about small business practices and entrepreneurism.

To celebrate 35 years of trailblazing service to the community, Main Street Franklin and the Downtown Franklin Association will invest in the future with a formal planning initiative. Waunda Turner, chairwoman of the Organization Committee that is guiding the strategic planning process, describes the effort as, “an opportunity to reach more of our community and build a bigger tent to include those who want to help shape the heart of our city and create a better Franklin.”

Downtown Franklin Association is also planning a series of 35th anniversary events throughout 2020.

Preservation.” That’s what local historian, Clyde Parker, likes about being involved with Main Street. He has volunteered his time and expertise to Main Street Franklin since 2015, and was instrumental in initiating the vibrant mural campaign that brightened our downtown district and preserved our history in the illustrations. Parker explained, “Serving on the Design Committee allows me to contribute to the historic preservation of downtown Franklin. You have to understand history to plan for the future.”

In 2017, Main Street Franklin was presented with a Milestone Award by Virginia Main Street. That year, Main Street Franklin surpassed 65,000 volunteer hours in 20 years.

In 2019, Downtown Franklin Association presented more than 50 events and festivals. These include the summer concert series, farmers’ markets, and events for children at Christmas and Halloween. “These events energize downtown Franklin, and are only possible with thousands of volunteer hours,” said Promotions Committee Co-Chair and owner of Jack Jr. Towing & Auto Repair, Jackie Newsome. “We are truly grateful for our volunteers’ generosity. Downtown is the heart of Franklin. Our volunteers are the heart of downtown. We invite everyone to join our team!”

To get involved and volunteer for a Main Street project or committee, email Jackie at: downtownfranklin@beldar.com
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ANN FERGUSON is the office manager for the Downtown Franklin Association. Contact her at 562-6900 or visit www.downtownfranklinva.org.