Kate Kane led a group on a fact-finding mission trip to Franklin, Tenn. A total of 11 partners and staff members accompanied her.
Why did they go?
Residents and visitors alike are gravitating to walkable downtown areas to spend their leisure time. The trip’s goal was to exchange ideas with the Franklin merchants and city officials.
What is Franklin doing right? Could Southern Indiana cities and individual merchants put these same things into practice to improve the downtown experience?
What they learned about Franklin:
- Main Street programs are an important resource for cities. They provide help and guidance to merchants and city officials. Main Street programs must take the lead and “own their role” in tourism. This will help them develop viable products and help the downtown become an epicenter for tourism. Visitors tend to gravitate toward independently owned businesses.
- People need to think about revitalization efforts. You can preserve and be successful.
- Restaurants come first; retail usually follows. Mellow Mushroom was the beginning of the renaissance of Franklin. When they came other restaurants followed as did retail.
- Franklin’s Heritage Council helped court businesses to fill vacant space. They tried to match building owners with potential business owners.
- Celebrate heroes. Look at community members who are doing things right and are elevating the community. Celebrate them; every little bit helps.
- Visitors must drive through Nashville to get to Franklin. The city of Franklin has found festivals to be an important draw for visitors.
- Stand on the shoulders of your history. Franklin is steeped in Civil War history and that is prevalent throughout the community.
What Southern Indiana attendees took from the trip:
- Attractive gateway entrances, including on the interstate, would be more welcoming.
- Seeing how others deal with and overcome some of the same problems they have is helpful.
- No vacant buildings were evident in Franklin. A business recruiter is needed to help fill vacant buildings.
- Visitors Centers in New Albany and on Spring Street in Jeffersonville.
- More retail variety – especially a shoe store – is needed.
- Big events and/or festivals that can be marketed to visitors are needed.
- Movie theater/nightlife was a nice element in Franklin.
- Limit the number of similar businesses.
- Store frontage to be used for retail, not service industry.
- Better signage/wayfinding.
- Boards within the 2 counties should collaborate.
Kate Kane, Director of Sales, CFCCTB
Regina Walker-Tekulve, Marketing Communications Assistant, CFCCTB
Todd Read, Visitor Information Coordinator, CFCCTB
Susie Tipton, Sales Director, Derby Dinner Playhouse
Natalie Carden, Springs Salon and Spa, Jeffersonville Merchant Association
Caren Carden, Owner, Springs Salon and Spa
Teresa Baxter, President, Develop New Albany
Stefanie Griffith, Past President, Develop New Albany
Claire Volpert-Williams, Board Member, Develop New Albany
Margaret Lawrence, Operations Manager, Feast BBQ