On Thursday, U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) paid a visit to Franklin to meet with staff and owners at a number of area businesses that are weathering the current economic slump and in some cases even growing in it.
The first location on the itinerary mixed business and pleasure with lunch at Rana Rinatta, an Italian eatery that opened on Highlands Rd. in December. According to restaurant co-owner Lisa Thordarson, who formerly ran The Frog and Owl on Main Street, the business has hired approximately 50 employees, including 6 fulltime salaried positions, making it one of the largest new employers in recent years.
County Commissioner Ronnie Beale joined Shuler's party for lunch and accompanied them during their visit to Franklin. The congressman noted that Beale has been a commissioner for as long as he has been in office and that during that time they have developed a close relationship.
“If I'm going to be talking about legislation that is facing us in Washington, I need to talk to our small businesses to be able to make informed decisions,” Shuler said about the purpose of his visit. He added that it was also a good way for him to meet others in the community and hear the concerns of private citizens.
The congressman also visited Whitley Products and Shaw Industries, a local flooring manufacturer which recently invested around $10 million in new equipment for their production line.
“We thank them for investing in our community,” said Beale of Shaw's expansion. “It probably means they're going to stay with us, so we really appreciate it.”