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News TDA considering funding for PumpkinFest; looking into more digital billboards

These digital billboards can be seen in various locations around Atlanta, Ga. The TDA hopes that this method of advertising will attract tourists to the area.The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) of Franklin hosted its monthly meeting Monday night at Town Hall. Items discussed included the potential funding of Franklin's annual PumpkinFest, a website hosting update, and a marketing update.

TDA member Summer Woodard provided a presentation concerning PumpkinFest on behalf of executive director of the Main Street Program, Linda Schlott. The request given to the TDA was for a $1,500 grant and for the use of two digital billboards in the Atlanta area.

“According to the information that Linda gave us, there were 650 pumpkins rolled down Frogtown last year with the winner being from New Hampshire,” said Woodard. “She used the pumpkin roll as a way to track attendees. They signed in beforehand. She says they came from New York, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina.”

One of the concerns expressed before the fiscal year which began on July 1, was the need for groups making grant requests to eventually become self-sufficient. Last year, Schlott's request was for $2,000, $500 more than this year.

“The Main Street program had a fundraiser last year that worked well. They are making moves to become self-sufficient. They also controlled the sale of soft drinks. Vendors weren't allowed to sell them, there was a Pepsi vendor set up separately and that helped them to make some money. They also make a profit from selling pumpkins and spots to vendors,” said Woodard.

Schlott also requested the use of two billboards to promote the event. According to Woodard, after consulting with Jessica Mason of Premiere Marketing, she believes the use of the billboards is possible. The TDA was established to bring visitors into Franklin to help boost the local economy leading to the important question of how many people this event ushers on to Main Street.

“Do you hear people saying they came to Franklin for the PumpkinFest?” asked member Josh Drake.

Member Vickie Springer, who promotes seasonal rentals, affirmed that people do come here for the festival.

“We have people specifically ask if the PumpkinFest is going on and if they can book their stay at the same time,” she said.

The vote will be held at the meeting that will take place on Sept. 9. Schlott will be present to answer any questions that board members may have. TDA members can vote to fund the request in full or offer a different amount. They can also vote to deny the request.

The TDA also voted on a web hosting company. Dnet Internet Services of Franklin was the only business to put in a bid. With the use of Dnet’s brand, SiteDart Hosting, the town has been recommended to use the Silver Hosting Package. This plan would allow the Town of Franklin 50 email accounts, 150 GB of monthly transfer and 20 GB of disk space. They can also host two domains for the TDA at a cost of $431 a year. Currently, Tony Angel Media manages the website.

“This isn't really the issue right now that we have in front of us, but I do want to talk about it. We have two websites for Franklin. The TDC (Tourism Development Commission) has a site, the chamber, etc. I don't understand why we don't all focus on one site,” said Drake. “When it comes down to it, this is about promoting Franklin. It just seems like we would do better for the town if we focused on one site.”

Members agreed to look at the topic in the future and potentially approach the TDC on the matter. Springer made a motion to accept the bid with Drake seconding. It passed unanimously.

Also attached to the agenda passed out to the board members were pictures of the digital billboards that are strategically placed in different areas around Atlanta to promote Franklin.

“The billboards look really good as you can see in the agenda packet,” said Woodard. “I also wanted to let you all know that Lamar Advertising who owns the billboards has granted us five more. So we're paying for four, but we're getting to use nine. So to Premiere Marketing, we have to give them praise for doing a good job.”

Premiere Marketing took the reigns of an ad campaign on behalf of the TDA, presenting data suggesting that the Atlanta area as a prime spot for promoting Franklin tourism. The TDA voted to allot $35,000 for the digital billboards which will run for four, fourweek cycles over the span of a year.

Before closing out the meeting, Drake brought up the topic of the TDA's reserve which currently sits at $100,000 mirroring the organization's budget. Member Matt Bateman had previously addressed the possibility of changing the amount and gaining access to some of that money, but was unable to attend Monday's meeting.

“I understand that we need a reserve,” said Drake. “I just don't think we need $100,000 sitting in the bank not even building interest. If a disaster happens, I don't think we're going to need to focus on promoting Franklin. In my opinion, with a $100,000 budget, a $25,000 reserve is all we need. That means that $75,000 is just sitting there. We could be using that.”

The board seemed to agree, allowing that they could support changes to the bylaws that capped the reserve at $100,000.

“We had the issue a few years back where our reserve was growing out of control,” said Chairman Candy Arvey. “We took 25 percent of the collected tax for each month and put it in a reserve and it was growing so big that we had to cap it at $100,000.”

Town Attorney John Henning Jr. said that he could bring in a reworked version of the board's bylaws at the next meeting for amendment.

“This should be a simple fix. I think Josh makes a good point, too. If a disaster hits Franklin, I don't think we're going to be worried about promoting festivals,” he said.

“Let's consider a cap of 25 percent of the annual budget since our budget is going to fluctuate. This year at $100,000 budget, $25,000 is good, but next year if our budget is $200,000 our reserve needs to reflect that so it would be $50,000,” said Drake.

The board was in agreement that it would be beneficial to discuss the changes at next month's meeting along with the funding of PumpkinFest. Also, Jessica Mason of Premiere Marketing will be present to discuss with the board changes to Google Adwords. That meeting will take place on Sept. 9.


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