Downtowns all across the nation have begun to see a revitalization of sorts in the last few years with focus turning away from strip malls and department stores and refocusing on Main Street. With the emphasis to shop local continuing to grow, Franklin Mayor Bob Scott sees the upcoming “Focus on Franklin” event as a chance to bring more voices to the conversation.
“We're going to be discussing who we are, where we want to go, and how we're going to get there,” Scott says of the event that will be carried out by Western Carolina University's Public Policy Institute (PPI).
The PPI employs a mission to work with communities in the region to support local governments, nonprofits, and other institutions in creating programs and policies to improve the area says professor and PPI director, Todd Collins.
“We are excited at the chance to work with Franklin,” he said. “Our work with Franklin also supports Western Carolina University's mission to be an engaged university. We strive to build relationships with partners in the region that will be mutually beneficial and provide great learning opportunities for our students.”
Collins, working alongside Master of Public Affairs student, Brian Burgess, will be present at the upcoming event, “Focus on Franklin” to discuss the future of Franklin with citizens, business owners, and others who may be interested in participating.
“This may include perceived needs in the community, economic development issues, or other areas of emphasis for the future,” said Collins. “We will start with a short presentation outlining the purpose of the event, some of the issues that have already been raised, and other information such as examples of what comparable communities are doing.”
Following the presentation, the public will have an opportunity to participate in a public comment period. Collins hopes that the effort will serve as a facilitator for public input.
“Our role is not to be an advocate for any particular vision,” he said. “We will try to record the opinions expressed and create a summary of the information given at the forum and then create a short report to the leadership in Franklin.”
In past years, the PPI has hosted congressional debates, conducted various surveys and opinion polls among other things. Comparable to the project with Franklin, the institute worked with the Town of Black Mountain on the Black Mountain Town Square Consultancy Project Proposal where the use of focus groups, a scientifically conducted survey, and the presentation of a full report to the town helped guide leaders towards the “best decision possible.”
“Franklin is already a great community,” said Collins. “Our role will be to highlight what people see as the many positive aspects of the community along with the aspects for improvement that people may raise at the forum.”
With an ever changing demographic, town officials welcome the opportunity to work alongside the PPI in order to target an effective strategy of embracing the future of Franklin.
“I really wanted to have some town hall style meetings and this will help to see what we can do to reinvent or focus more on Franklin,” said Scott. “We just want to just come up with some ideas and engage the public more in town business.”
The meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 30, at the Franklin Town Hall at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend and share ideas.