Franklin ready to promote downtown

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Franklin ready to promote downtown

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Franklin officials and business owners are exploring the possibility of becoming an accredited Main Street program to help spur downtown economic development. ED RICHTER/STAFF

A business that considered opening in downtown Franklin but opted for downtown Middletown instead was the impetus for a Franklin councilman to begin the process to become a Main Street community.

Councilman Brent Centers, who is also a member of the Ohio Air National Guard, said he was working to bring a small business to Franklin. However, during Centers’ three-month deployment to Guam, the business owner was passing out samples in downtown Middletown. The business owner talked with representatives who shared information about various incentives which led to opening the business there.

After his deployment and learning the business opted to open in Middletown, Centers met with and with Mallory Greenham, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc., who was also working on the city’s Main Street program.

Following his meeting with Greenham, Centers began laying the groundwork to establish a Main Street program for downtown Franklin. That groundwork also included visiting Ohio communities that already had a Main Street program in operation.

“I travelled to Tiffin and saw that Main Street program worked during a six to eight hour tour,” he said. “It was an enjoying experience and I learned a lot.”

Centers said he also visited Main Street programs in Findlay, Lebanon and Marietta.

“I really did my due diligence before signing the city up for this,” he said. “I was impressed with all four cities.”

Centers said he believes this is something Franklin can accomplish. He’s already recruited more than a dozen residents, business owners, local officials and other community stakeholders to participate in the effort. Centers said he’s also looking for more volunteers to help in the effort.

“I think in a few years that there could be noticeable improvement in downtown Franklin,” he said.

Centers said the first step in the process is having Heritage Ohio come to Franklin for a Downtown Assessment Resource Team visit. The DART team visit is scheduled for March 14-15.

The Main Street program helps local communities take a hard look at its assets as well as its challenges in revitalizing its downtown districts. The program uses a Four-Point methodology works to create a total image for the community that focuses on operations, design, marketing and economic vitality.

The DART team interviews community stakeholders, local businesses, take guided and self-guided tours of the downtown area and gives an assessment and recommendations on a plan to improve the downtown area. The team makes recommendations and develops a plan for the community to receive the Main Street designation.

The DART team interviews community stakeholders, local businesses, take guided and self-guided tours of the downtown area and gives an assessment and recommendations on a plan to improve the downtown area. The team makes recommendations and develops a plan for the community to receive the Main Street designation.

Peggy Darragh-Jeromos, executive director of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, said she excited and glad she was asked to participate in the project.

“I think it will be a nice, objective look at our resources and a way to focus our energy,” she said.

The process is time-consuming and rigorous. Middletown, which was recently accredited, took about a decade to achieve the designation. It joined Lebanon in the group of about two dozen Main Street communities in Ohio..

‘It’s not an easy title to earn,” Centers said. “There is very stringent criteria to become a Main Street community in Ohio, but that’s the beauty of it.”

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