Businesses, the Town Wants to Hear from YouSep 28, 2020 03:13PM ● By Judy O'Gara
Franklin Business Listening Sessions Designed to Elicit Feedback, Find Solutions
Just at the end of the last month, the town of Franklin embarked on a program designed to gather input from local businesses. Franklin Business Listening Sessions, which will continue this month on October 19th, at 6: 30 p.m., via Zoom.
“The initial idea came off our MAPC Town Market Study, which was recently completed and is online (at the town website). We decided one of the best ways to start working to implement some of these steps would be to reach out and listen and hear from our business community and our community stakeholders,” says Anne Marie Tracey, Franklin Communication Director. Tracey notes that the town is “looking forward with a very different lens” in the midst of the pandemic, COVID-19. “What businesses need now is very different from what they needed” back in April, when the study was completed.”
“The Economic Development Subcommittee of the town council (EDC) is dedicated to discussing issues that could enhanceeconomic development and make recommendations to the Town Council about changes that could be put in place to help businesses,” says Melanie Hamblen, Chair of the Franklin Economic Development Subcommittee. “We have been discussing the findings of the MAPC market analysis at our last few meetings. One of the issues that became clear is that a more detailed “wish list” of specific areas would be of great value. We are hoping to get input from more businesses about what their employees would like to see here in Franklin as well and what is the best way to share the information.”
Also on the subcommittee are Glenn Jones, Andy Bissanti and Brian Chandler.
Hamblen explains the subcommittee hopes to “get input from more businesses, of all sizes, about their specific needs. It could be from getting help generating an online shop and how to set up curbside pickup to making temporary by-law changes.” Hamblen touts the job the town has done on speeding up permit processes for temporary outdoor eating and helping small businesses get grants, as well as the Board of Health’s efforts to educate local employees on Covid-19 regulations. She lauds the Coronavirus information portal already on the Town website for business owners.
The listening sessions would elicit even more feedback from businesses.
Tracey explains the town identified five different business sectors with the listening sessions. In September, the first session focused on the downtown and crossing and cultural district, that encompasses Dean College. Although each session was designed to draw feedback from a certain faction of the Franklin business community, business owners and other members of the community are encouraged to attend any session if they’re not able to attend their “category.”
“People can go to whatever they like,” says Tracey, explaining the hopes are “everyone finds somewhere they fit under the umbrella.”
Hamblen says she sees some issues already arising among businesses.
“One of the questions I get asked a lot is “how do I find _____ .” Everyone is busy, and our Franklin businesses need help in being found. Hopefully the State “My local MA” campaign will help. We are planning a “Franklin First” campaign, so customers can find what they need in Franklin,” says Hamblen. In these times of pandemic, she says, “
Businesses want their customers to feel free to come visit and customers need to feel safe while shopping, working out and eating. These are challenging times and I believe the listening sessions will allow us to continue to listen, learn and act as we brainstorm to create new ways to encourage and develop local economic enhancements.”