Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
At last week’s annual Chamber awards banquet, past president Frank Montgomery touted the record-breaking accomplishments of the Franklin chamber this past year.
The Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce moved into their new location off 441 last year, and after just seven months in the new space, the facility has hit new records.
“At the end of December this year we had been in the new location for only seven months,” said Linda Harbuck, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “The visitor and sales figures were greatly affected by the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse we experienced on August 21. The 2017 Eclipse coinciding with the Franklin Chamber’s move into our new location was truly a blessing.”
The Chamber of Commerce was a host site for the 2017 Solar Eclipse, which brought thousands of visitors into Macon County. The once in a lifetime event, paired with the chamber’s new, more visible location, saw a significant uptick in traffic.
“Being a key location for the purchase of ‘eclipse glasses’ brought a large number of customers through our doors and many of those customers also bought Franklin souvenir items from our much expanded souvenir shop area,” said Harbuck. “The new location has allowed us to more than double our sales area and enabled us to increase our Franklin souvenir merchandise selections.”
The number of visitors through the doors of the Chamber of Commerce during the seven months in 2017 shows an increase of almost 25 percent over the previous full year at the prior location.
Total sales (including eclipse items) equaled more than four times as much the total sales in 2016 and exceeded the total sales by the Chamber of Commerce for the last ten years combined.
The Chamber of Commerce credits most of the facility’s success to the Eclipse. “We do not expect to match these numbers again in the near future unless we are blessed with being the center of another worldwide historical event such as the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse,” said Harbuck.
The Chamber of Commerce had been in the same location since 1969 before moving to their new location along 441. The chamber ’s new building features a new large sign declaring the facility a “Welcome Center.” While the building is still owned and operated by the chamber, Harbuck noted that by referring to the facility as a welcome center, they can better serve those passing through Franklin.
The two-level building is approximately 8,000 square feet and includes a visitor center and a walk-through promotion area of “Things to do while in Franklin.” The new facility is host to displays for local attractions like the Gem and Mineral Society Museum and the Historical Society Museum, have meeting spaces for businesses and organizations and have additional office space that have all been rented out in just the seven months the doors have been open.
The Chamber’s new gift shop has specially made items and locally crafted goodies that highlight Franklin, Macon County, and the surrounding areas.