Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
As of May 8, when Gov. Roy Cooper announced that a multi-phased reopening of businesses would begin across the state, Franklin Chamber of Commerce has been handing out signs as part of its new campaign, “Tying our Community Back Together.”
Cindy Cavender, director of membership for Franklin Chamber of Commerce, said she gleaned the sign campaign idea from a chamber located in a western state.
“I thought it was a great way to tie businesses together and help folks in the community,” she said.
The staff at the chamber is using recycled t-sign and window-sign boards and laminating them with an in-house printed message that reads: “We’re Open. Tying Us Back Together. Franklin Chamber.” The signage features a graphic of a red bow.
By Monday, May 11, 25 signs had been picked up or distributed to area businesses. Although chamber members, which total 441, have first dibs on free signage, non-chamber-members may call the Franklin Chamber to request a sign at a minimal cost.
“These are tough times. We want to help businesses in any way we can,” said Cavender, “to back up our businesses. We’re trying to think outside the box.”
As part of the sign campaign, the Franklin Chamber has since Friday also publicized on Facebook and on its website the fact that some businesses have reopened. In fact, someone at the chamber is offering to take a video of a business’s staff saying “Come see us, we’re open” or take a photograph of the business and staff with the new sign, and then post either to the business’s Facebook page with the Franklin Chamber tagged so videos and photographs can be shared. For businesses that do not have a Facebook page, the chamber will simply share the information on its own page.
Cavender pointed out that the signs are being made in-house because of budget constraints.
“This pandemic has been tough on the chamber as well. We’ve lost out on a number of events already. So we’re trying to be as gracious and merciful to our members as possible and provide as much help as we are able to.”
Cavender and executive director Linda Harbuck agreed that the signage campaign has gotten off to a good start.
“We certainly have hope that everything will rebound quickly. We have reopened the [Smoky Mountain Visitors Center] and are social distancing and only allowing so many in at a time,” said Harbuck. “And we hope businesses are able to hang in there and take full advantage of the different financial opportunities as far as different grants … monies designated for small businesses.”
Currently, Harbuck knows of no Franklin businesses that have had to close permanently due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate.
“I really think that our community can rebound nicely,” said Harbuck, “but they may not necessarily be able to do it quickly. It will take a while for people to adjust to limitations. But I really think that once people start traveling and come here, and local people are not scared to get out, that there will be a resurgence at local businesses.”
To join the signage campaign, call (828)524-3161, or email Cindy Cavender at email@example.com.