Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
Last year, Franklin secured more than 100,000 votes in an online campaign, beating out dozens of small towns across the southeast to be named Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine’s 2015 Top Town. Following the “Top Town’ recognition, Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine, which distributes 350,000 copies of the magazine from Rhode Island to Atlanta, published a feature article on Franklin as a top outdoor designation, putting Franklin in the national spotlight. Since receiving the recognition in November, not a lot has been done to capitalize on the designation, which is something the Franklin Appalachian Trail Community Council wants to change.
“We have an opportunity to really benefit from the Top Town designation and we should be screaming it from the roof tops,” said FATCC co-chair Matt Bateman. “We only have a year, and then someone else will be named Top Town. We need to be doing everything we can right now to promote Franklin as an outdoor mecca.”
During its February meeting, the FATCC brainstormed on ways to promote the Top Town designation.
One way the council wants to promote Franklin is through a banner over Main Street declaring Franklin as a Top Town. Franklin Mayor Bob Scott advised members of the FATCC that the town’s banner policy is intended to promote events in Franklin, not necessarily promote the designation of a Top Town. The way the policy is written, banners can be displayed over Main Street for two weeks before an event and must be taken down three days after. The space is also available based on a first come, first serve basis. Because of the way the policy is written, Mayor Scott wasn’t sure that a banner declaring Franklin as a Top Town could be hung over Main Street whenever the space is vacant.
Town Planner Justin Sester said the time a banner is permitted to be displayed is up to his interpretation and if other requirements of the policy are met, a Top Town banner would be feasible. The FATCC plans to continuing working with town officials to see if a banner across Main Street this year would be possible, but in the meantime, the board voted to design a banner to place in front of town hall.
Mayor Scott touted the banner location in front of town hall because visitors often stop and take pictures with the banners that are displayed, which would increase the exposure for the destination and Franklin as a whole.
In addition to a spot on the lawn in front of town hall, placing a banner on the Gazebo square or on the side of the building behind the gazebo, were other locations the FATCC considered promoting the Top Town destination.
More than just a banner, members of the FATCC want Franklin leaders to take advantage of the award.
“This is the town’s award,” said Bateman. “They need to not just put this in their back pocket. We really want to see them do something with it.”
From travel-related expenses to purchasing gear to conquer the outdoors, outdoor recreation creates thousands of jobs, supports community economies and generates tax revenues that flow back into the local economy. Capturing even the tiniest piece of the outdoor recreation industry can be fruitful for a town.
Across North Carolina, outdoor recreation generates $19.2 billion in consumer spending and generates $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Outdoor recreation accounts for 192,000 direct jobs in the state, which makes up $5.6 billion in wages and salaries.
According to Outdoor Industry Association out of Colorado, at least 48 percent of North Carolina residents participate in outdoor recreation each year.
As a $646 billion industry in the United States, generating 6.1 million jobs, $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue and another $39.7 billion in state and local tax revenue, outdoor recreation is a burgeoning industry and with Franklin sitting on the top of the Appalachian Trail and within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the outdoor adventure potential has earned Franklin the title as a top outdoor recreation town.