1937290_1195924163774618_6891419308325013988_nBrittney Raby – Staff Writer

The Franklin Appalachian Trail Community Committee (FATCC) made it a priority during its February meeting to spend the remainder of the year promoting Franklin’s designation by Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine as a 2015 “Top Town” winner. After applying for a grant from the Macon County Tourism Development Commission,  the FATCC purchased two banners touting the award.

“We have an opportunity to capture a large audience of nearby tourism dollars with this Top Town award,” said Matt Bateman, co-chair of the FATCC. “It is paramount for our entire community to buy-in to this momentum, in order for all of us to capitalize on it. If we wait too long, the momentum will be gone. I refuse to sit on the sidelines and let that happen.”

The FATCC purchased two banners last week with $312.52 approved by the Tourism Development Committee (TDC) and according to TDC member Linda Harbuck, the grant request was approved due to the award’s alignment with the board’s purpose of promoting tourism in Macon County.

“The TDC committee felt that it was a good promotion for Franklin being voted as 2015 Top Small Outdoor Town by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine readers,” said Harbuck. “The banners are to be displayed in two downtown locations throughout the year so anyone traveling through Downtown Franklin could see them and be made aware of the designation. The banners will also be promoted through various social media outlets which will reach a tremendous number of people outside of Franklin.”

Eventually, the banners will be displayed in high traffic areas such as the lawn in front of town hall, but for now, Bateman took the initiative to spend the weekend taking the banner on a tour of community businesses and organizations who want to show their support of the award.

“I got the idea for the ‘follow the banner’ tour, when I saw that no one else was doing anything to promote or capture the momentum from this award,” said Bateman. “When the award was first announced, we built a ton of excitement around that. But soon after the award was announced, we let it sit idle, and didn’t promote the award at all. I wanted to change that. I wanted to recapture the excitement and momentum that we once had. I think last Saturday was a huge success, but we’re only just getting started. What I really would like to share with our community is that anyone could’ve done this. Anyone can still get involved and make this even bigger. We all benefit from this award.”

Harbuck noted that by Franklin being named a “Top Town,” all of Macon County stands to economically benefit. “It will draw more attention to Franklin as a great place for enjoying our many outdoor activities,” she said. *IMG_5574

Bateman and members of the community spent the weekend taking the banner to
local businesses and some of Macon County’s best outdoor spots like Wayah Bald. Over the coming weeks, Bateman plans to continue reaching out to the business community to get more “buy-in” for the award.

“The business community’s reaction to #followthebanner has been outstanding,” he said. “I have had several other businesses and citizens contact me after Saturday, and ask to be included in the momentum.  We plan on making a lot more positive noise with the banner at our local businesses, and at our natural assets.”