The 2018-19 Annual Report of Economic Development in the city of Franklin will be presented at tonight’s meeting of the Franklin Common Council. The report (begins on page 16) is lengthy, containing a laundry list of activities the city engaged in during a year’s time dating back to 2018. It’s also a work of comedy.
It’s no secret Franklin has developed a well-earned reputation of having a horrendous business climate and record of economic development progress. Most folks in the know outside of Franklin City Hall generally agree on that. But inside City Hall there’s a tremendous sense of denial, that times aren’t difficult, that Franklin is thriving and booming. That’s simply not true.
In its report the city lists all kinds of stats and factors that I submit have very little, if anything to do with economic growth and development. For example the Economic Development Department (EDD) got 18,628 emails. There were 580 Total Likes on the EDD Facebook Page, 68 New Likes on the page, and 65 posts on the page. At the risk of sounding less than analytical, so what? How does that translate into actual identifiable economic success?
When compiling the report it’s almost as if city officials searched high and low for anything and everything they could tack to make their case hoping to persuade (fool?) people into believing Franklin has finally discovered the magic formula to transform a sleepy town into a real cool happenin’ place.
1) The report states “Interest in the City of Franklin continues to grow, with development inquiries and proposals coming from developers, construction firms, realtors, and financial institutions.” What does that specifically mean? What kind of inquiries? E-mails? Phone calls? How many? What did they eventually result in?
2) The report lists 15 new businesses in Franklin. While we always welcome new businesses a critical question is whether or not Franklin is attracting and opening businesses that city residents both want and need.
3) “The EDD interacted with other individuals and organizations throughout the year in order to position Franklin as a collaborative partner and to ensure that Franklin is included in opportunities to advance economic development goals for the City.” Again, specifics would be nice as opposed to glittering generalities.
4) We also are informed the city went to meetings and conferences. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff.
5) “The EDD was approached many times throughout the year by various members of the press.The most notable was a WTMJ interview on City Development Opportunities which aired on the Morning News Program in April, 2019.” This news article didn’t fall within the time period of the report so Franklin was able to conveniently ignore.
6) There’s a long list of attractions labeled TOURISM ASSETS IN THE CITY OF FRANKLIN. Several are listed from Boerner Botanical Gardens. That’s odd. Franklin taking credit for events in Hales Corners.
7) Mayor Steve Olson relishes ripping big retailers like Wal-Mart and target, yet found reason to list them as some of Franklin’s largest employers.
8) Speaking of employers, how many new jobs were added in Franklin from June 2018- June 2019? That would have been a great nugget. Unless…
9) The mayor in the past blasted senior apartments being built at Ballpark Commons. Still, they get a positive mention in this report.
I envision tonight’s Council meeting to be one big mutual admiration society. When this report is rolled out city reps will be all grins while patting themselves on the back, congratulating one another for all the fine work they’ve done. I think most Franklin residents get the true picture.
If you read the report as I did, and I encourage you to do so, ask yourself what was actually accomplished? What concrete results really came out of the past year? Results. What are they? Where are they?
The reality is that economic development in Franklin would be an even sadder state of affairs if not for the much-needed progress at Ballpark Commons.