VLF takes part in state conference to promote economic development
With the fate of the nation's economy arguably resting on the backs of small business owners, North Carolina has taken the charge to lead the way in small business creation by talking to those who start it all, entrepreneurs.
Last week, entrepreneurs from across the state convened at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville for the N.C. Entrepreneurial Summit.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs from Charlotte to Raleigh, and even Franklin met in Asheville with investors and economic developers to exchange ideas and work together to turn everyday entrepreneurs into the small businesses that create jobs that can be the leading force in rebuilding the nation's economy.
Franklin native Matt Bateman was asked to attend the event, and was the only representative west of Asheville to be featured at the event. Like so many others who attended, Bateman's role in small business is two-fold. During the summit he was able to speak to attendees about his own entrepreneurial journey with his vacation planning service Stay and Play in the Smokies, which he runs with his wife, Melinda. Together, the pair provide visitors and locals alike an inside look into the “Quieter Side of the Smokies,” through an online trip planning service and most recently, the expansion into the first-ever free tourism and travel magazine for the region. With Stay and Play in the Smokies second magazine issue coming out Nov. 1, Bateman was able to relay his first-hand experience regarding the state of entrepreneurs in WNC.
“I spoke about ‘Stay And Play In The Smokies’ and how I'm involved in Venture Local Franklin,” said Bateman. “And how the two allow me to be in front of local entrepreneurs on a daily basis.”
Bateman was invited to attend the event not only because of his entrepreneur status, but because of his work with Venture Local Franklin (VLF) and the community group's goal of promoting local businesses. “I was invited to be on a panel of six entrepreneurs/ economic development people to talk about ‘creating scenes’ for entrepreneurs in each of our respected towns/cities,” said Bateman. “I was invited based on VLF's success in our community.”
VLF is a group comprised of volunteer community members that work together to promote businesses and tourism within Franklin. To date, the group has planned and orchestrated several events that have put Franklin on the map with national events such as a Photo Walk and Cash Mobs. VLF's monthly downtown block party, “StreetFest, is a joint project between VLF and Streets, a downtown merchant group, that has successfully breathed new life into Franklin's Main Street. “I spoke about how VLF is creating a culture scene in Franklin, with StreetFest, Cash Mobs, Hang-Outs, etc., to help raise awareness for shopping locally and developing our town’s character,” said Bateman. “This will make our town much more appealing for entrepreneurs/small business owners that are either looking to relocate to Franklin or open their first business here.”
Bateman was able to highlight Franklin's StreetFest events and how each month hundreds of locals and visitors from as far away as Mississippi can be found downtown on Friday night when normally the stores would be closed and Main Street would resemble a ghost town. “VLF works to make Main Street more appealing for Franklin residents and people visiting our town for the first time,” said Bateman. “We work with Main Street businesses to make sure all the benches are looking their best and hope to start working with Franklin's Garden Club to further beautify Main Street. For September's StreetFest a group of great volunteers worked to decorate Main Street for the fall season.”
Being able to hold their own against metropolitan cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, Bateman was able to represent Franklin and show the rest of the state how VLF is leading the charge for entrepreneurial growth in Western North Carolina. Franklin, which has earned recognition as a Certified Entrepreneurial Community from AdvantageWest, has been looking at how to better support small business, and has become the inspiration for surrounding towns. Sylva has recently formed Venture Local Sylva and looks to VLF for advice on how to build the same community support that was originally started in Macon County. “VLF is working to create a platform for entrepreneurs, concerned citizens, business managers, and other individuals to have a seat at one common table to share ideas and communicate with each other about what is working and what is not working within our community,” said Bateman. “And we are moving forward in a positive direction from there.”
According to Bateman, the Summit was an informational event that allowed him to get a few great ideas from other entrepreneurs and economic developers, while promoting Franklin. “It helps Franklin by once again 'putting us on the bigger map' with great exposure, by letting the region know that we are taking the lead within Southwestern North Carolina, by bringing fresh new ideas from a summit such as this and putting them into action and finally it helps by creating lasting connections throughout the state that creates an even broader platform for idea sharing,” said Bateman.
VLF will give a presentation to the Macon County Board of Commissioners during the Oct. 9 monthly meeting regarding the N.C. Entrepreneurial Summit and other projects planned for the future.