BizWeek 2013 has rolled into Franklin for the second year, with this year’s events being held April 23 through April 25. According to the Macon County Economic Development Commission, BizWeek is a celebration of business, industry and entrepreneurship. The events highlight the appreciation that the county, town, and citizens have for the businesses of the county.
The three-day event has been host to a variety of workshops, networking opportunities, and guest speakers. BizWeek started on Tuesday which saw three happenings around the town that citizens could attend for free. Two of the classes were held at the Southwestern Community College Macon Campus and were led by success coach, Martin Brossman. The morning class offered businesses a look into the world of social media and provided tips for using social media websites to their advantage. The followup was a class that gave live hands-on instruction in how to create a working website and blog.
Tuesday's activities came to a close with a networking event at Outdoor 76's new location on Main Street. The networking opportunity, sponsored by the Macon County EDC, Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Franklin Main Street Program, Franklin Young Professionals and Venture Local-Franklin, provided those attending the chance to meet others in the community from a variety of businesses in the county. Local musician Paul Garner played music while the conversations flowed between attendees.
EDC director Tommy Jenkins introduced guest speaker Marilyn Ball. Ball, who is the founder of 12Twelve Marketing in Asheville received a warm welcome. Ball specializes in creating partnerships through cooperative marketing strategies. She has spent two decades in the tourism, hospitality, and economic development industries in Western North Carolina. These qualifications made Ball an effective choice for closing out the first day of BizWeek.
The message that she brought to the entrepreneurs of Macon County focused on building the brand of Franklin and Macon County for the purpose of attracting tourists from all over.
“For so long, there was nowhere west of Asheville,” said Ball as she began her discussion. “Western North Carolina didn't exist.”
Acknowledging that competition exists between businesses, especially when they offer the same types of services or products, she stressed that each business can still thrive with the right goals in mind and the right strategies in place.
“We have advertisements where an owner of a hotel may not want to share a page with another hotel, but we tell them that that's what you want, you want people to have choices,” she said. “You just have to market to the people that are going to prefer what you are offering. In Asheville, there are a ton of coffee shops. Who would think that Green Sage would be able to compete with Starbucks? They have to target the people who would rather shop with an independent business.”
The focus of the message was the importance of developing a brand for the area, which is crucial for pulling visitors in.
“You need to develop a like mindedness that says, ‘this is who we are,’” said Ball. “It's really hard to brand a community. Let's say each of you represents the bigger part of Macon County. It really requires people who are thoughtful, mindful, smart, game players and visionaries. People who really see what's out there and what's possible. It all comes through visionary leadership. You're looking at something that is the essence, who you are as a community. You all are here to make something bigger, to live that quality of life which is about sharing your economy and creating a local economy around your businesses. You don't just write it on a board and say this is our tag line.”
The message that Ball brought to the room is one that resonates with the efforts of groups like Venture Local, the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Macon County EDC, the Main Street Program, and others in the community. Coming out of an economic downturn means that unity in the county is important to the livelihood of the local economy.
BizWeek continued yesterday with Western Carolina University's Small Business Technology and Development Center and the Small Business Administration's seminar, “Getting Your Business SBA Loan Ready.” The seminar provided information about how individuals can get a small business loan.
Drake Software also hosted an open-house of their new education center in Franklin where the public was invited to tour the facility.
BizWeek will conclude today at Holly Springs Baptist Church with the EDC Banquet that will feature keynote speaker Tony Almeida who is the Senior Advisor to Gov. Pat McCrory on jobs and the economy.