Franklin mayor: ‘Let’s keep it rolling’

For the first time in decades, Franklin doesn’t have enough vacant office space or storefronts in the downtown area.

More business owners and developers are interested in making Franklin their home, on top of the 36 companies that moved into the city last year, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

Now, McGuinness wants to create additional ways for entrepreneurs and manufacturers to join the other businesses in Franklin, he said during his annual State of the City address Tuesday night at the Artcraft Theatre.

The mayor wants to establish a co-op space in downtown Franklin where entrepreneurs can hone their invention or build their client base, and where other workers can find temporary office space. The mayor has said that once an entrepreneur’s company gets off the ground, he hopes they move into a bigger building in Franklin.

McGuinness expects more business owners to partner with the city to bring new jobs, such as by offering tax abatements, loans and grants from city organizations, he said. Last year, Franklin groups offered biomedical company B2S Life Sciences more than $500,000 in incentives to move into the 97 E. Monroe St. building, which will be opening later this summer. Last month, 84 Lumber announced they would be opening a distribution center off of Graham Road, and will save $87,000 through tax abatements from the city.

Meijer and Kroger grocery stores have both committed to constructing new buildings along U.S. 31. Kroger started construction in the fall, and Meijer will break ground in late spring, McGuinness said.

Attracting new businesses to the city and finding places to put them is a part of what the mayor wants to focus on in 2016, along with kicking off more than $40 million in road and trail projects planned to be done in the next four years, preparing for another 250 homes to be built in the city and expanding parks and trails, including making Franklin home to the largest disc golf course in the state.

A revamp of East King Street, including repaving the road and adding new trails, an entrance sign and statues welcoming visitors to the city, will begin this spring. The new trail along East King Street will be a portion of the total 5 miles of paths planned throughout the city, McGuinness said. More than 3 miles will be added along the city’s truck route, connecting Franklin Community High School to East King Street.

“I am confident this project, in its entirety, will transform Franklin into a regional destination for new businesses, new residents, and visitors to our city,” McGuinness said.

The first portion of the Jefferson Street project, which will repave and replace sidewalks, street lamps and curbs, was finished in November. The next leg of the 42-month-long project will start in August, McGuinness said. The section of Jefferson Street, from the intersection of North Main Street to Paris Tire and Auto Services, will be the first chunk under construction east of U.S. 31, McGuinness said.

The city is also planning long-overdue upgrades to other infrastructure systems, such as the city’s stormwater sewer pipelines which are decades old. The first few projects on the city’s stormwater master plan approved last year will be paid for with a state grant of $1 million, which the city was awarded late last year, McGuinness said.

At the same time, the city also has a surplus of about $4.5 million, which in the future could be used for emergencies, McGuinness said.

“I realize that many of these improvements year to year, such as stormwater and wastewater, are not so exciting and do not generate that much conversation, but they are very critical for our future,” McGuinness said.

In his fifth year as mayor, McGuinness said he wants to focus on proactive improvements, such as replacing old infrastructure and establishing new partnerships like the co-op space. Those changes will help prepare Franklin for future growth and bring additional businesses to the city, he said.

“We will not slow down now,” McGuinness said. “We have a lot of momentum right now. Let’s keep it rolling and continue to build an even better community.”

Volunteer of the Year

Mayor Joe McGuinness created a new annual award to honor volunteers who help with annual events, festivals and community programs.

Franklin residents Marty and Carolyn Williams were given the inaugural volunteer of the year award, which was also named after them.

The couple has volunteered with Discover Downtown Franklin, Franklin Heritage, the Johnson County Museum, Johnson County Garden Club and the Farmer’s Market.

“For those of you that aren’t familiar, I jokingly say that we’re the parade capital of Indiana,” McGuinness said. “But with those parades a lot of times come festivals and other events, and if it wasn’t for people like Marty and Carolyn, we wouldn’t be able to pull them off.”