By Ryan Miller
Situated in historic Downtown Franklin, the Franklin Business Center has a storied past. The building was constructed in 1907 to manufacture buggies and surreys. It then became a location to make screen doors and windows, and later it was used as a peanut warehouse for Pretlow Peanut Company. Indeed, the center has seen many uses but none so inspiring as the way it’s utilized today.
As a strategy to rebuild the downtown business district and strengthen the local economy following the destruction of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, elected officials partnered with local visionaries to create a business incubator, providing a bright future for current and upcoming business owners.
The newly renovated center features 40,000 square feet of office space available for professionals looking to expand their business or firm when their needs surpass their space or resources. The center also provides support staff and programs to assist businesses that commonly need help in their first few years of operation. Businesses can take advantage of mentorship opportunities either in-house or with the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, as well as marketing assistance, mail handling services, office equipment and conference rooms.
Businesses and professionals alike have also benefited through professional development opportunities and networking with others in their career field. For non-members, the center hosts quarterly professional development workshops and knowledgeable seminars to enrich and strengthen skill sets for those looking to find their path in the workforce. The workshops cover an expansive range of topics, such as social media marketing, how to write a business plan, accounting assistance, how to sell to the government and more.
In addition, the center serves as a location for STARTUP Downtown Franklin, an initiative of Franklin Southampton Economic Development designed to bring startup and expanding businesses to Downtown Franklin. Currently 38 businesses have entered ideas to receive $40,000 in grant award money.
“The Franklin Business Center has been a key economic engine for the City of Franklin since its grand opening in 2005,” expresses Mallory Tuttle, Business Development Manager of Franklin Southampton Economic Development. Since its introduction, 17 businesses have graduated after their tenure at the center, 60 percent of which have remained in the community.
Along with the businesses located in the building, the Franklin Business Center has seen growth in recent years to its facility. When additional space was needed in 2011, a third and fourth floor were built, and the center underwent rebranding in 2016 with updates to its name, logo and tagline to attract newcomers looking for a place to boost their entrepreneurial spirit.
Twenty-five clients in a variety of industries currently call the Franklin Business Center home. Being a mixed-use business incubator, the center houses businesses in engineering, product development, IT, website design, trucking and more, as both startups and those with more experience. “Clients of the Franklin Business Center are eager to reach their goals,” Tuttle explains. “They are passionate and hardworking people, driven to make their business idea a success.”
Learn more about the Franklin Business Center here.