A bus load of Fayette County business and government leaders rolled back in to town Tuesday night, returning from a three-day Strategic Leadership Visit to Franklin, Tennessee.
The trip, organized by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, was conceived as a way to bring local leaders together and, hopefully, to collaborate and glean inspiration from the leaders in Franklin, a unique and thriving city in middle Tennessee's Williamson County.
Franklin has a distinction that few cities can boast of in this economy: it is booming. Williamson is the wealthiest and fastest growing County in Tennessee, with a 10 percent growth rate in recent years while the rest of the region has grown at four percent.
Just 30 minutes from Nashville, Franklin is a suburban community with a beautiful and bustling downtown area that has taken full advantage of the unique arts community that Nashville is known for. In particular, Nashville is a hotbed of musical talent, and many of the musicians associated with the Nashville music scene live in Franklin and nearby Brentwood.
Downtown Franklin is a particular draw, and hosts several very popular events each year, including the 29th Pumpkinfest coming up on October 27, which draws tens of thousands annually.
Main Street also is home to the Franklin Theatre, a depression era movie theater that was restored by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. Now, in addition to showing new and classic films, the theatre hosts live music acts, plays by a professional theatre company, corporate and community meetings, as well as fundraisers that raised over half a million dollars in the first year alone.
Franklin Theatre is also known as "the home of first kisses," reflecting the fond memories many of the locals have of growing up in Williamson County and taking their dates to the theatre. The Heritage Foundation remarkably raised the money for the restoration--over $8 million-- entirely through private donations. Locals were thrilled and came out by the thousands for opening night, and the theatre is now a great tourist attraction for the city.
The success of that project neatly encapsulates the spirit of this trip: learning about how a clear vision for the future, along with a willingness to collaborate and find solutions, can propel a community to success.
The chamber of commerce cast a wide net in putting together a group for the trip, including local business leaders, government officials, church leaders, educators as well as law enforcement. All of the local governments in Fayette County were invited to send delegates on the trip. Among the group were County Commissioner Steve Brown, Fayetteville Mayor Greg Clifton, Fayetteville councilman Paul Oddo, Fayetteville Director of Community Development Brian Wismer, and Peachtree City councilmen Kim Learnard and Vanessa Fleisch.
The trip included five presentation and discussion sessions with a variety of leaders from Williamson County, including the County Mayor Rogers Anderson as well as Mayors Ken Moore, of Franklin, and Paul Webb of Brentwood. In all, over 20 leaders from Williamson County spoke and engaged with all of the representatives from Fayette. Topics included economic development and growth, education, historic preservation and the arts, healthcare, and regional cooperation.
In the upcoming editions of the Fayette County News and Today in Peachtree City, we will feature the various aspects of the Strategic Leadership Visit, including impressions from the local leaders who attended as well as photographs from the trip.