Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett visits Franklin, NH

Elizabeth Dragon and Anne Hazlett
Elizabeth Dragon and Anne Hazlett

On September 1, 2017, the City of Franklin was honored to be visited by Anne Hazlett who leads the Rural Development agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Hazlett’s, title is Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development and she oversees the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Housing Service within USDA and reports directly to the secretary. 

The City of Franklin’s economic development team took this opportunity to highlight how successful we have been at leveraging the USDA Rural Business development grant funds received in the amount of $50,000 in 2015. The city used the funds to hire Niel Cannon as our Downtown Development Coordinator. The City Manager teamed up with the Executive Director for FBIDC (Jim Aberg) and Planning Zoning/Special projects Director (Dick Lewis) to create a steering committee to oversee Neil’s efforts. This steering committee then began biweekly meetings with two non profits- PermaCityLife (Todd Workman & Jenisha Shrestha) and Mill City Park (Marty Parichand) to coordinate and strategize our collective redevelopment efforts in the downtown. In Franklin, we know you can’t bring about community level change alone!

Our team has been creative, collaborative, and diligent! Using the USDA funds to bring Niel Cannon on board enabled us to implement several programs and projects over the past twenty months. Examples include:

  1. $400,000 in CDFA tax credit funding to make façade improvements to three out of the seven PermaCityLife downtown buildings. This project leveraged $600,000 in private investments in these buildings.
  2. $500,000 in NHBFA funding to support ongoing operations of PermaCityLife. The terms of this debt include no payments for two years followed by a 30 year amortization at 2% and the possibility of $100,000 in debt forgiveness if certain milestones are met.
  3. Assistance restructuring PermaCityLife debt to enable additional funds for the restaurant in Toad Hall.
  4. Established a Tax Increment Financing District in Downtown.
  5. Work with other major developers for other projects in the city.
  6. Attracted other funding sources (NHBFA) to match USDA funds to continue funding the downtown coordinator position for another year.
  7. Made significant in roads implement our signature project-a whitewater park in downtown.
    1. Received preliminary approval of an $85,000 grant from EDA to design the park and obtain permits for its construction. This engineering work has a total cost of $170,000 and the $85,000 “matching share” will come exclusively from private donors.

I think it is fair to say, the City of Franklin, has used the USDA grant funds wisely to leverage additional investments in the community. It is our hope that our redevelopment model, which is built on collaboration and partnerships, illustrates to USDA and other funding sources (private or public) that when you invest with us-- it is money well spent.