A Closer Look at the Benefits of Economic Development Organizations For Franchise Owners

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Atlanta Franchise Today is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals.

Franchise businesses are dominantly local businesses serving consumers and other businesses in their own backyard. Often there are local economic development organizations ready and available to help franchise owners succeed. Today, Leslie is joined by Steve Stroud, Executive Director of Roswell, Inc., the economic development organization, or EDO, for the City of Roswell here in North Atlanta.

Transcription: 

Leslie Kuban:
Steve, welcome to the show.

Steve Stroud:
Thank you, Leslie. Appreciate it.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s great to have you-

Steve Stroud:
Thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
Here.

Steve Stroud:
We’ve known each other a while so it’s great to-

Leslie Kuban:
Yes.

Steve Stroud:
See you again.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes. So a lot of our viewers may not have heard of Roswell, Inc or what an EDO is. So will you tell us a little more about what you do?

Steve Stroud:
Absolutely. So we’re an economic development organization. We’re fully accredited by the International Economic Development Organization. And our role is we’re a public private partnership with the city of Roswell. 60% funded through the private sector. You can’t join us. We serve all 5,800 licensed businesses in the city of Roswell. And the purpose is to grow business within. We’re not a chamber again. We don’t serve as a chamber. We’re a conduit to bring people together to connect, to settle in Roswell, and be successful in their business in Roswell, whether it’s a small mom and pop shop or a startup shop or a major corporation or Fortune 500.

Leslie Kuban:
So the full gamut from a-

Steve Stroud:
Full gamut.

Leslie Kuban:
So you mentioned it’s a combination of public and private-

Steve Stroud:
Correct.

Leslie Kuban:
Funding. Will you say a little bit more where the private is coming from-

Steve Stroud:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Where the public.

Steve Stroud:
Yeah. Private tends to be businesses within the community like the hospital. For instance, in Roswell, it would be Kimberly-Clark. Other companies that see the importance of economic development and creating those opportunities for businesses to be successful because if the business is community successful, the residential side is successful and it makes a great place to live. We hear a lot about live, work, play, but you can’t have that balance if you don’t have a strong business backbone to the community and that really is the success of most cities that are doing well in any times, but especially coming out of COVID.

Leslie Kuban:
What are some of the services that Roswell Inc would provide to your constituencies?

Steve Stroud:
Sure. So one of the key things we believe in is you have to be able to connect. So we do some networking opportunities. We’re, again, not a chamber. They’re [chamberesk 00:02:58]. We do a virtual connect. We call it a coffee connect that’s every two weeks that 45 to 50 businesses get on a call, an hour and 10 minutes. We rotate them around to give them an opportunity to do business in different rooms and it’s virtual. So that helps small business and it’s a great introduction for businesses that are coming to town. We’ve got a local franchise that just opened up and he wanted to meet people. So I said, “Look. It’s free. It’s a great way.” The other thing is we shepherd the businesses through the process. The same franchisee needed sign permits, needed to understand the process.

Steve Stroud:
We’re there to help them maneuver that process. Introduce them to other businesses that may need their service and help them grow. And, again, that’s just part of what we try to do to create economic development. I’m a firm believer, your best customer is your current customer and your current customer is always going to be, as long as you’re taking care of the customer, that’s going to be with you for life. So we’re looking at businesses as the customer of the city and how can we help them grow and be better and more successful.

Leslie Kuban:
So if I am, let’s say, I’m a prospective franchisee.

Steve Stroud:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
I’m going to open a fitness center or a pet care center-

Steve Stroud:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
And I’m looking around in Atlanta where I might want to locate my business and I’m considering Roswell.

Steve Stroud:
Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
And I came to you.

Steve Stroud:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
What sort of resources or data, networking yes, but helping me to understand if Roswell is—locate.

Steve Stroud:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
What kind of data?

Steve Stroud:
So one of the things that we do as a service back to the businesses, especially with franchises, it’s important because, again, you’re buying a product from somebody else to hopefully position that product in a community and be successful. I think it really says a lot when you can come to our organization and we back those numbers up. We tell you what’s happening in that area. So for example, we will monitor different, we call them nodes, within the city for retail and we’ll be able to tell you how often somebody’s coming to a shopping center. We can’t tell it’s you Leslie, but we can tell that they’re coming from Peachtree Corners or they’re coming from Brookhaven.

Steve Stroud:
We can tell the amount of time they’re spending in that shopping center. So an average shopping center stay in Roswell is 45 minutes. We can say there’s a reason because there’s two large anchors that are pulling those and what does those trends look like and those traffic patterns look like? Not just the physical car moving, but how long are they staying and where are they going and then where are they going next? So that gives us the ability to look at gaps so that we can say, “We need a sporting goods. How do we get a sporting goods?” So we’re able to recruit then for different businesses that make sense.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s interesting. Feels a little big brothery, but-

Steve Stroud:
It is.

Leslie Kuban:
I would want to know that information if—

Steve Stroud:
Right, or a new business owner. And then we try to guide them. We’re not in the real estate business so we depend on our commercial realtors to help us to help them get their leases signed, whether it’s retail or office. Light industrial. But what we can be to them is a service to make sure that it’s a good fit for them. They can send a prospect to us and we can walk them through what’s happening in the area so that they got a good idea of what redevelopment might be coming down the pike that would enhance their ability to sign that lease today.

Leslie Kuban:
Interesting.

Steve Stroud:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
So it’s kind of a bird’s eye view, but also boots on the ground-

Steve Stroud:
Boots on the ground.

Leslie Kuban:
Understanding what’s happening in that-

Steve Stroud:
That’s right.

Leslie Kuban:
In that local area, that would impact a business owner’s decisions-

Steve Stroud:
Correct.

Leslie Kuban:
On locating or their growth plans. That’s good information.

Steve Stroud:
And we focus only on Roswell. So that’s the beauty of it. We’re very regional in our approach, but we’re very localized so that we know the neighborhoods and we know how to connect people to the right entities and what’s successful and we had a group that called me yesterday that was trying to open a music store, for example, and they wanted to get connected with local musicians, but they also wanted to get connected with the local PTAs and other groups. And so we were able to channel them in the right direction to hopefully help them get connected and grow their business.

Leslie Kuban:
You mentioned permits and-

Steve Stroud:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Each area will have its own maybe signed ordinances or certain licenses or permits. I get-

Steve Stroud:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
Is there anything particular to Roswell that a new business owner might need to know about?

Steve Stroud:
Yeah. First and foremost, they have to make sure that it’s zoned correctly. A lot of times the professional may be coming in, but it’s not zoned for medical, for example, in a shopping center. So we need to look at that and what that looks like. And then there’s certain industries that you got to make sure, not only are they zoned, but can they get in that building what they want done, right? Is it going to be economical to do what they need to do for the build out? We had not too long ago, we had a pet care company that wanted to go into a major shopping center and take up about 15,000 square feet. Well, ordinance wouldn’t allow them to have overnight daycare for pets in that shopping center. So we were able to guide them, not out of Roswell, but into another location that made sense. So a lot of times it’s zoning and just making sure. It sounded like a great opportunity. It looked like a great opportunity, but it wasn’t zoned correctly. So sometimes it’s helping them.

Leslie Kuban:
So access is the information. It sounds like it could save an entrepreneur a lot of time.

Steve Stroud:
A lot of time.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Steve Stroud:
A lot of time and—

Leslie Kuban:
This out. Yes.

Steve Stroud:
Right?

Leslie Kuban:
Yes.

Steve Stroud:
And we tend to be very excited once we’ve decided that that’s the franchise we want, that’s the business we’re going to own. We’ve had this dream, but we don’t know who to talk to. And we come about it as entrepreneurs. We sit down with you and say, “Look, we’re not going to run your business. We’re not here to tell you how to run this franchise or how to run your business that you’re opening up. But we’re here to guide you and say, “Hey. We understand payroll needs to be done and processed on Friday. Here’s a couple payroll people if you need it. Here’s a sign guy. Here’s a cleaning facility group that can come in and clean your facility.” Here’s an array of services that you could share that are local that, again, support the ongoing network.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. Doing business with your neighbors.

Steve Stroud:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
Beautiful things.

Steve Stroud:
That’s it.

Leslie Kuban:
Now you’ve mentioned a couple times that Roswell Inc is not a chamber.

Steve Stroud:
Correct.

Leslie Kuban:
Of Commerce. I think that’s-

Steve Stroud:
You can’t join us. Right?

Leslie Kuban:
So what’s the difference? How would you differentiate an EDO versus a chamber?

Steve Stroud:
A chamber is more focused and we partner with the local chamber, the Greater North Fulton Chamber in Roswell, or in North Fulton. But a chamber is more geared towards creating business opportunities for each other. Right. We do that also, but we’re also not membership based. So we’re here to service our city and make sure that anybody that has a dream to start it, we can get them connected with SPDC or we can connect them with other entrepreneurs or folks that have been in that business so that we can kind of guide them like, “Is this really a dream?” Whether it’s score and they need a business plan. How do they go about that? Who are the tools out there from SBA and financing that we can guide them to? And we’ve seen a lot of dreams and a lot of them that come true, but as we know, it takes time and it takes some ability to know who to talk to.

Leslie Kuban:
I’m curious. So Roswell Inc seems to be quite a unique bird. There’s not a version of this in-

Steve Stroud:
No.

Leslie Kuban:
Every part of Atlanta or, I mean, it’s a unique offering. How did it come about or what-

Steve Stroud:
Well, Roswell, it’s kind of interesting too yeah. The EDOs are all over the country. We’re one of three accredited in the state of Georgia and economic development organizations tend to come up in areas that are unique. And Roswell has always been an entrepreneurial city, since the start, right? It was founded by an entrepreneur that came from dairy in Georgia, created and built a mill and built the city himself, built his own bank and his own funeral home and his own restaurant and general store and had his own currency. So it’s very entrepreneurial. And we’ve always had small business as the number one driver in our community.

Steve Stroud:
We are a bedroom community with great, great, great parks and rec, great schools, great residential opportunities for people to live. And so with that comes a lot of entrepreneurs. A lot of people that moved to Roswell from different parts and regions of the country that said, “Hey, we’re staying.” And they’ve hung a shingle. They’ve retired from Coca-Cola or they retired from Georgia Pacific and now they’re hanging a shingle either being a consultant or they opened a franchise or they’ve gotten in a whole nother career. And so that is what kind of precipitated the vision with the mayor and council almost 15 years ago to say, “Hey, we need to look at this a little differently in economic development. It’s not just city hall driven. It’s got to be from both sides.” And that’s where we came along.

Leslie Kuban:
Well continues to grow. It’s just one of-

Steve Stroud:
It does.

Leslie Kuban:
North Atlanta, Roswell included, it continues to be such a growth community.

Steve Stroud:
It’s a healthy environment.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes.

Steve Stroud:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes. So are you seeing any, with all that growth, does anything stand out as a gap in Roswell, a need for-

Steve Stroud:
A need.

Leslie Kuban:
Services or products that might be an opportunity for someone to open a franchise?

Steve Stroud:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
In that industry.

Steve Stroud:
We know we’re very, we say all the time, small or fast food restaurants tend to not do well in Roswell because, again, we watch the numbers. Now there’s certain franchises that continue to do well. Your McDonald’s, your Zaxby’s, your Chick-fil-A off the chart, right? And our two Chick-fil-A’s are in the top 10% of producers in the country. So we can’t say anything about national franchises, but we will say this on the restaurant side, with over 200 plus independent and family owned restaurants, chef driven, we’re very, very much a culinary foodie town. So that continues to, as we know from our car dealers, right, they tend to breed within themselves.

Steve Stroud:
So the more that’s in an area, the better because you come to a destination. We’ve got three breweries, for example, and we would take another brewery tomorrow. We’ve got a distillery now in full operation. We’ve got a winery. We’ve got a meatery. So we’ve become a little Mecca of hospitality. And what we found is, is that people like to come from all over the Metro area and spend as much as two and a half hours, as an average, in our downtown area, just walking and-

Leslie Kuban:
That’s beautiful.

Steve Stroud:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes. Alive after five is-

Steve Stroud:
It’s coming up.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s right. The spring coming and it’ll be-

Steve Stroud:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
Back.

Steve Stroud:
It’ll be back in full swing.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes.

Steve Stroud:
Absolutely. So we see all kinds of opportunity. We also see great opportunity for small boutique retail. Lots of calling for that and we believe that’s kind of the new frontier. When people were saying retail was dead, we can say brick and mortar is not dead. We see all the requests and we know that’s going to be a strong, strong part of the future growth of Roswell.

Leslie Kuban:
Because that feels like that goes hand in hand with the kind of experiential-

Steve Stroud:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
Culinary opportunities. That’s out and about. You’re not-

Steve Stroud:
Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
You’re not sitting at home. That’s-

Steve Stroud:
That’s right.

Leslie Kuban:
Out and about with your neighbors.

Steve Stroud:
That’s right.

Leslie Kuban:
Breaking bread.

Steve Stroud:
Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
[Cheersing 00:14:39] each other.

Steve Stroud:
That’s right.

Leslie Kuban:
And some experiential shopping-

Steve Stroud:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
Experiences.

Steve Stroud:
Right. We think that that’s going to be kind of key with that. Roswell is not a facade. It’s been organically grown for 130 years and it will continue to grow. And we think that that’s part of the fabric is the uniqueness of the franchises that come to Roswell. More importantly, the retailers that will land here and the restaurants because, again, they feed off of each other and it becomes a great destination.

Leslie Kuban:
So what are some of the opportunities coming up? I know you guys plan well in advance.

Steve Stroud:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
But you’re offering all kinds of events and offerings. What’s in store for the rest of this year and-

Steve Stroud:
Well.

Leslie Kuban:
Looking into next year?

Steve Stroud:
We do a traditional real estate market analysis luncheon for brokers that’ll come up in, it’s called our redo real estate and investment luncheon that we do in the fall. But then we’ll have our holiday kickoff that we do the 1st of December. We do it in city hall and we usually have about 250 folks that participate and get you in the holiday mood to spend some money and then spread some cheer and hopefully spend some money and even more money in Roswell.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s right. Well, you guys have a lot of fun over there at-

Steve Stroud:
We do.

Leslie Kuban:
Roswell Inc.

Steve Stroud:
We make it happen. Yeah. We make it a fun event.

Leslie Kuban:
Well that’s great. And it sounds like whatever stage someone may be in their entrepreneurial journey, they’re just thinking about it, they’ve got a business that they may be honing in on, they’ve already been in business, that you guys have a lot to offer to perspective and seasoned business owners, franchise owners, entrepreneurs.

Steve Stroud:
We always say we’ve never met a stranger in the business community and we want that opportunity to connect and understand what your business is. Whether you’re a consulting firm, engineering firm, retail. We always call restaurants the sexy part, right? You come to downtown Roswell, you get the sexy part of the breweries and the winery, but at the end of the day, it’s the makeup of the other businesses that support them that make it successful when the visitor’s not here. And so we want to know more about their businesses and how we can help them grow. And if it’s a Kimberly-Clark, for example, we want to make sure that they’ve come back to their campus safely, that they’re back in, and they’re integrated into the system here in Roswell to do business. And so that’s an important part of what we do.

Leslie Kuban:
So for our viewers who would love to do business-

Steve Stroud:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
With Roswell Inc and take advantage of all the many things you guys have to offer, what’s the best way they can find you?

Steve Stroud:
Best way is go to our website. You’ll see our emails and you’ll see our contact information, you’ll see my cell number, absolutely reach out. Call us, text us, email us, look on the schedule, look to see what’s coming up because there’s lots of opportunities, and participate because the best way, I always say, to win the game is you got to show up first. And so it’s important, as we know Leslie, networking is an important part and I don’t care what size your business is. Every business can succeed with a little bit of networking.

Leslie Kuban:
And I think that’s a necessity.

Steve Stroud:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
That entrepreneurship is not a kick your heels up.

Steve Stroud:
No.

Leslie Kuban:
Wait for … it’s not field of dreams, build it and they will come. It’s very much an active, get engaged.

Steve Stroud:
Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
Give and receive.

Steve Stroud:
That’s right. It’s a two—

Leslie Kuban:
That’s right.

Steve Stroud:
And we found too that a lot of folks that get into business are really good at baking bagels, creating cakes, doing what they do really well. And they get so ingrained that they forget that there’s a whole other side of it out there. And so we try to pull some of those folks out in our community that we know and we do business with on a regular basis to say, “Hey. Come be our guest. Come see what’s happening on the other side.” And it’s amazing how just with one opportunity, sometimes it turns into a gold mine.

Leslie Kuban:
Well I’m glad to have you on the show and to make our viewers aware that Roswell Inc exists.

Steve Stroud:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
It can really be a game changer in providing information that would help an entrepreneur make a good decision.

Steve Stroud:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
To go into business or maybe not. And either-

Steve Stroud:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
Either — or change directions.

Steve Stroud:
Many times we’ve worked with banks. We do a lot of work with banks because bankers will call us and they’re about to give a loan and they’ll say, “Hey. We’ve got one more step. We want you to talk. You’re going to open this up in Roswell. We want you to talk to Roswell, Inc. Let’s get their feedback. Let’s hear what they’re saying.” Here’s another tool that’s here for you for free, utilize it, and at least get their opinion.

Leslie Kuban:
Well folks, you know how to get in touch with Roswell, Inc and I’m delighted to have you in today and to share about all that you guys have to offer. I think that’s really important for new and existing entrepreneurs to know that you’re there to take advantage of what you guys have to offer.

Steve Stroud:
We’re here to help you grow in Roswell.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes. We’ll see you at the party.

Steve Stroud:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
Folks, thanks for joining us in another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today. My name’s Leslie Kuban. I look forward to seeing you next week.


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