Virginia’s worst city to live in? Franklin disputes USA Today ranking

Local News

FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — Crime and unemployment are down. Businesses are coming to downtown. Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt says her’s is a city on the rebound, and certainly not the “worst to live in” as published this week in USA Today.

The investment analysis firm 24/7 Wall Street compiled the rankings, one city for each state, based on more than two dozen criteria. Jarratt says it uses outdated information.

“It’s not timely. It doesn’t accurately reflect what is happening in Franklin today.”

In the nine years since the closing of International Paper, which was then Franklin’s largest employer, Jarratt says unemployment steadily dropped.

“We had an unemployment rate in 2010 of over 12%, but now we’re down to 4%.”

And so is violent crime.

“Firearm incidents greatly decreased, as are burglaries and robberies,” Jarratt said.

With a population of just 8,500, Franklin had one murder in 2017, and one in 2018, eight violent sexual assaults in 2017, nine in 2018.

Meanwhile, business owners are investing in downtown. Katrina Sykes Manley decided last July to open her interior design business Spoken Interior Homes on Main Street. She says she sees a positive change.

“Yes, we did go through a rough spell with the mill shutting down and the jobs leaving, but it’s coming back. And we’re seeing it come back. I live about a quarter-mile from here. My kids go to city schools.”

Not everyone who lives in Franklin paints a rosy picture, including a woman who gave her name only as Kathy. She lives in an older home along High Street.

“A lot of the homes are going vacant,” she said. “We’re trying to renovate ours and we want our property to stay up, but because of the fact that the town is going down, we’re afraid to invest money in it.”

With industrial contractor Repair Tech getting ready to invest more than a million dollars to expand its presence at Pretlow Industrial Park near US Route 58, Jarratt says the rating as worst in Virginia is unfair.

“This is unfortunate, it can definitely hurt our efforts to recruit new businesses here, but we’ll overcome it.”

Jarratt says Franklin is also working on poverty and nutrition programs for its residents. The rating “worst to live in” for other states included some much larger cities – including St. Louis, Cleveland, and Memphis.

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