Editor's Note: This article was updated on Thursday, May 20 at 11:00 p.m. to reflect that KCDC's planned joint letter with other economic groups will touch on city project funding, not KCDC or other groups' request for city funds.
The Kentucky Capital Development Corp. (KCDC) board met on Tuesday to discuss several topics both currently underway and planned for the future in the greater Frankfort area.
With the upcoming city commission budget session, KCDC President/CEO Terri Bradshaw briefly discussed the organization’s letter to the city regarding the kind of projects it ought to fund, but stated that she had a preference for coming together with Downtown Frankfort Inc. (DFI), the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce and the Frankfort-Franklin County Tourist Commission to do so.
“We’ve been working with our other partners to come up with some things that we believe all four agencies are in support of so that we can partner on promoting those things,” Bradshaw said. “And as we've been working, we've realized that probably the very same things that would be in this funding recommendation letter would be a part of those things that we agreed upon."
Bradshaw suggested that the four entities could draft a letter to the city regarding those agreed upon items by the end of this month.
Local government funding for KCDC was a controversial subject during last year’s budget process.
City Finance Director Alicia Boyd said that the city plans to submit a draft budget to the commission for consideration by June 1. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Bradshaw said that in trying to find alignment with the other three entities, discussions have revealed three tentative points of emphasis: support of downtown projects such as development of Parcels B and C, implementation of recommendations from existing plans like the downtown master plan and the arts plan as well as continuing to promote a “pro-business” platform.
Bradshaw also informed the board of several projects in the works, particularly the planned Proclivity Senior Center on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the East-West Connector. Proclivity is in the process of applying for a clean energy-based tax incentive known as PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy), and Bradshaw said the owners are mulling over other incentive programs such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
Bradshaw and Mayor Layne Wilkerson spoke highly of the city‘s and KCDC’s planned collaboration with Interapt, a company that specializes in IT services and software development training.
“The great part about the project is not only that it trains 25 to 30 Frankfort and Franklin County residents in cybersecurity, but at the end of their certification it guarantees them a job within that industry,” Bradshaw said. “So it's pretty phenomenal program for those 30 participants.”
The program is one of three that made it on a list composed by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., for “community project funding requests.” The projects will likely be weighed by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee late this year.
Wilkerson agreed with Bradshaw.
“What I like about this is that we’re building from within,” he said. “We’re up-skilling our own residents, and when we do so they’re going to have jobs that are remote. We’re educating the people here and they’re staying here to work on projects all over."
Bradshaw also alerted the KCDC board of a regional group that is planning to develop an economic strategy for the Central Kentucky area. Bradshaw said that group, led by economic developer Ted Abernathy, would create a space for strategizing how nearby communities can work in conjunction with one another.
“This for us is is such a great opportunity for a number of reasons where we are limited in land and buildings,” Bradshaw said. “Some of the only ways that we'll be able to create jobs for our citizens is if they get jobs that are created in adjoining counties. If we can't get the business here, we most certainly want it to be in Versailles rather than Paducah.”
Both city and county executives, as well as Bradshaw and recently elected KCDC Chair Houston Barber, spoke positively about the city’s commitment to the downtown Parcel B and C TIF district.
The city recently upped its commitment to the TIF District from 50% to 75% of its future marginal tax revenues toward public infrastructure costs; those costs include payment of bonds taken out to cover construction of a downtown parking garage and the developer's planned extension of Washington Street.
The city asked the fiscal court to chip in 50% at its last meeting, before magistrates opted to wait two weeks before deciding what percentage, if any, the county will commit.
Barber, who is the superintendent of Frankfort Independent Schools, was enthusiastic about the project, acknowledging that it would generate significant tax revenue for his school district. Mixed commercial and residential development is planned on the property, which is the former site of the Frankfort Convention Center.
“The risk to the city as I see it is that even if no new development happens after we build this parking structure and transit center, we still have a three million dollar transit center,” Wilkerson said. “To me, that’s a risk worth taking for the possibility of unlocking the rest of that development and generating new revenues for the independent school district in particular.”
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells concurred, adding that he hoped the fiscal court would support the project.
“It does make a whole lot of sense, because the only money we’re out would be money that we didn’t have in the first place,” he said.