With the Nov. 3 general election approaching, The State Journal has resumed asking a weekly question to each Frankfort City Commission and mayoral candidate.

City commissioner candidates have 200 words to respond and mayoral candidates have 300 words to respond.

This week’s question: What changes, if any, should Frankfort make in its economic development strategy?

Eric Whisman

COVID-19 requires that we thoroughly evaluate business as usual. Frankfort has made great strides, but we face challenges ahead, and our current system focused on industrial development will fail us. For Frankfort to thrive, the city must take an active role in developing our economic strategy to reduce dependence on government by empowering our citizenry to develop and grow businesses, while attracting new ventures enticed by our low cost of living, community amenities and ideal regional location.

For now, I’ve been leading our city commission to develop programs to help uplift our locally owned businesses with grants to ensure they survive. But, I believe we should find ways to permanently support the development of small and locally owned businesses that build on our assets, because they will be what sustains us going forward.

My goal for Frankfort is to become one of the nation’s best-performing cities for small business development by 2036, our 250th anniversary. This can be reached by developing a Frankfort Community Development Corp. and better relationships with our Small Business Development Office among other strategic steps to effectively create economic opportunity. We must look beyond programs that have led our past for what will create our future.

Harry Carver

We need leadership that stands up and promotes Frankfort as a great place to do business. Embarrassing behavior and rambling commission meetings do not send the appropriate message to those considering Frankfort as a place to locate their business.

It is time to look at how our economic development entities are structured. A more formalized relationship could allow KCDC, the tourism commission and Downtown Frankfort to work together more effectively to promote economic growth, making the best use of limited resources. The Chamber must be a partner in this effort, with a focus on growing existing local businesses — a critical component of economic development. Other communities — Danville/Boyle County and Bardstown/Nelson County, for example — have been successful putting their organizations under one umbrella. 

The boards of these agencies should agree to explore a more strategic partnership. We have an opportunity to take a more holistic approach to our economic development services, avoid duplication and create a healthier environment for businesses to thrive. It is time that we come together as a community and determine what works best for us, implement it and move forward. We cannot afford continued stagnation.

Kelly May

I believe we should always be looking at how to maximize the efforts of our city employees, county government, KCDC, DFI and any other board that has been tasked with growing Frankfort’s economy. As we work through a pandemic, there may be projects that need to be expedited, paused or altered so that we can continue to keep our city’s financial future safe and secure.

I look forward to working with our city employees, county employees, tourist commission “Visit Frankfort," DFI, KCDC and local Chamber of Commerce to keep our plan and strategy for growth efficient and sustainable through consistent and professional communication.

We will need to be aggressive in creating and retaining jobs and investors over the next few years as we bounce back from an unprecedented hardship that many business owners and their employees have felt due to COVID-19.

The foundation to continue to grow into a world-class city is there; now let’s work together to continue that momentum. 

Anna Marie Rosen

What Frankfort needs is a Strategic Plan. If we have one, it is a well-kept secret. A Strategic Plan is not done by a consultant at taxpayer’s expense. It is a plan created by the mayor, city commissioners, city manager and maybe a very few other knowledgeable people. It is a process that businesses go through annually, and I suspect most cities do as well.

The Strategic Plan is based on a shared vision of Frankfort’s future. It sets the goals for Frankfort, prioritizes those goals and develops strategies for achieving them. We have bits and pieces of a Strategic Plan such as the Comprehensive Plan for land use in the city and county, and the Master Plan for projects in downtown. But there is nothing that sets overall direction and priorities.

Growing our economy would be a major section of the Strategic Plan, and that portion would be our Economic Development Plan. The Strategic Plan would provide much-needed direction for city staff and also other important organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, DFI and KCDC.

Our lack of a Strategic Plan clearly shows the lack of leadership from the existing administration, the amount of work ahead for the new city leaders.

Diane Strong

KCDC has created an extremely well laid out, comprehensive economic development plan for the city and county. The plan consists of six main goals with detailed strategies for meeting them, the actions to be taken and who needs to initiates them. If we follow this action plan, we simply can not fail.

I think our biggest obstacle comes with goal number three: “Build a more welcoming and supportive climate for economic development." It’s important to note that the city and county share equally ALL occupational taxes, so it behooves the city to be supportive of development in the county as well.

The city and county have repeatedly shown a lack of support for economic development. Development plans are made, agreed upon and then get tangled when attempts are made to bring them to fruition. This sends a message that Frankfort/Franklin County is not open for business. In the city we have a disturbing regulatory environment created by Planning and Zoning, the Architectural Review Board and the historical society that stifles and repels investors.

In a nutshell, we have an excellent plan, but our elected leadership does not want development. If we want Frankfort to be a place our kids want to live and raise their children, then our leadership needs to change.

Kyle Thompson

The key to Frankfort’s future success is to develop an economic development strategy to enhance opportunities for our citizens.  

We have to embrace our history but be ready to write the next chapters. We have to nurture our start-up businesses; assist our entrepreneurial community; develop our future workforce; and retain existing employers, all while recruiting new opportunities. 

Our strategy has to be based on attributes of our community but should be founded on what we want the future of Frankfort to look like. We need to develop and tell our story both internally but also externally. We have to create a place for our children to be successful and raise their families. 

We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and analyze what has worked and what hasn’t. Nothing should be off the table.

We need to leverage expertise that is currently untapped in the community. We need to formalize our new vision of Frankfort and then take the steps to get it there and include all necessary partners, including KCDC, DFI and the Chamber. 

I believe our community has great potential, but we have to examine every facet of our current efforts to begin constructing the pathway forward for Frankfort. I am ready to get started. Are you?

Leesa Unger

Frankfort must be willing to adapt as we move through this pandemic and our economic development strategy might need some modification. Many employers are realizing that their workforce can work remotely. Frankfort has seen a loss in occupational tax due to this. Why not encourage the workforce to move here and work remotely from Frankfort?

Frankfort can provide a cheaper living option, safe recreational activities and a rich community of arts, history and amenities. Our city must be able to provide affordable housing and a high-speed internet connection.

In order to enhance our outdoor recreational activities, we need to continue to focus on our parks master plan and implement it. Our community deserves better city parks and amenities.

If we can market Frankfort in the right way, then we should be able to attract more people to visit and move to our city and in turn local businesses will thrive to feed the needs of our existing and new citizens.

Katrisha Waldridge

Change is inevitable now more than ever for Frankfort’s economic development strategy with effects of COVID lingering. We as a city have been too dependent on state government employment. With COVID upon us, we are in a time where if the state government decides to permanently let some state employees work from home, we will need to make up for that loss of revenue or reduce services. 

What does that mean for ED for Frankfort? Well, we will need to provide careers for our students to return home to that are more than a median salary; we will need to offer education/training and have opportunities readily available for those wanting to enter directly into the workforce. We must provide advancement opportunities for our workforce, or we will continue to be stagnant financially. We can’t keep milking from the same old cow; she will dry up eventually.

It’s time to put politics aside and help bring growth to Frankfort for our future's sake. A great place to start would be with bringing in businesses for downtown buildings, supporting entrepreneurship and being willing to partner for the best opportunities for Frankfort and our residents. We only have 200 words and economic development is much greater.

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