Frankfort Mayor Layne Wilkerson called a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Thursday to discuss economic development and strategic planning as it pertains to the Kentucky Capital Development Corp. (KCDC).
No action taken as a result of the meeting, instead the board heard presentations from a Donnie Warner, an economic development policy consultant out of Florence, as well as a presentation on current and future projects from KCDC President and CEO Terri Bradshaw.
Warner spoke to the board about KCDC’s operational status as well as options for future plans with reference to laws and agreements.
Before Warner began his presentation, City Manager Laura Hagg said the meeting had originally been scheduled for last November due to the board’s interest in discussing economic development in the wake of KCDC board member resignations during the previous summer. The meeting was pushed back twice since its original date due to unspecified city events.
“One thing the city solicitor and I discussed at length was the need for an outside independent expert,” Hagg said. “We know the community is very passionate about economic development. Everyone has strong opinions. We had found through different people offering their analysis, other analysis, that folks didn’t trust it. So we wanted to get an outside expert, unbiased. So we contacted Mr. Warner and his firm."
Warner then proceeded to present the board with three different possibilities for future city involvement with KCDC.
The first option called for reforms to the organization. Through amendments to the existing KCDC ordinance and bylaws, as well as augmenting the corporation’s funding structure.
Another reform option would be for the city and county to jointly appoint a seventh board member in order to prevent deadlock in KCDC decision making. Currently the board is comprised of three members appointed by the mayor and three appointed by the fiscal court judge-executive.
Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge inquired further about how a seventh member would be appointed.
"With the KCDC board, I think there should be some kind of description and characteristics that we are looking for in particular board members," Waldridge said. "I have also mentioned that there should be some people who are fixed to this board with other people added such as your superintendents. You want to add people who are going to put forth on this board for our community to benefit. Those people are your school boards. They want to bring in other people economic development so their taxes go up for their school areas."
Waldridge threw out a few other recommendations that might be included such as hospital CEOs and members of the Frankfort Plant Board.
The second option Warner offered was to withhold Frankfort’s funding to KCDC for the next fiscal year. He also noted that cutting funding to KCDC might result in the organization being unable to perform its assigned functions and financial obligations.
Waldridge expressed concern about the city missing out on revenue from a KCDC occupational tax that it currently splits with Franklin County as a result of withdrawing funding completely.
"I just don't see how we would get half of a tax if we were not paying KCDC to work for us," she noted. "Wouldn't we lose that half? If we do lose that, how would we gain that revenue back?"
City Solicitor Laura Ross said that she did not think that due to the way the KCDC ordinance was worded, that the city would still get the tax revenue, but she did concede that any economic development projects the city wants might not get prioritized.
The third option calls for the dissolution of KCDC and the designation of a successor agency.
This option would require a joint resolution from both the commission and the fiscal court. It would also require an extensive planning as to how any outstanding KCDC obligations, assign notes receivable and revenue sources would handled after the organization was dissolved.
They would also have to assign one or more agencies to take over the mission of economic development going forward.
Warner concluded by saying that there is not just one solution to economic development and the future of the KCDC.
“Any viable path forward is going to require the cooperation among the city, county and KCDC Board,” Warner said. “Once a path is determined, the next steps are due diligence, documenting and delegating some of these responsibilities.”
Bradshaw's presentation immediately followed Warner's.
From the beginning Bradshaw noted that she had been lacking communication from the board as to what wanted from KCDC.
“I find it extremely concerning that everyone is so dissatisfied with what KCDC does, but I have never heard that from any of you,” she said to the board. “So it is really hard to know where we are lacking. What is it that we are doing. I provide a five- or six-page report every month. You are welcome to respond to that.”
She also noted that the changing economy has forced her to shift focus from bringing to in new businesses to the area to also prioritizing workforce development.
“I have been in economic development for 35 years,” Bradshaw said. “I never would have imagined my job would have gone from chasing down jobs, to chasing down people.”
She went on to highlight how KCDC plans to not only attract people to the area, but also how to keep them here.
Some of the solutions for workforce development include more housing developments, encouraging local businesses to hire interns and the expansion of public events like Bourbon on the Banks and public art.
Wilkerson said that this was first of perhaps several commission meetings regarding economic development.
Going forward the commission plans to share Warner's study with the Franklin County Fiscal Court and have a joint meeting to discuss it at a future date.