Steve Stewart

In arguably the most distressed economy in a century, Frankfort and Franklin County are wandering aimlessly, lacking vision and clarity of purpose.

Leadership vacancies atop two of the four organizations responsible for the health of the local economy — the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Frankfort Inc. — present an opportunity for finding cohesion and getting the community on the metaphorical “same page” at a time when we can no longer be fractured in goals or execution.

The current structure is unwieldy. The Chamber, DFI, Kentucky Capital Development Corp. and the Frankfort-Franklin County Tourist Commission may have different missions on paper, but they are inextricably linked by a shared responsibility for getting Frankfort moving economically. Four organizations may well be too many to ever get in sync.

The Franklin County Fiscal Court bears significant responsibility for charting a better way.

The current crop of magistrates has proved quite good at finding fault with the community's economic development efforts, but two years into a four-year term, they’ve not lifted a finger to create something better. At some point, elected critics must stop blaming and start leading. That “Closed for Business” sign at the county line is costing us dearly.

A summit of board representatives from each of the four economic development entities is a good place to start. Ideally, that would happen voluntarily by the organizations themselves. If not, the fiscal court should summon them to the table. Some questions to explore:

• Should two or more of the entities merge?

• If, as some magistrates have asserted, there is duplication in function, what exactly is being duplicated and why?

• How are limited local government funds for economic development best spent? Should the private sector pony up more, and, if so, how?

• What kind of economy do we want?

The time for the discussion — and decisions — is now, the urgency real.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The State Journal. His email address is steve.stewart@state-journal.com.

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