February 27, 2017

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Steve Siler is a song writer, and founder and director of Music for the Soul, a non-profit music ministry. He is writing this column on behalf of Downtown Frankfort, Inc., a Kentucky Main Street program.


May I Toot the Horn?

Taking a Closer Look at DFI and Downtown.

A recent poll in the State Journal left me feeling like a number of Frankfort residents may not be aware of all that Downtown Frankfort Incorporated (DFI) is doing downtown.  When asked if DFI does an effective job promoting and improving downtown, 136 out of the 283 respondents said no. Another 37 said they “didn’t know.”

As one who has now been on the DFI board for a little over a year I can vouch for the spirit and effort being expended behind the scenes on behalf of supporting and developing the downtown area.

Because I have the good fortune to be able to share with the State Journal readers in writing about some of the great businesses and exciting people who make up downtown, I thought I would take one column to share what DFI is doing to help make downtown Frankfort even more special.

To do that I thought it would be a good idea to speak with a few people who are in a good position to know the full width and breadth of DFI’s responsibilities. Local attorney Doug Howard, who himself has an office on St. Clair Street downtown, just completed a stint as the Chairman of the Board for DFI.

“There are many individuals and groups working to improve this wonderful city. But there is only one organization that focuses its efforts on improving the heart of Frankfort, and that’s Downtown Frankfort, Inc.,” Howard told me.

“It brings together merchants, professionals, and residents, in an effort to improve downtown. No other group tries to make sure that all areas of living, working, and playing in downtown are addressed, the way that DFI does.”

I wondered how the duties of DFI are different from that of the Chamber of Commerce.  Kim Strohmeier, the Executive Director of DFI explained,

“The Chamber is a membership-driven organization that exists to promote the needs of their members, who are mostly businesses in Franklin County. DFI focuses solely on the downtown district, and our economic development work is not necessarily just for our members.“

Since the proof is in the pudding, as they say, I asked Strohmeier for some proof of the positive affect DFI is having on economic development in downtown Frankfort. It turns out that no less than twenty-six new businesses have opened in the downtown area since the beginning of 2015!  And there are more to come in the months ahead.

“Change happens slowly, but with new businesses looking to relocate downtown, it is clear that DFI performs a worthwhile and valuable service to this great City of ours!” says Howard.

Recently the departure of The Woolery left a big opening on St. Clair. But there’s a positive side to that story. “It actually had to move to a bigger space because of its success during its downtown tenure,” Strohmeier told me.

The personal touch that DFI brings to engaging with new businesses makes our downtown more welcoming. Tony Davis, owner of Kentucky Knows on Broadway, just signed up for a DFI membership. "Kim Strohmeier and Joe Dunn of DFI made me feel as if I were a part of the community. And doing so not by calling or emailing but by stopping in and chatting with me!"

But helping attract new businesses is not the only role of DFI.

“We have responsibilities in the preservation and enhancement of the architecture and the aesthetic appeal of downtown. We also organize promotional events to bring people downtown,” added Strohmeier.

Howard agrees. “DFI brings a unique, balanced perspective that includes the summer concerts, Candlelight, and Artwalk, as well as business recruitment, streetscape design, and merchant organization.”

From being at the board meetings and the events I can tell you it’s a lot of work; most of it being done by volunteers who love this city and want to see it shine!

So, next time you are downtown, take a closer look.  And know that DFI is working hard to keep downtown Frankfort a special place! 


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