While numerous Hoosier small town downtowns are struggling, the mayor of Frankfort says a revitalization plan aimed at attracting talent in his city is gaining momentum. This weekend, Chris McBarnes helped christen Nickle Plate Flats, a $7.2 million downtown apartment complex complete with electric vehicle charging stations and other amenities. The second-term Republican mayor believes the apartment development and other projects are already beginning to attract talent to Frankfort. "People thought we were crazy when we first brought this idea to the table… (they said) never in Frankfort," said McBarnes. "Out of the 18 or 19 leases that have already been signed, 16 of those individuals have never lived in Frankfort or Clinton County before."
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, McBarnes said despite challenges, small town revitalization is possible throughout the state.
Adjacent to Nickle Plate Flats, plans are moving forward with development of a $4.5 million greenspace known as Prairie Creek Park, a venue that will provide performing arts space, a splash pad, vendor areas, dog park, playground and other recreational opportunities.
The park is expected to open in time for the annual Frankfort Hot Dog Festival in July 2019.
McBarnes says quality of place improvements in Frankfort are being fueled, in part, by the need to attract talent for local agribusiness and advanced manufacturing companies, including Frito-Lay, Federal-Mogul Corp. and NHK Seating of America.
"We are the city that feeds the state and feeds the world, but what I’m hearing from my plant managers is we need bodies, we can’t find people to fill the jobs," said McBarnes, who believes the pressure is on rural communities to think differently. "We’ve got to create an environment that attracts top talent… that’s how we’re going to create more jobs and make ourselves sustainable."
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