Downtown Dayton Partnership’s new leader settles in

Pictured is Downtown Dayton Partnership President Katie Meyer. Photo courtesy of Cornelius Frolik for The Dayton Daily News.

Anel Solares | Contributing Writer

The Downtown Dayton Partnership (DDP), “dedicated to making downtown Dayton a better place to live, work and visit,” appointed Katie Meyer as the new president of the organization this past August. 

Katie Meyer succeeds Sandy Gudorf, who had served as the DDP president for the last 17 years and worked for the organization and the downtown Dayton community for more than 30 years. 

The DDP is a nonprofit organization that oversees business development and recreation for the downtown Dayton area. 

Highlighted on their website, the five key areas the organization focuses on are, “Strategic Planning and Advocacy, Clean and Safe Services, Street Vibrancy & Creative Placemaking, Marketing and Communication, and Economic Development.”

Essentially, the organization works to enhance the downtown area by promoting businesses, events, and public services to serve the community and improve the overall image of Dayton. One example of their work is the creation of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan.

Longtime President Sandy Gudorf had been instrumental in the launch of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, which according to the campaign’s website, sought to build a healthy and attractive downtown for “residents, businesses, investors, employees, students, and visitors.” 

Gudorf retired in July and with her departure, there were big shoes to fill. The DDP Board of Trustees, which includes business owners, elected officials, downtown residents, and other key contributors, led the search for her replacement.

Among the nationwide and local search for presidential candidates, Katie Meyer stood out above and beyond the crowd of contenders for the role. Meyer has extensive experience in town policy and revitalization, as well as technology solutions, data analysis, and strategic planning for municipalities and organizations. 

Before her nomination, Meyer worked as a policy and program manager for UniCity, a smart city division based out of Dayton created by telecommunication service provider Altafiber. 

More notably and relevant for her current role, Meyer served as the executive director of Renaissance Covington, a nonprofit based in Covington, Kentucky, which aimed to revitalize the historic town. She worked in the role for nine years, and according to DDP’s website, drew in more than $150 million for property rehabilitation. 

Having achieved many accolades for her work in Covington, Meyer now has her sights set on Dayton, Ohio, having officially joined the DDP on Sept. 5, 2023. 

Dayton is the sixth-largest city in the state of Ohio, and is recognized as an innovation hub for manufacturing, engineering, research, and aerospace. Outside magazine named Dayton as one of the 25 “Best Towns of 2017,” calling the area the “Best Rebirth of the American Dream.” 

However, despite these accomplishments, many issues still plague the city. Amongst them is a housing crisis, opioid epidemic, and more recently according to an article from Dayton Daily News, concern of an economic recession after COVID-19. 

Before her retirement, Gudorf told Dayton Daily News about her main concern, and one shared by cities across the country, which was what to do with the cluster of empty office spaces in Dayton due to COVID. 

Meyer touched on this issue in the article, having said, “New strategies and creative thinking will be needed to promote downtown and figure out how to reuse and fill these office spaces and properties.”

Luckily for Meyer, Renaissance Covington faced the same problem when it began nearly 20 years ago. Under the leadership of Meyer, the downtown now boasts a vibrant and booming place of businesses and increased property values. 

Meyer showed eagerness about her thoughts and ideas on how to tackle the issues pressing downtown Dayton, believing the area “can pull through stronger than ever.” 

She also praised predecessor Gudorf in the article, believing she laid the groundwork for the partnership and downtown. “I am inheriting, for a lack of a better term,” she told the newspaper, “a very well-run organization and it is critical that I maintain that and continue to grow the budget and the investment in downtown.” 

Dan Meixner, one of two DDP co-chairs, in an online interview voiced another recent concern of the DDP’s being the safety of downtown. He noted the importance of conversations with all community partners to address the reality and perception of downtown safety more effectively.

In fact, the downtown area is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. With the added visibility of being the entertainment, education, and cultural hub of the region, Meixner shared that it is crucial to stay focused on solutions that promote and enhance the feeling of safety for all members of the community. 

As for Meyer’s capabilities as the new president, Meixner is confident that she will take the organization far. 

“Those of us who have gotten to work closely with Katie during her first few months have been impressed with her experience, dedication, creativity, thoughtfulness, and energy,” he said. “She has already demonstrated that she does not need any advice from me to be wildly successful as the president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.”

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