Which Kentucky Communities Are Most Able and Which Are Most Vulnerable to Take Advantage of the Shift to Remote Work

By Dr. Alison Davis, CEDIK Executive Director
Written by Roberto Gallardo and Richard Florida (see post) and adapted for Kentucky communities by the author

The authors explore two factors when assessing a county’s readiness for remote work: the availability of digital connectivity and/or the share of workers employed in industries and occupations that are amenable to remote work. “If a particular county has both limited digital connectivity and a higher share of non-remote work workers, it will more than likely struggle to leverage e-learning and remote work. We looked at the geography of remote work across America’s 3,000 plus counties.”

The analysis for Kentucky reveals that 75 of Kentucky’s counties are considered moderately or highly vulnerable to the remote work shift. The map below highlights county-by-county analysis. Kentucky rural communities tend to be more vulnerable for two reasons: access to high-speed broadband and a large share of employment is based in manufacturing, healthcare, and retail trade. For most of those industries it is a challenge to “bring work home.”

Kentucky Counties Vulnerable to Shift to Remote Work (Chart and Map)
Over 62% of Kentucky’s counties are considered moderately or highly vulnerable to the remote work shift.*


*Access to broadband is measured through the FCC which does not always fully reflect true conditions and overstates access.



Kentucky Census Tracts* Vulnerable to Shift to Remote Work


*11 census tracts were too small to provide a measure.

What does this mean?
Not all counties are equally suited to shift to remote work during the COVID-19 crisis. This analysis also does not account for an employer’s ability to shift to a remote work system (including mindset, information technology, etc.). Not surprisingly, more urban areas are less vulnerable than rural areas, but even within urban and rural areas, the ability to access consistent high-speed broadband is mixed.

If it’s a challenge for employees to remote work due to lack of broadband access, it will also be a challenge for students to access online learning materials. In addition, it is a challenge for individuals to socially connect through FaceTime, Zoom, etc. Many rural communities have relied on accessing public Wi-Fi through libraries, schools, and McDonalds. With those entities closed, access is greatly diminished.

What can we do?

Right now…

  • We don’t assume everyone has access to the same resources we do and we don’t isolate individuals.
  • We are patient with everyone and understand that it may take longer to get responses back or deliverables.
  • We use our cell phones to connect, where service is available.
  • We call people to make sure they are okay and to socially connect.


To prepare for next time…

  • Consider portable technologies like MiFi (Wi-Fi hotspots) that households can borrow. Schools, libraries, and other non-profit entities could host the equipment. Click here to learn more.
  • As a community, identify the pockets of the county that do not have access. This gives first responders, non-profits, etc. ideas about where to deploy resources first. Click here to learn more about how to assess connectivity.
  • Employers can assess current capacity for remote work and then create a plan to expand access. Click here to learn more about creating an effective teleworking program.

PDF of this post

Leading Collaborative Community Change

By Daniel Kahl, Ph.D.*

The Dilemma of Leading Change

Many people have a complicated relationship with change. Change is good when we want it (Yes!), and bad when we don’t (No Way!).

The challenge with this “yes or no” response to change is that it makes community development very difficult. Some people will like an idea, and others won’t.  Drivers of community change are then stuck in a dilemma. Do they try to form a winning team to push change through, or do they give up?  If we adopt these contradictory attitudes, leading change becomes competitive and “winning” means that implementing change requires us to push our ideas over the concerns and disagreement of others. This one-sided approach to change can result in the generation of resentment within the community and create a disdain for change.

Authors Rowland and Higgs (2009) detail a study of organizational change initiatives. The authors found that when leadership pushes one rigidly imposed change solution through an organization, the change is typically met with resistance, is poorly adopted and is usually less sustainable over time.  There are exceptions, of course, but overall, top-down change initiatives were less successful. However, systemic changes that allow employees to integrate change in ways that are most appropriate to their work situation encountered less resistance to adoption and were ultimately more sustainable. Surprising? Not really. People tend to appreciate being asked their opinion over being told what to do.  Yet leaders tend to wish for the ideal of quick, simple and clear change and so continue to push, push, push change solutions to the frustration and stress of the employees.

What can community leaders learn from this?

Communities and corporations are not the same, but there are similarities. If community leaders imagine the community as an employee owned partnership, leading change becomes more a process of engaging with partners in shared solution finding and less a process of imposing power and change over employees.  This simple shift in perspective changes everything. Respect and power is shared among partners.  This new relationship requires a change in tactics. Changing tactics alters the outcome.  When leadership shifts from imposing change over the community to working with community members, creating change becomes a collective endeavor.  David Mathews (2014) argues that this type of collaborative initiative supports stronger communities through the creation of an environment of democracy where residents share in the decisions that impact them. Shared participation in community change initiatives and the identification of common goals can increase public trust, responsibility and commitment to goal attainment.

Community Engagement is a Kentucky Priority

A statewide assessment of community issues hosted by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension System (Statewide Community Needs Assessment, 2019) indicates that a leading concern of Kentucky residents is the need for increased community engagement.  Kentucky residents stressed the need for more involvement in issue identification, problem solving, opportunities for leadership, and action to improve their community. The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) has resources to engage community members in establishing their future. Visit the CEDIK website to learn more about strategic planning and community engagement strategies available to your community.

Mathews, David. (2014). The Ecology of Democracy: Finding ways to have a stronger hand in shaping our future. Kettering Foundation Press. Dayton, Ohio.

Rowland, D., & Higgs, M. (2009). Sustaining change: Leadership that works. John Wiley & Sons.

*Daniel Kahl is the Associate Director of CEDIK and an Assistant Professor in Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky.

Improving Access to Healthy Foods in Kentucky

By Daniel Kahl, CEDIK Associate Director and Jayoung Koo, CEDIK Community Design Specialist

You can’t get that here!

At the beginning of a new year many people make resolutions to improve their diet by eating healthier. But eating healthier is not always as easy as making a resolution to do so.  In a recent study,  Survey of SNAP Food Providers in Eight Kentucky Counties: Store Access and Availability of Food Types the barriers of access to healthy foods became evident.

A survey was conducted of stores accepting SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards in the Kentucky counties of Bourbon, Boyle, Breathitt, Jackson, Knott, Lincoln, Madison, and Owsley.  The survey was a component of research conducted by CEDIK at the University of Kentucky, in conjunction with the Kentucky Grocers and Convenience Store Association to gain a better understanding of local food environments and to learn more about grocery store policies and practices. While survey response numbers were small, this study revealed multiple barriers to healthy food access to consumers in the study area.

Access Impediments

Stores responding to the survey acknowledged that transportation can be an issue for customers. Lack of reliable personal transportation, restricted public transportation, and cost of travel all contribute to challenges of EBT card users when wanting to access stores. In addition, distances of travel in rural areas can often add to the challenge of access to groceries.


Restricted Hours of Store Operation

Like many businesses, some stores operate on a regular business time schedule. SNAP food service providers who responded to the 2018 Grocer’s Survey in Central and Eastern Kentucky have hours of operation that overlap with a typical work day. This can create an accessibility issue for people working a typical 8am-5pm job. On average, consumers in Eastern Kentucky experience 49% fewer hours of access to food per week than consumers in Central Kentucky counties.

Limited Food Types

The types of foods available to customers in the study differed depending on the store’s main function. In particular, convenience stores were the most frequent respondents to the survey in the eight counties and had the most limited fresh or healthy food options. Availability of foods offered in the store were assessed by the percent of floor space dedicated to food type.  In a graphic comparison between Grocery and Convenience store type between Eastern and Central Kentucky regions, it is easy to see that food access in Eastern Kentucky is distinctly different than in the more populated counties in Central Kentucky.

Key Insights

While the number of businesses participating in this survey make it difficult to generalize broadly, the results did indicate challenges related to healthy food access for EBT Card users. Ultimately, the consumption of fresh, healthy foods is a two-part process that must be embraced by all parties involved to achieve the desired goal. Residents must be willing and purposeful to seek out and consume healthy foods, while food providers need to better supply stores with healthy food options and adjust business operations to accommodate their customers. Healthier eating is a resolution that needs to be supported by the entire community!  Want to learn more? See the full series of reports on Food Access on the CEDIK website.

Daniel Kahl is the Associate Director of CEDIK and an Assistant Professor in Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky.

Jayoung Koo is a CEDIK Community Design Specialist and an Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Kentucky.

Going About Your Business

By Daniel Kahl*, CEDIK Associate Director

Communities are in a relationship with local business

Experience tells us that relationships demand attention. Relationships require the investment of time, energy and attention to maintain effective communication and trust. The risk is, of course, that if we stop investing in relationships, the relationship will suffer and could even end completely.

Communities are in a relationship with local businesses. Without on-going communication, trust building, and concern for the well-being of those businesses, the business/community relationship can begin to break down.  When the relationship ends, the business may just begin to search for a more engaged community.

Downtown Cynthiana, Kentucky. Photo credit: Sarah Bowker, December 2019.

What do we learn by listening?

The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) at the University of Kentucky has been listening to business needs. Across Kentucky, surveys and listening forums are telling us that small businesses need community support. In a recent report published by CEDIK (Kahl, Fawcett, et.al. 2019)  73% of store representatives identified finding and retaining employees as one of their greatest business challenges. Other challenges raised include: taxes, training employees, and keeping up with rules, codes, and policies. While the above study was a small sampling, a statewide assessment of community issues hosted by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension (Statewide Community Needs Assessment, 2019) noted business support and workforce development as some of the most pressing issues in counties across Kentucky.

What can a community do to improve the local business environment?

While every business will have unique needs, businesses in a community often share common concerns that the community can address. The Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) program offered through CEDIK is one way to document business needs and keep business and community relationships on track. The BR&E program is designed for local government, economic development offices, or Chambers of Commerce. The program is designed to facilitate a listening process that can bring the interests of local business into clear focus. By listening to the concerns of the local businesses, leadership can mobilize resources and energy to respond to local business priorities.

Businesses frequently support local efforts, and the BR&E program helps communities find ways to reciprocate investment in the relationship. For a community, “going about your business” means strengthening the economic environment and relationships with local businesses. Visit the CEDIK website for more information on services to improve your economic environment, including the BR&E program.

Referenced work:

Kahl, D., Fawcett, K., Koo, J., Namkoong, K., and Rossi, J. (2019). Survey of SNAP Food Providers in Eight Kentucky Counties: Business Needs and Community Connections. Available online at:  http://cedik.ca.uky.edu/files/business_needs_community_connections_pse.pdf

Kentucky Cooperative Extension Community Assessment, Statewide Report (2019). https://extension.ca.uky.edu/files/kentucky_extension_community_assessment_2019.pdf

*Daniel Kahl is the Associate Director of CEDIK and an Assistant Professor in Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky.

Regional Differences in Ambulance Service Ownership and Management

By Su Troske and Sookti Chaudhary

Emergency care for an individual often begins when Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and/or Paramedics arrive in an ambulance. Communities must find a way to provide this essential service to their residents. Federal legislation has allowed communities flexibility in determining who provides ambulance services. We define 5 models, or ownership types of ambulance services among U.S. communities:

Fire Department: Non-profit, Fire Department-based EMS Service.

Community, Non-Profit: Owned by a “Community”, not-for-profit meaning patients likely pay for the services through taxes, like fire protection and ambulance tax districts.

Governmental, Non-Fire: Owned by a “Community” and only offers EMS services, not fire service.  Community-owned ambulance companies are included in this type.

Hospital:  This is a service managed by a hospital. Ownership type of the hospital can vary such as non-profit or for-profit.

Private, Non-Hospital: Privately owned (for-profit) and not owned by a hospital.  Examples are Gold Cross or AMR companies.

CEDIK has access to the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) data for year 2010-2015, which provides the most comprehensive data available on 9-1-1 ambulance calls. Below are a few preliminary findings from the NEMSIS data on the different ownership types of ambulance services and regional variations in usage.  It is important to note that we focused on 9-1-1 calls with an ambulance transport to a hospital for Medicare-aged patients.

From 2010-2015, the calls serviced by ownership types have remained fairly consistent. Figure 1 shows the percent of total calls in a year serviced by different ownership types. For example, 27% percent of 2010 calls were serviced by Fire Departments. In most years, Fire Departments provided the most 9-1-1 call transports.  In 2015, while Fire Departments covered almost 30% of the calls, calls serviced by Private companies represented 25% of the calls. The fewest calls were handled by Hospital-based services at 12%.2010-15_911_calls_by_ownership type

After understanding which services were most frequently used in 9-1-1 call transports, we looked next at regional differences in the NEMSIS data. Figure 2 below shows the difference in call volume by ownership type for the East South Central Census division, compared to the rest of the United States. In the East South Central division (which includes Kentucky), 64% of its calls were serviced by Private, non-hospital ambulance services. The states that make up the East South Central region are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. These four states rely more on private ambulance companies for service.


The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services (KBEMS) confirms that for Kentucky, much of the state relies on the private, non-hospital ambulance services in recent years. The national conversation on healthcare has not been talking much about reimbursement for ambulance services. Given the regional differences in ambulance service ownership and management, if changes are made to the reimbursement structure at the federal level, there will be regions that are impacted more than others.

In future work, we are continuing to analyze the NEMSIS data to understand patient, ambulance service and incident characteristics which affect ambulance call times by ownership type. Ultimately, we wish to explore how the ownership models affect health outcomes among community residents.

We thank John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise for financial support.  The opinions expressed reflect the views of the authors and may not represent the opinions of the Schnatter Institute or the University of Kentucky.