CEDIK: Working in Partnership

By Jeff Franklin

Photo of a coal miner (Thinkstock.com)

Coal miners in southeastern Kentucky were making on average $63,000 a year until the coal industry took a nosedive. That resulted in thousands of coal mining jobs being lost, never to return. For every mining job, three other related jobs were impacted indirectly, from truck drivers to welders. Thousands of families were affected, with as many as three people from each family involved in some way with the coal industry. The losses sent many communities, which were already reeling, into an economic tailspin and searching for ways to replace those jobs.

“It is probably going to take two of the type of jobs that have been generated, to replace one of those,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation. “Around 30,000 people have lost their way to make a living. Trying to replace that without bringing additional revenue from outside, which is in short supply, is going to be a challenge.”

Enter the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, CEDIK, to help Kentucky communities find solutions for their most serious needs. CEDIK is both the consolidation and the strengthening of the former UK Cooperative Extension Community and Economic Development program.

Executive Director Alison Davis said her goal is for CEDIK to stand above the rest, even though it is a very young initiative.

CEDIK seeks to empower individuals by engaging community members, incorporating the interests and cultures of the community in the development process, and enhancing the leadership capabilities of community members, leaders, and groups. Jimmy Henning, director of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, believes there is something very special about CEDIK.

“CEDIK doesn’t talk about what’s wrong with you. They talk about your strengths and how to build on them,” he said.

Promise in the Promise Zone

Because of that passion and commitment to local communities, CEDIK was tapped to be among the implementation partners working with the project administrator, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, for one of the first Promise Zones from the Obama administration. The Promise Zone is an eight-county area in southeastern Kentucky with a 10-year designation to focus resources and expertise in those communities. The goal is to help improve the economy, health, and education in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry, and Whitley counties, which were hardest hit by the coal industry decline. Rickett said 4,000 coal mining jobs have been lost in the region.

map of Kentucky counties

“With the catastrophic job loss we have had in the Promise Zone, it is going to take all hands on deck to work with the local communities to try to enhance income to get some revenue back in the region,” Rickett said. “As you can tell, CEDIK is a critical partner in the Promise Zone.”

The first priority in the Promise Zone will be to create employment opportunities in those eight counties to try to replace some of that lost income. CEDIK personnel conducted public forums in each county. The information they gathered will be analyzed to develop a 10-year strategic plan. UK Community and Leadership Development Professor Lori Garkovich, who is working with the counties on the strategic plan, said she sees real promise in the zone.

“These counties decided a while ago that they can’t just sit back and wait to see what happens to them,” said Garkovich. “I think CEDIK is one of the pieces of that puzzle, but it is really the ability of all these nonprofits, like CEDIK, Kentucky Highlands, and the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, to call on each other and be able to help them.”

The Health Arena

Though an initiative of UKAg, CEDIK puts a strong emphasis in the area of rural health. Davis was selected a 2014 Rural Health Fellow by the National Rural Health Association, one of only 15 chosen. The fellows program provides an opportunity for health care leaders from around the country to network and to work collectively to advocate for rural communities’ health care needs.

“The program provides an opportunity to learn about federal health care legislation and its implications for rural communities across the U.S.,” said Davis.

CEDIK staff worked alongside the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health to assist hospitals and health providers in implementing strategies that address the health needs in their communities. Rhonda Bowling, a health educator for the Cumberland Valley District Health Department in Clay, Jackson, and Rockcastle counties, worked with Garkovich in developing a strategic plan.

“Lori was a fantastic facilitator and pulled us along, and we have used that strategic plan she developed to leverage other funds,” Bowling said. “It’s not just a piece of paper that someone wrote that’s just sitting there, it’s an active document that has been very worthwhile and beneficial to us. She knows her stuff.”

Each county in the Cumberland Valley Health District has some form of a coalition that is having a positive impact on the health of their communities.

“That’s what is good about coalitions; it is good networking, and it is good to see what is going on,” said Bowling. “We can celebrate our successes, but we can build that capacity and impact health and those poor health rankings.”

CEDIK, primarily under the leadership of Senior Extension Associate Marisa Aull, also assisted 30 hospitals in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio with the Community Health Needs Assessment mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The new Kentucky Community Health Grants were a direct result of the assessments. A total of $26,000 in grant monies were awarded to communities across the state.

“The whole region seems to be hungry for action,” Aull said. “It is exciting that people want to get down to work.”

At the Jane Todd Crawford Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, CEDIK's Marissa Aull (back center) led a hospital focus group through an assessment of their community's health needs. She's excited that "people want to get down to work."

Photo by Stephen Patton

At the Jane Todd Crawford Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, CEDIK's Marissa Aull (back center) led a hospital focus group through an assessment of their community's health needs. She's excited that "people want to get down to work."

Kentucky Small Business Development Centers

Kentucky Small Business Development Centers, which the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment administers and the U.S. Small Business Administration co-sponsors, works closely with CEDIK in all 15 of KSBDC's statewide service centers. Each center partners with regional universities, community and private colleges, and the private sector. Becky Naugle, KSBDC director, said the center's mission is to create wealth and jobs through hands-on business consulting to both existing and start-up businesses.

Ann Karsner

Photo by Stephen Patton

Ann Karsner (pictured) said KSBDC's Patricia Krausman helps keep their vineyard and winery on track. They were introduced by Rick Greenwell, Washington County ANR extension agent.

There is no better example of the center’s mission than at Horseshoe Bend Vineyard and Winery in Willisburg. Rick Greenwell, Washington County agriculture and natural resources extension agent, approached Patricia Krausman, the director in Elizabethtown's Small Business Development Center office.

“Rick is the consummate champion for Washington County in agriculture, and he saw the need for the area, and initiated the contact with our office,” Krausman said. “Throughout the life of their business, we have worked with Horseshoe Bend to grow and develop to be the successful business they have become.”

Horseshoe Bend Farm

Stephen Patton

Horseshoe Bend owners Bob and Ann Karsner, and their son Greg, moved from Virginia to the Bluegrass State in the late 1990s because they wanted to grow grapes in Kentucky’s limestone-rich soil. They met Greenwell and Krausman, and you could say the rest is history.

“We sure did luck out having Rick Greenwell and Patricia Krausman at our availability. We bought our farm in the right place,” Ann Karsner said. “Rick introduced us to Patricia who guided us through the process of applying for a grant from the ag development board.”

Krausman also taught a business plan class in Washington County for agribusiness entrepreneurs called Tilling the Soil of Opportunity. Needless to say, the Karsners were in that class. Ann Karsner said she keeps in touch with Krausman.

“I check with her periodically, maybe bi-yearly. She helps keep us on track,” she said. “I like her and her personality. She knows what she is doing.”

Open the Door to Ideas

“We don’t want to impose our own vision or goals on any community or organization," Davis said. "We are there to provide evidence-based research and to facilitate the discussion to assist these groups in finding and owning the solutions that work best for them."

CEDIK's Ron Hustedde

Photo by Stephen Patton

CEDIK's Ron Hustedde discusses entrepreneurship and business basics to the Bath County Wildcat Leadership Council. Photo by Stephen Patton

CEDIK has both an agent advisory council, made up of Cooperative Extension agents, and a statewide advisory council, which is a diverse group of people who are connected to community and economic development. Garkovich said CEDIK’s work with advisory councils has reinforced the idea out in the state that community and economic development are important to the college and to UK.

“And we are willing to acknowledge that if we don’t have the resources to do something, we can call on others to create partnerships in support of these communities,” she said.

“At the end of the day,” Henning said, “I would want people to know that the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is doing significant work in communities beyond the traditional things people think of.”

In other words, CAFE is open for business.