Kentucky Highlands


The footprint of the Kentucky Highlands Community Network encompasses the heart of eastern Kentucky. The work in Rural Partners Network builds on the eight years of collective impact, placemaking work in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry, and Whitley Counties through the Kentucky Promise Zone. The terrain and the people of the region are intertwined in a rich tapestry of cultural and natural resources. The land is a rugged, mountainous area that is covered by forests and rolling mountain streams. The region has a long history of providing the coal resources that fueled the industrial revolution’s need for power and steel production. The communities that wind up and down mountains and alongside streams and rivers were planted in direct connection to the coal mining industry. The area drew a wide variety of settlers into the mountains to create a rich cultural melting-pot of music, food and traditions that are unique to the Appalachian mountains.

The coal industry has declined in production in the region since the 1980s, which has resulted in increasingly negative economic impacts. The coal economy did not produce a lasting economic prosperity for communities. The 2020 census shows a population decline for these eight counties of over 10,000, disrupting property values, tax bases, and community stability. The Kentucky Promise Zone has identified over a billion dollars of investment announced for these counties, but that falls short of the billion dollars a year lost in direct and indirect coal mining jobs. The tenacity of the leaders in the region is unsurpassed. The region is vested with non-profit entities and local governments who are committed to garnering bold investments and have tenacious commitment for restorative economic strategies. These communities are committed to community-driven solutions that can bolster policy development for the area and bring much needed resources to the region.


  • Affordable Housing

    • Disaster related repair
    • Single-family housing
    • Multi-family housing
    • Low- and very-low-income housing assistance
    • Repairs for elderly and disabled homeowners
  • Infrastructure

    • Watershed infrastructure
    • Major roadway development for industry access
    • Water and wastewater system restoration
  • Broadband Connectivity

    • Connectivity for remote work
    • Connectivity for higher education
    • Connectivity for primary and secondary education
  • Economic Diversification

    • Recreation economies for rural communities
    • Agricultural economic investment
    • Manufacturing investment
  • Rural Healthcare

    • Telemedicine access
    • Specialty care in rural communities
    • Care for women's services and pediatric care that is accessible
    • Prescription assistance for elderly and disabled individuals
  • Workforce Development

    • Support for local businesses
    • Training programs for displaced workers
    • Vocational rehabilitation
    • STEM development for schools

Rural Partners Network Contacts for Kentucky Highlands

Host Entity

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation
Sandi Curd, Ph.D