A plane arriving with a patient at the airport in Bethel, Alaska. Aircraft are important in a region with few roads.

[imgcontainer] [img:plane.jpg] [source]Photo by Jim Wilson/The New York Times[/source] A plane arriving with a patient at the airport in Bethel, Alaska. Aircraft are important in a region with few roads. [/imgcontainer]

Treacherous Tundra – Telemedicine may be the wave of the future. But don’t look for technology to completely remove the need to transport patients to healthcare facilities, even in remote areas like Alaska. Dr. David Bielak knows that rural Alaska offers some of the most daunting medical challenges. “There are judgment calls that you never have to make in the lower 48,” Bielak says. Much of the state has small communities spread out over massive territories with few options for healthcare. As telemedicine becomes more readily available, doctors can supply better care to their patients, but issues with transportation, staffing and budgeting hold them back.

Dr. Ellen Hodges oversees the needs of over 28,000 people in an area the size of Oregon where few roads exist. Most travel is done by snow machine or boat. “If you have a road, you’re not remote.”

Lone Star SupportThe Texas Rural Challenge, Texas’ only statewide economic development conference for rural communities, is set to take place June 18-19 in San Marcos, Texas. The Rural Business Program, a part the University of Texas – San Antonio Institute for Economic Development, will host the event, which will focus on the challenges facing rural Texans. It also aims to spur small business and economic growth by providing attendees with examples of how other communities grew.

Keynote speakers include Andres Alcantar, chairman and representative for the Texas Workforce Commission, and Candace Klein, the founder and CEO of BG Ventures and SoMoLend.

Small Town Acceptance – The seventh annual Spencer Pride Festival, a family-friendly event that promotes LGBTQI pride in the small town of Spencer, Indiana, is set to begin June 1st. The festival, which started as a picnic with only 76 in attendance, doubled in size through its first five years, and now celebrates on the courthouse lawn in Owen County. The event was organized to show the growing recognition and acceptance of the gay community in southern Indiana and the town of Spencer.

“Most people think small rural towns are close-minded, but not Spencer,” said Jonathan Balash, co-founder and president of Spencer Pride, Inc. “They have been so welcoming.” ” 

A Story in Story County – The town of Ames, Iowa, has set up the Ames Economic Development Commission in hopes of stimulating the rural economy throughout Story County. The commission is focusing on creating jobs in towns with fewer than than 2,000 residents.

Board member Wayne Clinton hopes the program will expand business in Story County’s rural areas and grow the county’s tax base. “It fits my goal to have a coordinated, county-wide economic development strategy that is spearheaded by someone outside of the Story County Board of Supervisors.”  

However, some citizens are skeptical if the commission will help. “It’s probably a good trial balloon to see if anything works,” said Cambridge Mayor Scott DeYoung. “I’m not sure if it will work or not.” 

Zippidy-do-done – If you’re an avid zip liner living in Fayette County, Kentucky, there is unfortunate news to report. A work group studying recreational and tourism opportunities in Fayette County recommended banning a wide range of businesses in most rural areas zoned for agriculture, including zip lines and canopy tours. The group, appointed by Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, did however give the green light to zip lining in newly zoned agricultural areas in southeastern Fayette.  The group recommended allowing farms to add roadside stands, wine tasting rooms, value-added product sales, petting zoos and pony rides. Farm tours and hayrides for rural areas were also suggested.

Concerns over zip lines and canopy tours arose due to anticipated problems with insufficient parking, light pollution at night and the need for bathrooms in rural areas that are on septic systems.

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