J. Tyler Franklin

Amazon employee Andre Woodson made his way among yellow bins traveling through a vast warehouse filled with boxes and envelopes to be packed, sorted and shipped. In Amazon-speak, this is a “fulfillment center.”

“Our Jeffersonville, Indiana, fulfillment center is about 1.2 million square feet, which is equivalent to about 28 football fields,” Woodson explained.

About 2,500 people work here. But looking out across the floor it’s sometimes hard to find a human among the boxes, bins and conveyor belts. Often they’re working closely with the machinery. At a packing station an employee is surrounded by boxes and envelopes of different sizes.


Large companies such as Ford, GE Appliances and UPS employ thousands of workers in the Louisville area; in some cases, these people work side-by-side increasingly sophisticated machines. Over time, those machines will be able to do more tasks, which leads some to worry that they could eventually replace workers.

That concern may be warranted in Louisville, which is among the major metropolitan areas most at risk of a significant portion of its work becoming automated in the future. That’s according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, a centrist public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C. In the report’s ranking of states, Kentucky has the second-highest automation potential in the nation — trailing neighboring Indiana.