Photo Caption: Athens County officials gather at the Athens Farmers Market Wednesday to announce the grant.
The Athens-based Appalachian Center for Economic Networks has been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as one of 10 rural enterprise agencies to receive a grant to support job growth and business development in rural communities.
A release Tuesday said that ACEnet, which is located on Columbus Road, and works in areas ranging from business incubation and venture loans to specialty food production, will reportedly receive funding of $30,000 to provide technical assistance and training.
The USDA has selected 10 "rural microenterprises" throughout the country to receive these grants, dolling out a total of $300,000, it said.
The funds are being provided under the USDA's Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized through 2018.
"Through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, USDA partners with local organizations who in turn invest in local, small businesses that otherwise are unable to obtain the credit they need to grow and thrive," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in the release. "Facilitating long-term economic development in this way empowers rural residents to invest locally, cultivating stronger communities."
To celebrate the ACEnet award and National Farmers Market Week, Ohio Rural Development Director Tony Logan visited the Athens Farmers Market Wednesday.
ACEnet Director of Programs Leslie Schaller said Wednesday it is fitting to announce the award during National Farmers Market Week and at the Athens Farmers Market.
"The Athens Farmers Market illustrates the economic impacts that microenterprises and family farms can have on rural livelihoods, local ownership and multiple forms of wealth that sticks in our community," she said.
Vilsack emphasized the benefit of investing in rural entrepreneurs.
"This program exemplifies how USDA can partner with rural communities to maximize the positive impact of even a small investment of federal dollars," he said in the release.
The ACEnet RMAP grant will provide local food technical assistance, training and access to capital support to the many food and farm entrepreneurs ACEnet serves throughout Appalachia Ohio, the release continued.
ACEnet has a second business incubator in Nelsonville, and strives to facilitate collaboration between area businesses with a focus on fostering a sustainable regional economy, according to its website.
It was incorporated in 1985, and provides loads for small businesses, incubation, and training for beginning entrepreneurs.