ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and the Community Improvement Corporation of Belmont County (CIC) recently teamed up and received a $19,785 grant from the EQT Foundation to provide entrepreneurial training in Belmont County. The funding will assist small businesses and new entrepreneurs to expand the growing artisan, maker, and recreation sectors, sometimes called the "creative economy."

"Over the last year, Kelly O’Bryant from the Small Business Development Center’s Export Assistance Center and I have found so many wonderful small manufacturers and artisans in Belmont County," said Crystal Lorimor, executive director of the CIC. "We have been helping them with several projects, so with the ACEnet partnership and this EQT Foundation grant, we will be able to expand the reach and fill in some gaps and needs we were finding. "

With this grant funding, ACEnet, the CIC, and their other partners, including the Captina Conservancy and the Small Business Development Center, will offer trainings and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Some of the assistance will be for landowners wanting to open their land to recreation for the public, how to operate an AirBnB, Cooperatives as a business model, cottage food industry rules, and using social media for business.

Towards the second half of the year-long grant, a workshop series will be scheduled to bring community members together to engage in a strategy called "Creative Placemaking." This is a process that celebrates the unique assets of a community by incorporating arts and culture into a plan of action led by community members, local businesses, and entrepreneurs working in creative fields. ACEnet Director of Programs, Leslie Schaller explains, "The creative placemaking approach provides rural people and places with the tools and strategies needed to celebrate their sense of place, honor local culture, and attract investment in local businesses." At the end of that training, the project teams will have the data, business plan, and marketing strategy they need to find and apply for funding for the implementation of their project.

Creative economies are experiencing growth in Appalachian Ohio. Belmont County has unique assets and this process will help residents honor the culture, identity, and place in a way that will also help build and diversify the economies from those assets.

ACEnet is a community-based economic development organization serving the 32 counties of Appalachia Ohio by supporting entrepreneurs and strengthening economic sectors. To learn more visit www.acenetworks.org.

The CIC is the non-profit economic development arm in Belmont County.