Business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs have a chance to get valuable training and possible cash awards during the Trail Town Business Challenge, a series of five workshops led by ACEnet and Rural Action.

The workshops begin in November, giving participants an opportunity to create and complete business plans for their tourism-focused endeavor. Anyone who completes all five workshops will be eligible to present to a review panel in January, and cash award winners will be announced in February.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and the primary owner or operator of a new or expanding business that opens before Dec. 31, 2022. While all ideas are welcome, businesses focusing on recreation tourism will be given priority for the cash awards and in-kind incentives such as help with marketing, accounting, accessing capital, and business coaching.

The new Baileys Trail System in Athens County, improvements to the Buckeye Trail in Perry County, and the Moonville Rail Trail in Vinton County have brought national attention to Southeast Ohio as a destination for trail enthusiasts. Tens of thousands of recreation travelers already visit the area each year. The Trail Town Business Challenge is designed to help local residents benefit from the business opportunities that are emerging around this rapidly growing opportunity.

“Outdoor recreation participation hit a record level during 2020,” says Dan Vorisek, Rural Action Resilient Communities Director. “The outdoor recreation options in our region are being discovered, and visitors are looking for things to do when they are here that local businesses can provide.”

Participation in the Trail Town Business Challenge begins with an application and commitment to participate in a five-session training course. To learn more and apply, please go to ruralction.org/challenge/

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