Current Projects Leadership Service Members Organizational Partners Community Partners

Resilience is generally framed as a reaction to adversity, the ability to respond, recover, and thrive. The Appalachian region in which we live exhibits resilience in many ways, with strong, creative people developing solutions that work in our region, despite a long history of boom and bust economic activity that failed to build wealth. Rural Action’s work in local communities centers around building capacity and a sense of teamwork to respond to opportunities for economic growth. We also see resilience as a means to anticipate and prepare for the future, particularly in light of the impacts of climate change and potential in-migration of people from coastal areas. Our Resilient Communities team works with communities to strengthen economic, environmental, and social health. Ecotourism, outdoor and cultural recreation, creative placemaking, and entrepreneurial support provide real opportunities for local communities to thrive. Our region is filled with places where people want to live, visit, or start a business, and we want to make it easier for that to happen.

Our Current Projects

Trail Town Business Challenge

Business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can participate in a program to help grow the outdoor economy in our region. The Trail Town Business Challenge will offer business planning training, and the chance to earn cash awards for those with the most developed plans. A five-part series of workshops led by ACEnet and Rural Action to assist participants in completing their plans for a new or expanded business idea. Participants will then be eligible to present to a review panel in January, with the final awards announced in February, 2022.

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Entrepreneur Outreach and Support Networking

Small locally rooted businesses are the economic engine for many rural communities. Nearly 90% of all businesses in Ohio have five or fewer employees. These businesses also need technical assistance, just like larger companies. However, as small enterprises, they often have limited time and staff capacity, and many small business owners don’t know what support may be available or how to get started. Rural Action works with local leaders and organizations to provide the right assistance resources at the right time to help businesses remain strong and to thrive for the long term.

Trails, Towns, and Ecotourism

The Outdoor Recreation economy is a major economic driver for the nation and Ohio. 58% of Ohio residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. More Ohioans are directly employed in outdoor recreation (215,000 jobs) than in auto manufacturing. Additionally, the outdoor economy provides $7 billion in wages and $1.5 million in state and local tax revenue. Southeast Ohio is rich in natural assets with rivers, lakes, forests, farms, and trails that more travelers are discovering. The Trails, Towns, and Ecotourism initiative assists communities to be better positioned to accommodate increased visitation and capture the economic benefits of being home to one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the state. The Hocking Hills, Strouds Run, Burr Oak, and Lake Hope State Parks attract millions of visitors each year.

Hiking, running, hunting, birdwatching, mountain biking, and horseback riding can be experienced in places like Zaleski State Forest, the Wayne National Forest, Trimble Forest, and Gifford Forest. Projects like the Baileys Trail promise to be destinations for mountain bikers and trail runners from across the country. The trailhead communities and surrounding towns are taking the lead to grow local businesses that support the needs of visitors and are working to highlight the art, culture, and history that sets Appalachian Ohio apart as a destination for outdoor recreation. Rural Action provides community coaching support and connections to the resources that are tailored to the opportunities that each corner of the region holds. The cornerstone of the Trails, Towns, and Tourism initiative is an annual Southeast Ohio outdoor economy conference that brings together entrepreneurs, business organizations, and community leaders looking to create an authentic outdoor economy that’s intimately tied to the quality and health of the region.

Rural Resiliency – Strengthen Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

This collaboration with Ohio State University Extension offices in Meigs, Morgan, and Vinton counties aims to create localized institutional bases for entrepreneurial outreach and assistance to the small business community. Through funding provided by the USDA Rural Business Development program, extension educators and community leadership will be trained to create and implement an entrepreneur outreach and follow up assistance process. Businesses in three areas will be focused on: new businesses, businesses in growth stage, and businesses in ownership transition stage.


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National Service Members

Each year, Rural Action mobilizes more than 35 energetic and passionate people across the region to help small communities do big things through our Leadership Development and Service program. Our National Service members serve in communities through a yearlong commitment as part of our Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps, an AmeriCorps State/National program administered by Rural Action, or our through our AmeriCorps VISTA program, Rural Renewal. See members who are currently serving with Rural Action here or learn more about how we are growing local leaders here.

Organizational Partners

CareSource Foundation
Ohio Small Business Development Centers
LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network
The Winding Road
Ohio CDC
Explore Hocking Hills
Hocking Hills Chamber of Commerce
Appalachian Regional Commission
Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs
Southern Perry Incubation Center for Entrepreneurs
AIR Institute

Community Partners