ACEnet was incorporated in 1985 by a small group of community members committed to building a healthy regional economy in southeastern Ohio through the growth of locally owned businesses, especially those operated by lower income residents. The mission of ACEnet is to build the capacity of Appalachian communities to network, work together, and innovate to create a dynamic, sustainable regional economy with opportunities for all. The community-based economic development organization serves the 32 counties of Appalachia Ohio, and ACEnet staff carries out their mission by partnering with other practitioners in the area to assist low-income residents with starting businesses & obtaining quality jobs. This mission was furthered in 1991 when ACEnet established a small business incubator that offered below-market-rate office space and shared services.
ACEnet is best known for training and technical assistance to microenterprises aggregated in the food, agriculture, art, retail, technology and manufacturing sectors. Its comprehensive programs for markets, capital, and business incubation enables entrepreneurs to collaborate on regional brands and joint marketing campaigns, access new capital products, and utilize shared facilities and technology infrastructure. ACEnet operates five business incubator facilities in the cities of Athens and Nelsonville. Microenterprises constitute the majority of the facility tenants. ACEnet has approximately 111 tenants in the Food Ventures Center and another 22 in the mixed use facilities operating in the art, wellness, retail and manufacturing sectors.
ACEnet technical assistance and training services are strengthened by its lending arm. In 1994, ACEnet, Inc. started a microenterprise loan fund which became a separate subsidiary organization known as ACEnet Ventures in 1999. ACEnet Ventures is certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and overseen by a separate Board of Directors headed by Angie Hawk Maiden, President and CEO of ACEnet, Inc.