Mike Knutson began his professional life as a teacher in a small, rural South Dakota community. Like many young teachers, he expected to use the position as a stepping-stone to employment at a larger school. That changed, however, when a group of high school students challenged him and the community to invest in a “buy local” campaign. Not only did their efforts encourage him to spend more money locally, but they also caused him to rethink how his teaching practices were contributing to the community’s decline in other ways. Mike eventually became the community’s director of economic development.
Since 2008, he has operated his own business as coach/consultant for rural communities. His experiences have led him to believe that community leaders must find ways to engage youth in the community’s life and to help them discover that young people can live “the big life” in rural places.