Jack Schultz (MBA 1976) founded Agracel, an industrial development firm, to boost the economies of rural America in places such as Teutopolis, Illinois, the small farming hamlet where he grew up. The Effingham, Illinois-based company has completed projects in 14 states and facilitated more than 7,000 jobs since its launch in 1986.
“My primary business is recruiting manufacturing firms into rural communities and helping them create jobs,” Schultz says. After a three-year research project about rural economics that led to the book Boomtown USA in 2004, he realized the importance of creating new entrepreneurs to stimulate rural job growth and set up a class in entrepreneurship for students from rural high schools. Dubbed “CEO” for “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities,” it requires students to start a business. Fourteen classes are taught in Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota.
“My ‘aha’ moment came with a survey we do at the beginning and end of the class, asking students if they think they will come back to the county,” says Shultz. “In the initial survey, only 3 of 25 indicated they’d likely remain or come back after college. At the conclusion of the course, 21 of 25 thought they’d come back.”
(Published April 2014)
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