It’s the People Who Do the Dirty Jobs that Make a Community a Home

by Greg Prestemon

I’m fortunate to work with the leaders of our community.

The elected officials. The entrepreneurs. The visionaries. School and university officials. People who’ve risen to positions of prominence, and believe in making their community a better place.

In St. Charles County—and in the broader St. Louis metropolitan area—we have a lot of leaders, and a lot of people who believe in giving back. In fact, this region is one of the most philanthropically active communities in the whole country, and we should be proud of that.

But a great community is about more than just a relatively small number of prominent leaders.

A great community is about the people we don’t see.

The people who do the dirty jobs that helped make Mike Rowe famous.

The people who make our county and our communities work.

I’ve seen this on a daily basis over the past two and a half decades as President and CEO of the St. Charles County EDC Community and Business Partners. Our organization is a nonprofit, and we work with a lot of boards and committees. The people who serve on those boards and committees over the years are some of our county’s best and brightest, and I’m proud to get to work with those people.

But some of the people I’m proudest to work with come in every day to work at the companies that call the EDC Incubator and OPO Startups home.

It’s not just our incubator tenants who make this county work, though.

I’m also proud to know the people who work in the coffee shops and restaurants I visit, and the gym employees helping keep me alive and functioning in my advanced age. (Seriously, last week I learned the hard way that I don’t recover quite as fast from a bike crash these days.)

People who work in unseen, unglamorous jobs like these really make our community special.

Occasionally I get people that like and comment on these articles who live literally thousands of miles away—sometimes on entirely different continents. And that’s great. A virtual community is still a community. Plus, I work in economic development, so you never know when you might catch someone’s eye and plant a seed in their mind that the place to start their next great venture is St. Charles County.

Still, a virtual community isn’t the same thing as an actual community. An actual community makes you feel like you have a safe place to be when the world seems like it’s going a bit crazy. An actual community gives you a launching pad for the business you always wanted to start, great schools for your children to attend, a place to build your family—most of all, it gives you a place that feels like a real home.

That feeling of home gets created when the barista at the coffee bar remembers your order and your name, and asks about your day. That feeling of home happens when a mechanic cuts you a break, or gets your car back to you faster than you expected. That feeling of home is created by the gym attendant who shares a few words of encouragement every time you manage to drag yourself to the gym.

That feeling of home is created by people doing the jobs who never get praised, profiled, or credited for making our day—and our communities—better.

It’s easy to give credit to the people at the top for creating great communities.

But people who do the dirty or overlooked jobs deserve credit too, and not just when Mike Rowe is in town.

They make our communities work. They make our towns stronger.

They make our county, and region, feel like a home.

Greg Prestemon is President and CEO of the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners.