This is Economic Development, and This is What We Do

by Greg Prestemon

I joined the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners in 1993.

Back then the name of the organization was a little shorter—and our scope was a lot smaller. Of course, in the more than 20 years since I’ve arrived, our county has grown exponentially in size.

According to the Census Bureau, in 1993 our county’s population was a little over 200,000 people.

232,360, to be exact.

Twenty years later, our population was a little over 370,000 people.

373,495, to be exact.

That’s a 60% increase.

However, our county hasn’t just grown in the number of people. It’s grown in excitement. It’s grown in opportunity. It’s grown in entrepreneurship. It’s grown in potential.

People. Excitement. Opportunity. Entrepreneurship. Potential.

When I think of what we do at the EDC, those are the words that come to mind. Our programs and services help bring those things together and harness them in a way that makes our county one of the best places to start a business, raise a family, and call home in the entire nation.

Under the roof of our facility here on Mid Rivers Road, at any given moment, you’ll find:

In the coming weeks and months we’ll talk about each of these programs in depth and what they do for the current and future residents of St. Charles County.

But before we do that, I wanted to talk a little bit about what inspires me when it comes to my job and St. Charles County.

It’s not the numbers, or the growth, or the programs. Don’t get me wrong; those things are inspiring, but here’s what has kept me optimistic about our county’s future, even when we’ve hit rough patches:

The people of this county.

The people who take enormous risks to start businesses, when, at least initially, their time and talent would almost always lead to a healthier bank account by taking a job. The reality is that the myth we all hear about of founders starting a business and cashing out as millionaires a short time later is just that.

A myth.

The real story behind most entrepreneurial success is much different.

The real story of most entrepreneurs reminds me of a live performance by Bruce Springsteen that a friend of mine recently shared with me.

In this performance, Springsteen interrupts a song to tell a story about a guitar he wanted when he was 14. He saw it in a pawn shop, and he worked an entire summer mowing lawns, painting fences, and tarring his aunt’s roof to get the $18 he needed to buy the guitar.

Once he had the guitar, Springsteen tried to play, but by his own admission he was awful—until his cousin came over and gave him a little advice. Once his cousin showed him how to tune the instrument, Springsteen says in the monologue

“I practiced.”

On stage Springsteen turns that line into a chorus, repeating it over and over:

“And I practiced.”

“And I practiced.”

“And I practiced.”

“And I practiced.”

“And I practiced.”

“And then one day, it sounded like this…”

Then the guitars across the stage roar to life, and the crowd goes crazy.

What inspires me about the work we do at the EDC is that for over 20 years, on countless occasions, I’ve seen our team serve as Springsteen’s cousin.

Our programs, services, and staff help give talented entrepreneurs—who at heart are often artists and creators—the tools and advice they need to help their (metaphorical) guitars come to life.

And then, to make it even more special, many of those home-grown entrepreneurs eventually serve as leaders in our county through our Partners group, where they help create future generations of business owners and achievers by advising local leaders on economic development, education, and quality-of-life issues.

It’s a cycle. A very special, very inspiring cycle.

And I’m proud to be a part of it.

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