The Washington Post

Editor’s note: Maybe it is time more of us traded in that white collar

Some of the most entrepreneurial people I know are not camping out in some oh-so-hip start-up incubator.

They are not sitting in the cushy offices of a private equity firm, nor are they prowling networking events, slapping their smartphones together to exchange contact information.

Instead, the folks with a real knack for making do are often the regular workaday tradespeople who punch the clock and keep their ears open for opportunities to pick up a few extra bucks where they can.

Their industriousness can be surprising. I once sat spellbound listening to a longshoreman talk about all his sideline businesses, from installing air conditioning systems or hanging copper pipes, to managing any number of odd jobs. His kid was raking in real bucks selling trinkets he bought from China on the Internet.

We don’t write enough about these kinds of entrepreneurs, and we should, because their successes and struggles tell us a lot about the health of the local economy.

You can also learn a lot. There was a time when I found myself wallowing in self pity, complaining to a parking lot attendant about my long hours and the unreasonable expectations of a particularly prickly boss. Then it dawned on me that I was talking to someone who had been working that day at least as long as I had, and he was still smiling.

Embarrassed, I felt the negativity melt away.

Work is just that, work. The joy comes in taking control of our destiny.

This week’s cover story focuses on a sector that employs a great many blue-collar types. Manufacturing in Washington can be a forgotten industry around here. Who would have thought it can thrive here?

But as staff writer Sarah Halzack shows, our interconnected global economy makes it possible to make things in many places, even in a region such as ours that practically perfected the white collar.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.



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