Build it! They will come.


If you build it, will they come?

Do you remember Kevin Costner in the 1989 fantasy-drama baseball film Field of Dreams? It was nominated for three Academy Awards and selected by the United States National Film Registry for preservation in the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, aesthetically significant.” That’s what American baseball is at its best.

Actually, the real quote is: “If you build it, he will come” (not they). In Field of Dreams, Costner’s character Ray hears a whispering voice while walking in his cornfield. It tells him to build a baseball diamond. If he does, his deceased father, a devoted baseball fan, will come.

The mis-quote, however, has become a truism in American culture. It means: “Plant a seed and it will grow.” But as everybody knows, in real life, planting the seed and tending to it only increases the odds that it’ll grow. There’s no guarantee.

Seeds need more than planting. They need time and effort, lots of attention, and energy.

In this week’s Jamestown Gazette, Field of Dreams is a metaphor for reviving a grander past.

In 1806, 213 years ago, James Prendergast planted a seed. He bought 3,500 acres of forest, and 1,000 more in 1808, in the southern part of what is now Chautauqua County. Then he built a log cabin, the first building in Jamestown – a pretty small seed.

By 1930, that log cabin grew to a city of 45,000 people. In time, it became “The Furniture Capital of the World,” home to famous inventors, statesmen, naturalists, celebrities, two colleges, and an agricultural center surrounded by more than 2,200 farms, more than any other county in the state, and the nation’s largest grape industry, second only to California.

James Prendergast build it and the people came. But like all good crops, they come and go. Jamestown is now home to only two-thirds of its peak population and the industrial mix has changed dramatically.

But the ground in Jamestown is more fertile than ever for industry, growth, and most of all, change.

This week, your Jamestown Gazette spotlights our strong local industries, old and new, traditional and innovative. The city Prendergast planted continues to draw and nurture the people who can make it grow, even today out-performing most of the nation.

The key to managing and prospering from change is resilience, a quality the dictionary calls “The capacity to recover or adjust quickly from difficulties…toughness…the ability to spring back into shape.”

People who study resilience list what it takes. We believe these qualities describe the best of Jamestown’s multi-billion-dollar industrial community:

 A positive attitude and confidence.
 Realistic plans.
 Managing the work and carrying it out.
 Solving Problems.
 Communicating effectively.

This week’s focus on Jamestown’s Industries is the good news about Jamestown’s resilience. We are once again building and re-building our city, and the people are already here to do the job.

Enjoy the read and please keep supporting our local industries.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.