Time to Celebrate! Turning the Page – 2022 to 2023

Contributing Writer

Walt Pickut

Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year to Jamestown Gazette readers everywhere—not only in Jamestown but all across Chautauqua County and in our neighboring counties of Cattaraugus and Warren, PA. We’re also sending our greetings once again to our online readers around the nation and across the sea.

The next few weeks will be a special time for family and friends, festivities and relaxation for most of us. It will also be a time for reflection and a time to look forward—what have we come through this year and where are we going next?

For this holiday season, the Jamestown Gazette asked some of our own hometown folks and community leaders about their thoughts and feelings on “Turning the Page.”

Success in Hard Times

Mark Geise, Chief Executive Officer of the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency—CCIDA—told the Gazette “I feel great about the year we had in 2022 and I’m looking forward to 2023.

According to Geise, 2022 was a banner year for economic development in spite of the pandemic. “CCIDA was involved in about $500 million worth of projects approved last year alone.” That kind of funding is expected to greatly enhance our regional recovery in 2023.

Those projects, according to Geise, will create about 360 new jobs and will retain about 700 existing jobs. “We have been very active in securing grants,” he added, “and our Partnership for Economic Growth is moving along well, too.

But the hopes for 2023 are not only in business.

The Same – But Different!

With all her “elves” in tow, a smiling, mall-shopping mom-of-four named Phyllis told the Gazette in mid-December, “Christmas is our happy time, and we’re all healthy! That’s our Christmas blessing this year. But,” she added, circling her children around her shopping cart, “the way they’re growing, who knows what next year will be like,” then added with obvious pride, “except it will keep getting better!”

Rev. Mark Swanson, pastor at First Lutheran in Jamestown agreed. “We are always impatient for what’s next until we remember we’ve already been blessed.”

Pastor Swanson is a Jamestown native, but he and his wife, also a pastor, now serving as the chaplain at Lutheran, have traveled throughout the Northeast in ministry for the Lutheran Church for many years before returning to Jamestown, not so much by plan, Swanson says, but by providence. And they’re delighted to be back.

“The last few years,” Rev. Swanson added, “reminded us that we always have to re-learn patience, patience with one another, patience waiting on the Lord for guidance. And we don’t always have that.” So, for 2023, he advises a lot more of the same—patience and prayer.

Local small businesses, however, not only individuals, may be among the ones who needed that advice most in 2022. But they, too reflected optimism for 2023.

The Local Rebound

“What I am really most surprised about,” Jamestown’s Mayor Eddie Sundquist told the Gazette last week, “is that we are seeing a lot of new entrepreneurs and new small businesses in the Greater Jamestown region, and we’re seeing more diversity among them, too.” Their patience and perseverance have paid off

“We have businesses, many of them new and others, established businesses who weathered the pandemic, are now making products at every point in the supply chain,” Sundquist said referencing the regional Retool ‘22 Fall Conference at the Northwest Arena. “Local entrepreneurs are now making everything from basic components to finished products sold across the United States.”

“It was incredible to see small business flourishing this year, and now they’re poised to move into next year. As a city, we’re learning that we can help grow small businesses.”

“But I don’t think that’s a change from the past,” he added. “We have always been a city of innovation, not just built on a single product. Our economy is focused on small entrepreneurs who are doing really remarkable things.”

New Work Ahead

“One of the things we want to get done in 2023,” CEO Geise added, “is creating more ‘shovel-ready’ sites. We want to have sites ready for developers when they come looking for appropriate places for their newest, major projects.”

“We are also working hard to leverage more of the American Rescue Plan money which the county received. Revitalizing already existing but underused properties will be a priority for 2023. Improvement work alongside Chadakoin River will also be in play as well as at Mayville’s waterfront. And of course, we will also continue to move forward on improving the water and scenic quality for Chautauqua Lake. It is an economic engine for the entire region.

The non-profit sector, however, also plays a vital role in the local economy and the wellbeing of the community.

Helping Hands and Generosity

Tory Irgang, executive director of Chautauqua Region Community Foundation explains that, “As we end 2022, we’re starting to anticipate doing more things again. For the last two years, we were concerned we might not be able to plan very far in advance. But over the last couple of years, we have also learned a lot.”

Survival through hard times, according to Irgang, creates resilience. New communication technology—the ability to meet virtually, for example—though created in haste to deal with the pandemic, created new, long-term capabilities that will revolutionize workplaces everywhere.

“That’s one of the great takeaways of what we’ve been through in the last couple of years,” Irgang added. “We had to adapt very quickly, but as a result we can now be more efficient and reach more people—we can be more inclusive.”

Concerning the generosity, the willingness for neighbors and institutions to serve the community, Irgang said, “We are seeing a lot of generosity from people who have the capacity to help others even though we are all still within a pretty uncertain economic cycle.”

Moved by Compassion

Echoing the Community Foundation’s commitment, Rev. Swanson said, “We are here in Jamestown because we want to serve people in need. We are blessed to be here.”

“Compassion is a key factor in our work,” Irgang added. “The 2016 IRS elimination of charity as a tax deduction, at the time predicted to have a major downward force on contributions, has not actually had that effect at all. “We still see strong charitable giving. Folks are really motivated to do that. Generosity is driven by people’s hearts, a sense of wanting to help the community, for reasons that far exceed the bottom line.”

“As a community,” Irgang said, “we do have many challenges, including problems of homelessness, but a lot of good folks are working together which gives us hope for 2023. In firm agreement from Jamestown’s faith community, Rev. Swanson added, “Jamestown is a good place, well worth saving.”

“We will only overcome the kinds of problems we are facing by a collaborative effort and creatively,” Irgang explained. “I believe our community has tremendous leadership in this respect. I’m inspired by how many folks are stepping up and rising to the occasion, not for recognition but because they sincerely feel called to it.”

On a Personal Note

Mayor Sundquist told the Gazette of a recent meeting with a young man who had come through the Covid pandemic well, but unable to see loved ones in Jamestown for more than two years.

But with the easing of restrictions, he could finally bring his newborn son to visit his grandmother. “That tells me our community is beginning to come back together,” Sundquist said, “and that’s the kind of resilience that will take us into the new year better than we’ve been in a while.”

“We are recognizing that we need to see our loved ones and be with them, whatever family looks like for you.”

“The year 2022 was a rebuilding year for everyone,” Sundquist said. For the people of Jamestown, he believes, “2023 will be a year when we just jump forward, we can focus again on personal development and what matters most to us. We’ll let all the rest of the pandemic, political, and economic noise just settled out. That’s my hope for 2023.”

And from the Jamestown Gazette, Happy New Year to all!

Previous articleIt’s not about that…
Next articleAmy Poehler Joins National Comedy Center’s Advisory Board of Directors
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.