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State of the City speakers

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Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 7:21 am, Thu Nov 11, 2010.

Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission: Like many other speakers, Chandler weaved racing metaphors into his short address about the state of the area's wine industry at Wednesday's event.

"Many wine consumers are seeking a high value for the price and Lodi is moving up to front of the pack," he said.

The wine industry pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy, and Chandler said there is still growth ahead.

"You can be part of the pit crew by supporting wineries and tasting rooms, taking your friends to our events and asking for Lodi wines when you go out to eat locally and out of town," he said.

The winegrape commission is also working with the advertising agency responsible for the "Visit California" campaign featuring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state celebrities. The partnership will be integral in moving Lodi forward as a tourist destination for wine enthusiasts. The commission is also reaching out to consumers by printing Randy Caparoso's columns about area wines in local publications.

Although the size of this year's grape harvest was negatively affected by a late start to the growing season and mild summer, the quality of the wine is going to be outstanding, he said.

"2010 is Lodi's vintage of the century."

Joe Harrington, CEO, Lodi Memorial Hospital: As the health care industry continues to grow, Harrington said Lodi Memorial Hospital is well-positioned to care for the residents it has, as well as the growing population the city expects to be a home to in the coming decades.

The hospital recently underwent a makeover that includes the addition of a four-story, 90-bed southern wing, a 28-bed emergency room and 132,000 additional square feet.

"We've spent an enormous amount of money in the community because we believe in Lodi's future."

The total cost of the addition was $187 million and includes a new central utility plant, remodeled basement and kitchen and state-of-the art medical equipment. The project was finished on time and under-budget, he said.

But there are challenges ahead. There are still unanswered questions about health care reform, as well as uninsured citizens and a seemingly perpetual state budget crisis, he said. Like Chandler, he peppered racing metaphors in his speech.

"We're still searching for the checkered flag," he said.

Dale Gillespie, developer of Reynolds Ranch: As one of the few developers building a large shopping center in Lodi, Gillespie discussed some of the challenges housing and commercial developments are facing.

He talked about borrowing tens of millions of dollars and having investors in the Reynolds Ranch project, as potential retailers like Target and other big-box stores were leaving the market.

In August 2008, they had businesses that had committed to being in the shopping center, and by the next month, they backed out.

"We had two choices. We could have walked away from the project and face financial ruin or find another way to survive. We choose the latter," he said.

Gillespie said he felt confident that the project would bring something new to the region, and with Blue Shield open, there were employees that needed to have places to shop and eat.

He said there is a human side to job creation that often gets lost when talking about figures.

When people get a job, they can move out of their relatives' houses, put money into banks, go to restaurants and have larger special events like weddings, Gillespie said.

"The importance of a job goes beyond providing the job. There is so much more spill-over and domino-effect for jobs," he said.

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