No one knows exactly what the new year will bring, but the News-Sentinel talked to several local experts to try to get a sense of what 2009 will bring to the Lodi-Galt area.
Expert: Richard Jones, new school board president for Lodi Unified School District
Prediction: "This is going to be one of the toughest years for any school district. Until the state gets it together, we're just trying to make the right decisions when it comes to the budget."
What to watch for: "As things unfold, we as a district will be making (budgeting) determinations. We're looking at everything, possibly the reduction of staff, the closures of schools."
Expert: Paul Mertz, Realtor and owner of The Mertz Company
Prediction: "(Real estate) inventories are going to continue to fall. The foreclosures (will be) a lot less."
What to watch for: "The bulk of the foreclosures will be in the first half of the year. They'll be moving fairly quickly if priced right."
Expert: Deanie Bridewell, arts and events coordinator for Hutchins Street Square
Prediction: "I predict that the community will be enjoying the great variety of performances being offered at Hutchins Street Square in 2009."
What to watch for: "Something for everyone - from the new smooth jazz concert series to the mariachi divas celebrating Cinco de Mayo."
Expert: Pat Patrick, President and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce
Prediction: "Unfortunately, from everything I hear from my industry, 2009 is predicted to be worse. That's a pretty grim outlook, but there are industries that are doing well."
What to watch for: "We are blessed in this area to have a fairly robust agricultural business. The wine guys are doing well. 2008 was good (for them), 2009 will do well, too."
Expert: Stuart Spencer, Program Manager for the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission
Prediction: "We are looking forward, optimistically, to a good year in 2009. It's presenting some good opportunities for Lodi vintners as consumers are trading down for more value for their dollar. We're hopeful we're going to see a growth in grape prices, so that growers will see a better return on their vineyards."
What to watch for: "I think you're going to see more wineries opening up locally in 2009. The quality of wines from the region will grow and grow as vintners improve their skills. You're going to see an emphasis on 'green' wines."
Expert: Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific
Prediction: "We think the local economy is going to mirror the national economy. It's been worse over the past year. In terms of unemployment, I think we'll be north of 13 percent (unemployment rate) later on this year - which is horrendous. Construction will continue to be down. It doesn't have a lot further to fall, but it will continue to be down, it's not about to rebound. Retail is going to be under stress because of household budgets."
What to watch for: "I expect automotive sales to come back before new home construction. A year from now, I think you'll start to see these auto sales lift back up."
Expert: Richard Allen, member of Lodi Community Art Center and artist
Prediction: "I expect we'll have double the number of artists displaying their work in Lodi. We expect a growth in terms of number of artists participating in our gallery and being interested in showing."
What to watch for: Allen says look for the arts center to "get more artists involved." In one week, two artists signed up to join the center. Also wait to hear more about the art center as it hosts events at wineries and throughout Lodi.
Expert: Shaun Farrell, Galt city treasurer; business development officer at Galt branch of Stockmans Bank
Prediction: "By the end of the year, I'm really hoping the money flow in the country will loosen up a little bit. It will be tight. Right now, the federal funds rate is a range between 0 and .25. I would predict that the rate at the end of the year is 1 percent to keep money moving again in the economy. Just that one thing is not making the money flow as it should."
What to watch for: "The economy is tight. People are not spending money. The only way for the economy to turn around is to spend money. We're kind of waiting for the government to take whatever action is necessary."