We asked experts about what they expected for the mid-valley's economy in nine critical sectors. Here's what they told us:

AGRICULTURE

The good news:

The tax reform package recently passed by Congress is expected to provide tax relief for Oregon farm families. The Oregon Farm Bureau says it will lower the tax bill for the “vast majority” of ag families.

It will eliminate the “death tax” on estates of less than $11 million, taking pressure off heirs who might otherwise have to sell off assets to pay inheritance taxes.

Grass seed prices are “decent” and there is a shortage of cover crop seeds due to increased demand.

The bad news:

Although the number of acres devoted to hazelnut orchards continues to increase, production was down about 18 percent in 2017 and prices dropped significantly.

Land prices continue to climb.

The uncertainties:

The mid-valley was hit with unusually warm and dry weather conditions in July and August. Will 2018 bring more of the same?

Producers are keeping a watchful eye on the eastern filbert blight and its possible spread throughout the valley. It is a deadly fungus and orchardists are trimming trees significantly to stave off its affects.

Will there be increased regulations that add to expenses and reduce profits?

Access to labor — especially from Mexico — is an unknown.

Alex Paul

CONSTRUCTION AND REAL ESTATE

The good news:

This sector has been one of the fastest growing in terms of employment in the past year, and probably over the last three years, said Pat O’Connor, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. “I don’t think we’re at the crest of this. Construction is an industry that we would expect to see growing into 2018 and I would dare say beyond that, just based on need,” O’Connor added.

The bad news:

Finding the bodies to do the work has been difficult for construction firms in the wake of the recession and housing inventory is limited. “When people lose their jobs and find other gigs and they switch out of these occupations, they may not be coming back,” O’Connor said. If you’re looking to buy a house, be prepared to move fast and spend more than in previous years. Many offers are still above listed price, and are made within days or even the same day a house is put on the market, according to Elizabeth and Paul Spies of Balance Real Estate in Corvallis.

The uncertainties:

One of the major challenges for the mid-Willamette Valley is trying to find the proper mix of housing. The valley lacks single family affordable housing, and the situation is particularly acute in Corvallis. It’s unclear whether there will be remedies in 2018.

Kyle Odegard

DINING/TOURISM/CRAFT BEVERAGES

The good news:

There’s been spectacular growth in these areas in the last five years or so coming out of the economic downturn. And residents have plenty of new places to dine or sip. The new Marriott Hotel in Corvallis will boost employment for Benton County. Pat O’Connor, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, expected things to stay stable at worst in 2018. “We’ll see continued growth. This is a sector that relates to population growth,” he added.

“It’s definitely growing. At least in Albany, Corvallis area, there are some up and coming restaurants, and I’m working on a few things,” said Benny Augeri, owner of Benny’s Donuts and Sidecar in Corvallis.

The bad news:

Minimum wage increases are scheduled again for 2018, and that will put pressure on businesses. Eateries, microbreweries and other operations will have to try to control their prices while paying higher labor costs. “It’s a little tricky,” Augeri said. “People don’t realize labor is a huge cost in the labor industry. People will shift their pricing up a little bit. … I’ll be curious to see if people are still willing to pay that,” he added.

The uncertainties:

With so many new restaurants and adult beverage-based businesses, is the market becoming too saturated in certain segments, particularly fast food? “I don’t know what the critical mass is for growler stations, but we have to reach that at some point,” O’Connor said. This sector also is closely tied to the economy, which is riding high. When a recession comes, people eat out at home and don’t travel as much, O’Connor added.

Kyle Odegard

FINANCE

The good news:

There’s been fairly broad job growth in the mid-Willamette Valley finance industry, with multiple employers expanding, and notably insurance and insurance-related companies, such as call centers. This sector includes banking, real estate-related activities and accounting. “Overall, the forecast is for continued growth in Oregon and the nation,” said Pat O’Connor, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. “I don’t look at it as being a huge growth piece. But overall, you expect it to continue being a positive sector with the business climate being good.”

The bad news:

Some growth in this sector is directly tied to the housing market. If that cools dramatically, the impacts could ripple to finance, O’Connor said. “It’s one that doesn’t fluctuate as much in terms of employment,” he added.

The uncertainties:

Tax changes also could impact the industry by driving more people to accounting services. “We’ll have to see if that raises demand,” O’Connor said.

Kyle Odegard

RETAIL

The good news:

The retail industry has shown healthy growth statewide, and forecasts show for that to continue, albeit at a slower pace, in 2018. Locally, Benton County had 4 percent job growth in the past year, and Linn County grew 1 percent, said Pat O’Connor, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. “We really had a strong 2017. We’re expecting another great year,” said Lise Grato, executive director of the Albany Downtown Association.

The bad news:

Online retail giants, such as Amazon, are carving out more of a market share, which is an obvious challenge to brick-and-mortar stores. Providing service that you can’t find at large retailers, or that is unavailable on the computer, is key for shops to battle the trend, Grato said. Providing unique products that can’t be found online is also an advantage for local stores. “Some people just enjoy the experience of shopping and making a day of it,” Grato added.

The uncertainties:

How will physical stores, including “mom-and-pops,” continue to adapt to the demands of consumers, who want more online opportunities? “The Walmarts of the world and even Fred Meyer are trying to blend that now. It’s interesting how all these retailers fight for online presence, and how each of them is going to compete moving forward,” O’Connor said.

Kyle Odegard

TIMBER

The good news:

Log prices are solid and the inventory for logs seems to be low. Mills are continuing to put out good products and with technology are expanding wood-based building products such as cross-laminated timber and new large plywood panels that will be used to build high-rise buildings. They are being constructed with “green” sustainable wood products.

The bad news:

Oregon and especially California have sustained heavy wildland fires this year. Mid-valley residents experienced heavy smoke intrusion this past summer. Will that translate into pressure on the federal government to clean up its timber lands and reduce large fuels that contribute to major fires?

The uncertainties:

Will there be any changes in the way federal timber lands are managed, especially concerning fires within wilderness areas? Will fires be allowed to grow and possibly threaten nearby timber lands that are privately owned?

A key international issue is whether North Korea will continue to be an aggressor and in turn, destabilize what has been a growing economic picture for the U.S.

Alex Paul

MANUFACTURING AND HIGH TECH

The good news:

Cuts to the corporate tax rate were cheered in the manufacturing sector, which measured record-high optimism going into the new year. Locally, manufacturing is up 300 jobs, or 4 percent in Linn County, with a positive trend reported in the rare metals industry. That’s a drastic turnaround from a year ago when ATI announced layoffs. Meanwhile, Benton County is holding steady. “They’ve been struggling (in this sector) for a number of years, so a year of flat employment is pretty good,” said Pat O’Connor, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department.

The bad news:

The uptick in hiring has made it harder for some firms to fill skilled positions, including millwrights and electricians.

The uncertainties:

High-tech has been flat for the past two years, but experts think it will rebound in 2018. “Those high tech numbers are really pushed by the Portland firms. How that’s going to translate in Benton County remains to be seen,” O’Connor said. Local officials last year were successful in advocating to reverse a 2018 budget proposal by Trump administration that would have closed the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Albany. But economic development officials remain wary that the lab, which supports 150 jobs and more than $30 million in economic impact to Oregon, could again be on the chopping block.

Rebecca Barrett

GOVERNMENT AND EDUCATION

The good news: 

Employment in the government sector and in public education continues to grow and there's little reason to expect that trend to change in 2018, said Pat O'Connor, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. Public education, which took a hit in Oregon during the Great Recession, has been building back up since then, O'Connor said, and the state's population growth hasn't hurt. Hiring at Oregon State University, which grew quickly during the recession as people unable to find work returned to school, has slowed, but remains on the upswing, O'Connor said.

The bad news:

This is a sector that reacts to changes in the economy, but not immediately, O'Connor said. "When the next recession hits, you don't immediately see the budget cuts," he said — those typically wait until the start of the next budget cycle. 

The uncertainties:

Although federal government employment in Oregon has remained somewhat steady, it's unclear whether efforts to reduce the size of the government will have much impact on Oregon. The fate of the U.S. Department of Energy's lab in Albany is not certain. Cuts in federal research dollars could have an impact. And significant reforms to the state's public pension system could trigger an exodus of senior staff members at local governments.

Mike McInally

HEALTH CARE

The good news:

Employment for Linn and Benton counties is up 2 percent in the past year, according to the state. The trend is expected to continue as population increases. While the threat of total repeal of the Affordable Care Act has passed, reform resulted in a leaner model for delivering care, with fewer people now working inside hospitals and more people employed outside. Samaritan Health Services and The Corvallis Clinic are moving forward with plans for new facilities in 2018.

The bad news:

A national shortage of physicians affects Oregon and the mid-Willamette Valley. Access remains an issue, and health care providers are challenged to care for underserved populations, said Judy Corwin, marketing director at The Corvallis Clinic.

The uncertainties:

Later this month, voters will decide Measure 101, a tax on insurance companies and hospitals to provide health care for low-income Oregonians. If voters reject the measure, the state could lose up to $320 million in revenue and up to $960 million more in matching Medicaid funds. Larry Mullins, outgoing president and CEO of Samaritan, said the legislation needs additional work so that it doesn’t harm hospitals and health care providers. “We need to say yes on 101 to keep things on track,” Mullins said. “Then we need to go in and fix a lot of the legislation.”

Rebecca Barrett

Outbrain