A gray cloud may have settled on the U.S. economy, but any economic gloom elsewhere can't dampen an underlying sense of blue-sky promise and prosperity here in Hesperia, according to Steve Lantsberger, the city's head of Economic Development Department.

"My glass is always half full," Lantsberger told attendees of last week's Hesperia Chamber of Commerce luncheon. "I see a positive growth in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) next year."

Specifically, Lantsberger's department anticipates a 1.5 to 2 percent GDP growth in 2008.

Even Hesperia's 30 percent downturn in housing starts last year is better than it could be. The Victor Valley as a whole saw a decline of 52 percent, he noted.

"We're trying to respond to that challenge at the city and develop initiatives to promote home ownership as well as development."

Adding to Lantsberger's optimism, retail sales in town were up in January.

The Hesperia Economic Development Department facilitates and directs private sector investment that leads to the creation of jobs and provide wealth in a community, Lantsberger explained to the audience.

Specifically, the city works to improve Hesperia's financial picture by providing business attraction, retention and expansion and entrepreneurial development.

"We try to make our city as business friendly as possible, but unfortunately at the end of the day the decision rests with the company. We are facilitators. We try to put our best foot forward, but we can't make them locate here."

But many businesses are finding the city's offerings irresistible. Having recently completed 96,082 square feet of retail, city-assisted projects account for 650,000 square feet of retail currently under construction and another 2.9 million planned. The 3.6 million square foot total equates into a retail sales potential of $2.4 billion, Lantsberger said.

"A lot of things are happening. We're very bullish on our economy and where we're going to take it as a city as we go forward."