It's hard not to be optimistic at Christmas time. I think maybe it's the subliminal messages in all the Christmas music they start playing on the radio shortly after Halloween. It's either that or all the eggnog — my mother-in-law even makes an eggnog pie! Yum. Regardless, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the feeling. The feeling you get when you see the Christmas lights or a child visiting Santa for the first time. The feeling you get watching your favorite Christmas special on television (even Charlie Brown is optimistic!). But mostly, the feeling you get when you see people doing nice things for other people — something that happens primarily this time of year. And let's not forget the feeling when you do nice things, yourself.

Then there is realism. This is the feeling that usually sets in sometime in January as the credit card bills start pouring in. For others, it happens earlier, about the time they are standing in an endless line to return the size-small, neon-green sweater embellished with a bright orange giraffe that Aunt Martha gave them for Christmas. Or when the “some-assembly-required” home gym you received includes instructions that would try even the most ambitious engineering professional. And they're printed in German. With no pictures. (As if you'd read the instructions anyway, right?)

And somewhere in between optimism and realism (opti-realism?) lies the green industry forecast for 2006. The forecast is somewhat optimistic — some indicators are predicting an overall industry growth of as much as eight percent. However, no one is sugar-coating the very real indicators that also point to increasing costs: fluctuating fuel prices in tandem with increasing interest rates could reduce consumer confidence and spending in 2006. And while the overall feeling of this year's industry forecast is cautious (notice I didn't say cautiously optimistic), economists predict that it can still be a profitable year. And our experts agree. Not only are they projecting growth in '06 for themselves, the industry leaders we polled for the 2006 forecast believe that profit and growth is possible for you, too. The key is how you plan for it. (The key is also that we don't have a repeat of natural disasters in 2006 that we witnessed in 2005.) Each one of them advises that it is critical to have a concrete plan in place to deal with rising overhead expenses. It's critical to your bottom line that you don't simply plan for expenses that were similar to last year's. For more advice on planning, turn to our cover story, “Forecast for 2006,” on page 10.

And as for opti-realism? It could be a real term. Sometimes when an editor makes up a word, it becomes a real word. (However, the rule doesn't apply to presidents.)

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