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News from the week of November 28, 2001 Headlight Herald - Serving Tracy, Minnesota, since 1880

Comment invited on city property tax levy

Tracy citizens have a chance to learn more about the city's 2002 budget and property tax levy next week.

A public hearing on the levy and budget is set in city council chambers Monday, Dec. 3, at 6:30 p.m. Administrator Audrey Koopman will give a short presentation about the budget. Citizens will be given a chance to share opinions and ask questions.

A preliminary levy adopted in September showed a 37.5% increase in the city's 2002 property tax levy. However, Tuesday night, the council discussed taking steps that would pare the levy increase to about 31.7%.

Principal and interest payments on a $1.5 million swimming pool bond are a major factor in next year's increase. For 2002, city taxpayers are required to pay $126,114 in principal and interest obligations on the pool bond. The pool bond, which is being used to pay for new outdoor aquatic center scheduled now under construction, was approved by voters in February. Next year's bond payments are the first in a 20-year obligation.

Council members must finalize the city's 2002 property tax levy and budget before year-end. They can reduce the preliminary levy okayed in September, but can not increase it.


Southwest Minnesota continued to dig out from a Monday and Tuesday snow storm that dumped 17" of snow in Tracy.

At. 8am Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation was advising no unnecessary travel on state highways in Southwest Minnesota. although snowplow crews were out working, highways remained heavily snow-compacted and slippery. Many rough sports and ruts remained on roadways where wet snow had frozen into ice.

The heavy wet snowfall began early Monday and intensified Tuesday. Three inches was recorded on Monday and 14 on Tuesday in Tracy. High winds Tuesday added poor visibility to the slippery conditions. The state highway department advised no travel for most of Tuesday in Southwest Minnesota.

Many businesses, schools and governmental institutions closed early Monday and remained closed Tuesday.

Tracy Public Schools and St. Mary's School closed at 10am Monday. The schools remained closed all day Tuesday. School started two hours late Wednesday morning. Other area schools had similar schedules. Southwest State University in Marshall had a rare closing on Tuesday, joining many other businesses that closed down operations.

Marshall reported 20" of snowfall, Slayton 18" and Pipestone 15." Willmar had the dubious distinction of the most snow, with a two-day total of about 29 inches.

TNT promotes technology as new economic engine in region

Nowhere in Southwest Minnesota is there a Technology and Telecommunications (TNT) building.

The organization isn't listed in the Yellow Pages and it doesn't own any real estate. TNT doesn't have a shiny fleet of service trucks or even a manufactured product. The TNT logo isn't apt to make people forget AT&T or Microsoft anytime soon.

Yet only 18 months after its inception, TNT has established a major presence in an 18-county area of Southwest Minnesota.

“We are sometimes overwhelmed with what has been accomplished in a short period of time,” comments Sherry Ristau, director of the Southwest Minnesota Foundation.

The TNT network is a consortium of business, governmental, and educational entities whose goal is to promote economic development through the use of technology. The City of Tracy and Tracy Economic Development Authority— two of TNT's “stakeholders”—provided $10,000 of TNT's $400,000 start-up cost.

“There is so much potential in this region, it boggles the mind,” comments Chuck Myrbach, a TNT board member from Marshall. “But we have to get out in front of it (use of technology).”

How well Southwest Minnesota embraces and uses technology now, Myrbach says, will be “felt hundreds of years from now.” Not adapting to change, and not developing the infrastructure needed for the new information age, he warned, would have a profoundly negative impact on the region.

“We need to think of technology as our modern-day economic development tool,” remarks Frank Cesario, the lead consultant in the TNT project. “Utilizing technology and telecommunications can be a new economic engine for this region.”

This Ol' Place

When the opportunity to buy the Al's Bar building in Garvin presented itself last month, Dennis and Myra Kronke decided to take it.

“We just decided to go for it,” Myra Kronke said.

The Kronkes are no strangers to the Garvin community. Until a few years ago, when the two were married, Dennis lived three miles from Garvin.

Before buying the business, Myra Kronke baby-sat her grandchildren. She has also worked as a decorator, and is an organist. Dennis Kronke is a truck driver.

The couple has big plans for the business, which they have re-named “This Ol' Place.” They plan to remodel the entire building, and add new bathrooms, convenience store, and possibly gas pumps on the north side of the business.

The Kronkes will continue to operate the bar and grill portion of the business as well. Jana Moon will serve as general manager and Jon Kronke will be bartender.

“We don't have a full-course menu yet,” Myra Kronke said.

She said she will be sitting down with her daughter, Jana Moon, to come up with the menu.

Schwan's plans grand opening for R & D facility

Schwan's Sales Enterprises, Inc., will celebrate the grand opening of its new $12 million Research and Development Center in the Marshall industrial park, November 30, at 1pm.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks from company and city leaders will highlight the event.

The 75,000-square-foot facility features fully equipped culinary kitchens, sensory labs, bench labs, pilot labs and a pilot plant custom-designed to support Schwan's research and product development process.

"The new facility is a key component in Schwan's new strategy for approaching market opportunities and competitive challenges," said Doug Olsem, vice president for Strategic Development. "The Research and Development Center is another giant step toward Schwan's goal of bringing the highest-level technologies and the brightest minds in the food business together."

The R & D Center employs process engineers, culinary experts, sensory teams, research scientists and product development specialists.

Computers & Internet fast becoming essential for farm marketing strategy, records

By Nancy L. Torner

Gaining market and marketing savvy and keeping detailed records are as important to an independent farmer as the weather - and computers make this work faster and easier.

This advice comes from agribusiness consultants interviewed following their presentations at the 2001 Farm Outlook Seminar at Southwest State University in Marshall. Seminar topics centered on trends affecting market conditions for various crop and livestock products.

"There's a point for all of us that if we don't keep up with the times and understanding things, we're no good to ourselves, or anybody else," said Jerry Gulke, analyst and owner of Strategic Marketing Services, a research and information analysis firm based in Rockford, Ill. "From a technical standpoint, [farmers] need to have all the information they can get from whatever source they can get it from, and of course the computers, the global positioning systems and yield monitoring helps."

Information for marketing

The Internet is loaded with data to help farmers grasp a global range of factors that influence prices and that when translated into market strategies play a role in determining the success, or failure of a growing, or breeding season, Gulke said. Minimally, computers offer precise record-keeping.

"What I see coming with the GMO issues, and now with foot and mouth and BSE [mad cow disease] and all this stuff, we will want to keep very detailed records of what we put on our crops, where we did it, how we did it," Gulke said. "It may become a requirement, depending upon who's the head of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], or what consumer pressures there are.

"In Japan, they would like to see the face of the guy on the bag who grew the beans that they're going to eat in their tofu. They would like to go all the way back to the farmer. It could give identity preservation a whole new name. Setting aside our crop that has a certain identity - and we can guarantee it - might reap a lot more rewards than what we suspect, and technology helps us to do it."

Agriculture lags

About 75 percent of the firm's clients use computers for record-keeping and research, said Jeff Beal, a consultant with the firm who is based in Arizona. In agriculture in general, this rate drops to an estimated 40, to 45 percent.

"You've got to realize that if you're a farmer out there with 1,000 acres, and you're competing in a county that has 100 farmers in a similar situation and 80 of them are boning up on their marketing, studying and using the tools and doing a better job of hedging than you, at some point they're going to come after you," Beal said. "They may hire you to run the tractor, which is fine if that's all you're interested in doing. The encouraging part is that Jerry's been doing this seminar for six years, and this is the first year that we've had an overflow crowd. This tells me people want to learn."

More than 300 people attended the seminar, among them John Geurts, who uses a home computer for record-keeping and research. Geurts, who has a two-year degree in marketing and sales, farms 1,700 acres of corn and beans in Lyon County.