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News from the week of January 23, 2002 Headlight Herald - Serving Tracy, Minnesota, since 1880

Tracy Minntronix works to bounce back from difficult year in 2001

Sagging tech economy affected demand for firm's products

The Tracy Minntronix Corporation is working to rebound from a difficult 2001.

“Our mission is to survive today, and to grow and thrive in the future,” commented Lew Tollefson, Tracy Minntronix president. “We don't really like what we currently see in the economic marketplace we're in, but we do like our competitive position. We need to keep working hard, and we need a little luck.”

Employment at Minntronix has declined significantly since October of 2000, reducing the Minntronix work force “to a small group of full-time people,” Tollefson said. Additional people work part-time as projects come in.

The slowdown at Minntronix mirrors a recession that struck the U.S. and global economy in 2001. Many technology-related companies were hit especially hard.

“The problem is that our markets are so soft, most customers and potential customers are not buying at any price,” Tollefson said. As a result, in 2001 Minntronix “saw our average order quantity and sales overall drop substantially.”

Minntronix sustained an additional setback over the Christmas holidays, when one of its biggest customers went bankrupt, Tollefson said. “That leaves us holding the bag of accounts receivable from them, and it also eliminated a large part of our order backlog.”

Joe Brockway, Kristen Rokke earn high-school `triple crown'

Joe Brockway and Kristen Rokke are Tracy Area High School's “Triple-A” award winners for 2002.

The Triple-A Award, often considered the most prestigious award a high school can receive, recognizes combined student achievement in academics, the arts, and athletics. Triple-A award nominees must be seniors.

“Joseph is a highly-motivated young man who strives to achieve any task that is placed before him,” comments Amy Larsen, TAHS math teacher, in a letter of recommendation. “He is a strong leader and is well-respected by his peers and teachers.”

Of Rokke, Larsen wrote: “Kristen's communication and organizational skills are attributes that will be an asset to her in the future...Excellent study skills have proven to be a strength in her ability to take college-level courses during her junior and senior year of high school.”

Both TAHS seniors are now eligible for sub-section competition. The Athletics, Arts, and Athletics award is sponsored by the Minnesota High School League.

Xcel Energy seeks new powerlines to serve Buffalo Ridge wind turbines

New powerlines proposed by Xcel Energy could make better use of windpower in southwestern Minnesota.

Xcel Energy needs to upgrade the transmission lines that carry wind-generated electricity from southwestern Minnesota to the electric grid serving the upper Midwest, according to a company statement.

On Dec. 28, the company formally filed applications with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to obtain four Certificates of Need to build new power lines near the Buffalo Ridge wind power developments. The upgrades would also serve a new biomass power plant being developed in Benson.

“We're harvesting a growing crop of renewable energy in Minnesota, and we need an improved transmission system to get it to market,” said Jim Alders, manager of regulatory affairs for Xcel Energy. “As we look to the future, we need higher capacity lines to support additional wind power developments.”

Northern States Power Company (NSP), a predecessor to Xcel Energy, installed three 65-kilowatt wind turbines 14 years ago near Lake Benton as a research project. Their research proved successful, and NSP commissioned construction of a 25-MW wind generation plant in 1994. Seventy-three wind turbines were installed in what became Phase I of the wind generation project. In Phases II and III, 281 more turbines were constructed.

Currently there are about 450 wind turbines along the Buffalo Ridge, representing nearly 300 megawatts of generation capacity.

Prairie View plan clears hurdle

State approval given for addition, remodeling

Planning is moving forward for a major remodeling and construction project at the Prairie View Healthcare Center in Tracy.

The proposed project cleared a major hurdle last week, when the Minnesota Department of Health approved an application from Prairie View.

Tim Byrne, Prairie View administrator, said Tuesday that barring unexpected circumstances, the remodeling and assisted living project “looks like it is a definite go.”

He added that while “there are a lot of things that still need to be worked out, we are hoping to be breaking ground sometime this summer.”

The Prairie View improvements have two components:

• A $1.6 million remodeling of the existing nursing home.

• A 24-unit assisted living addition, with an estimated $1.1 to $1.5 million price tag.

The $1.6 million renovation includes a remodeled kitchen, new boilers, new furniture, refurbishing all resident rooms, and the construction of a new resident wing with 12 single rooms. The project will also convert many of the nursing home's double rooms into single-occupancy rooms.

New management model considered for hospitals

Reiner could be spending less time in Tracy, more in Slayton

A search will soon be underway for a new assistant administrator to serve Tracy Area Medical Services (TAMS) and Westbrook Healthcare Center (WHC).

TAMS Administrator Dan Reiner presented three organizational models to the board in regard to his serving as administrator at TAMS, WHC, and Murray County Memorial Hospital.

Included was the possibility of an assistant administrator to serve primarily in Tracy and Westbrook, with the majority of Reiner's time being spent in Slayton. Reiner told the board that he feels comfortable spending less time in Tracy with the administration who currently serve the facility.

Although he would be spending more time in Slayton, Reiner would still be in overall control of all three facilities. It was noted that while Reiner will serve as administrator in Slayton, Murray County Memorial Hospital will remain a separate entity from TAMS and WHC.

Reiner told the board that the organizational models are only a work in progress, and that certain options may have to be re-examined. He did ask the board for approval of the concept so that the process can begin. The board agreed to go ahead with the process and to begin looking for an assistant administrator.

• Advisory board members took a tour of the TAMS facility. The purpose of the tour was to look at repairs that need to be made in the coming year and the patient room that has been renovated.

Administrative assistant joins Community Development office

Louise Noomen is the new administrative assistant at the Tracy Community Development office. She began the job last week.

“This sounded like a job that had lots of interesting variety, and so far that's the way it has been,” she said.

Noomen will usually work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, although hours will vary depending upon what needs to be done. Her main responsibility will be to assist Community Development Director Robert Gervais in both Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Tracy Chamber of Commerce projects.

The EDA recommended the creation of the part-time position last fall. The Tracy City Council approved the job in its 2002 budget.

A native of Woodland, California, Noomen has lived in Minnesota for 22 years. She and her husband, Wayne, operate a farm 12 miles southeast of Tracy near Dovray. They have two sons, Lyle and Eric.

Noomen was employed at the Area Agency on Aging office in Slayton in the 1980s. She left the job 15 years ago to raise her family and help on the farm. Now that her sons are older, Noomen said she's ready for new challenges.