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News from the week of March 5, 2003

Report says good paying jobs scarce in region

By Nancy L. Torner

Center for Rural and Regional Studies, Southwest State University

(First of a two-part story on employment )

Twice as many Minnesotans are unemployed than job vacancies exist for them to fill.

Just one year ago, seven job vacancies existed for every 10 unemployed workers.

These are some of the findings in the most recent Minnesota Department of Economic Security Job Vacancy Survey. The study estimates statewide and regional demand for workers during the fourth quarter of 2002 based on surveying 8,807 employers selected at random.

Job losses and gains

In the region encompassing Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood and Rock Counties, 349 manufacturing jobs were lost and 10 businesses were closed, Macht said. Another 2,823 jobs and nearly $4 million in wages were lost in leisure and hospitality along with 419 jobs and 37 businesses in the blue-collar trade, transportation and utilities industry.

Meanwhile, 487 new jobs were created in healthcare and education, and entrepreneurial activity picked up as the professional and business services industry added 190 jobs and five new establishments, Macht said.

Aging population

Population estimates predict that 20 percent of the US population will be older than age 65 by the year 2030.

Based on data from the Minnesota State Demographer, 20 percent of Southwest Minnesota's population already is over age 65, and by 2030 the numbers likely will rise to 30 percent, Cameron Macht, the Minnesota Department of Economic Security's regional analyst for the central and southwest planning regions.

"We're 30 years ahead of the curve," Macht said. "Health care, social services, community services are going to be really big industries in southwest Minnesota."

40 express interest in superintendent post

Tracy Area Public Schools board members have begun narrowing down the field of candidates for District 417's impending superintendent vacancy.

The board met with Darrold Williams, a consultant for Midwest Management Resources Monday evening, to start narrowing down the pool of superintendent candidates from about 40 to five or six.

Williams told the board that there are currently about 18 open superintendent positions throughout the state. He said the timeline the Tracy district has set up is good becasuse they are getting in ahead of other searches. He was also pleased with the large number of candidates who applied, and added that it took work to get that many applicants.

Area medical needs studied

Tracy-Westbrook-Slayton options considered

What is the best model for offering specialty health-care services in the Tracy, Slayton, and Westbrook areas?

In a nutshell, that's the question that Minneapolis consulting firm is attempting to answer. The firm-Gorman Heck, PA-was hired recently by Sioux Valley Rural Health Services, which manages hospitals and clinics in all three communities.

The study is to analyze two options for expanding outreach medical services among the three communities. The options are:

The study is to examine the strengths and weaknesses of medical facilities in each community, and analyze future opportunities and needs.

Teachers accept increase less than state average

After nearly two years of negotiations, the Tracy Board of Education has reached a contract agreement with District 417 teachers.

The master agreement was approved at a special board meeting held Monday night.

The agreement, for the 2001--02 and 2002-03 school years, means a total dollar increase of $220,705 over two years. This includes step and lane changes. The increase amounts to an increase of about 3.3-3.4 percent, said Supt. Rick Clark.

The total package includes salary increases, increases in co-curricular pay, life insurance, teacher retirement and social security contributions. This is an increase of 8.6 percent on the salary schedule over two years with 2.2 percent coming in the first year and 6.4 percent in the second year.

In a statement issued by lead negotiator Brian Michelson of the Tracy Education Association, he said, “Many issues were discussed over the past 22 months with hundreds of hours dedicated to this process by both sides.”

“What negotiations do is that every dollar and every word is open for negotiation every negotiation period,” he explained. “The board and association has limited it to six items plus the finance. They have already agreed on the finance; how they apply that finance remains to be seen.”

Planners bait hooks for April 12 sportsmen's show

Volunteers are making final plans for the first-ever Tracy Area Sportsmen's Show.

Organizers hope that thousands of people turn out for the Saturday, April 12 event at the Tracy Prairie Pavilion.

"We hope we can attract 4,000 people," said Robert Gervais, Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce manager. Several big-name attractions are booked, including a full-size NASCAR simulator, professional sport fishermen Tony Dean and Jim Randash will present seminars and demonstrations. A display featuring a national sprint car and a rock climbing wall are among the other top attractions.

"Our vendors have really been impressed with who and what we have coming," said Gervais. As of Monday, 46 show exhibitors had been lined up, with more commitments still coming. "We've got a real wide range of exhibitors," said Gervais. "We've a got a taxidermist, campers, all-terrain vehicles, and boats, We've got exhibits from fishing resorts and we've got one guy with dog kennels." Erik Giles, a Minnesota duck stamp winner, will display some of his wildlife art.

Admission is free, but attendees will be able to buy changes to win one of five major raffle prizes, including a Polaris ATV valued at $6,000.

Daycare plans continue

Architectural drawings for a new daycare center in Tracy are being drawn up.

Board members for Tracy Kid's World were told last week that daycare center blueprints are in the process of being drafted. No completion date has been set, but two plans are being drafted.

One plan remodels space in an existing Tracy building for a daycare. A second model envisions a daycare facility built near Tracy Hospital and the Prairie View Healthcare Center. Kid's World received a $5,000 grant to develop the plans.

The proposed daycare center would serve children six weeks to 12 years of age. Once plans and construction estimates are drawn up, the Tracy Kid's World board intends to seek grant money and other financing to build the facility. Last week, the board also reviewed marketing plans for the proposed daycare.

Tracy Kid's World board members are: Mark Priegnitz, Stacy Barstad, Virginia Hansen, George Hebig, Kari Landuyt, Beth Lanoue, Scott Loeslie, Jeri Schons, Deb Skoglund, Bonnie Hook, Art Marben, Robert Gervais, Louise Noomen.