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News from the week of June 9, 2004

Hair today, gone tomorrow Mother's long tresses become 'locks of love' for children

By Brady Averill

“It's just a haircut,” Amy Howard said.

But to children who have developed long-term hair loss, it's more than a haircut.

Howard, 26, first donated her strawberry-kissed locks to Locks of Love two-and-a-half years ago. Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children under 18 who possess financial need and have long-term medical hair loss. It uses the donations to create hair prosthetics.

The South Dakota native decided to donate to the organization after her stylist at Sa“hair”rah in Miller, S.D., suggested it.

She was also influenced by her grandmother's death from breast cancer and a cousin's current struggle with cancer. Howard said she wanted to help people, especially when they're experiencing something terrible.

Howard's stylist encourages clients who are taking the plunge and cutting off a large amount of hair to donate, Howard said. In fact, she has a list of donators on her mirror in the salon. Howard estimates 25 people have donated at the salon, evidence that others acknowledge the cause.

Howard, who had a long mane for most of her life, chopped 14 inches off the first time she donated. This March—a month after the arrival of her first baby, Alana—the salon cut off another 12 inches.. At least 10 inches of hair is required to donate.

“It's a nice thing to do. If you're going to cut it anyway, what's a few more inches to help someone else,” Howard said.

In between hair gifts, the Tracy woman just gets her hair trimmed.

Policies set for Tracy business expansion help

A powerful new economic development tool is now available to the Tracy Economic Development Authority.

EDA members have adopted a comprehensive set of policies and criteria for granting subsidies to new or expanding businesses. The "Business Subsidy Policy and Criteria" was approved after a public hearing Friday morning.

"This is really a big step," Community Development Director Robert Gervais told EDA members Friday. "We've been talking about this for two years." Adoption of the "Business Subsidy Policy & Criteria," Gervais said, would allow the EDA to set up tax-increment finance districts as a way of encouraging development. (A tax-increment financing district provides real estate tax breaks for new commercial construction). Todd Hagen of the Roseville firm of Ehlers & Associates drafted the Tracy plan.

• • •

The plan outlines types of business assistance that the EDA can grant under state law. Business subsidies are defined as loans, grants, tax abatements, tax-increment finance district tax reductions, payment guarantees, and property or infrastructure contributions.

Additional business subsidies are available to qualified new development within Tracy's newly-created Job Opportunities Building Zones (JOBZ). Those subsidies—which were authorized by the state legislature last year— include exemptions from individual income taxes, corporate franchise taxes, property taxes, and state sales taxes on qualifying purchases, plus a job credit. Tracy has two JOBZ areas totaling 163 acres .


The EDA's new policy states that business assistance can be used for any of the following purposes:

• Redevelopment of blighted or under-utilized community areas.

• Provide diversity of housing that is unavailable in the private market.

• Provide housing ownership alternatives.

• Promote affordable housing for low and moderate-income people.

• Promote community "stabilization and revitalization by the removal of blight and the upgrading in existing housing stock in residential areas."

• Removal of blight and encourage redevelopment in commercial and industrial areas.

• Encouragement property maintenance and investment.

• Increasing the city's tax base.

• Retaining "high quality local jobs, create high quality local job growth, and provide diversity" in the job base.

• "Increase the local business and industrial market potential" of Tracy.

• Increase the local business and industrial market potential of Tracy.

• Encourage additional unsubsidized private development, either directly or through secondary spin-off development.

• Offset increased costs of redevelopment above costs that a business would incur in normal development.

• Achieve development on sites which would not be developed without assistance.

• • •

To be eligible for assistance, projects must optimize the private development potential of a site and create the highest possible number of jobs in the judgment of the EDA. Subsidies are not to be used for projects that would occur without the assistance.

Except when job creation or retention is not a goal, all projects receiving business assistance must create at least one new full-time job that has a minimum wage and health insurance benefits equal to $9.73 an hour.

• • •

Consultants have recommended that the Tracy City Council adopt the same business subsidy policy plan.

D-Day put ordinary guys into extraordinary situation

Ernie Surprenant landed in Normandy 60 years ago

By Seth Schmidt

It happened a long time ago. Or was it just yesterday?

Twenty-four-year-old Ernie Surprenant hunkered down in a blunt-nosed boat in the English Channel. The night was as black as coal. Surf crashed onto a distant shore,

Dozens of other nervous soldiers huddled nearby. Little was said.

The boat's destination?

Normandy, France, Omaha Beach, fox red.

The men had little idea of what lay ahead.

"If we get past the sandbar, you'll step into about a foot of water," a sailor said. "If we don't, you'll have deep water,"


The craft scraped bottom. A front ramp fell open. The soldiers, each with a gargantuan pack of supplies and equipment, rushed forward into the blackness.

• • •

Ernie Surprenant downplays his role in the Allied invasion of Normandy 60 years ago, a watershed moment in World War II that lead to the liberation of Nazi Europe

"I wasn't any hero," the 1938 Tracy graduate says.

Surprenant's U.S. Army unit—the 17th Field Artillery Observation Battalion—landed in France at 1 a.m. on June 8, 1944, in the sixth-wave of the Normandy landings. The men had been on landing craft since June 5, a day before "D-Day."

"We had it pretty easy compared to what some went through," Surprenant adds. "The men that landed ahead of us had pretty well taken care of things on the beach." He especially cites the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division who were dropped behind German lines, before the beach assault began. "If it hadn't been for them, a lot of us wouldn't have made it."

Surprenant's unit, after it sloshed through 12 to 18 inches of water to reach land, was told to advance 100 yards forward and then move parallel to the beach. Stumbling into an orchard, several soldiers mistook the fragrance of apple blossoms with the smell of a poison gas. A few young servicemen panicked when they had trouble getting their gas masks on.

• • •

An invasion of France wasn't something that Ernie Surprenant had thought about growing up in Tracy in the 1920s and '30s. His family had moved into Tracy in the early 1930s after losing their farm during the hard times of the Depression, and Ernie kept himself busy with odd jobs. Summer evenings, he often peddled a bicycle around downtown Tracy and Central Park, selling bags of popcorn for a nickel, earning a penny a bag profit. As a teenager, Ernie joined his father, Heck, in running the family trucking business. Their business delivered most of the freight that came into town on the railroad.

"I knew every delivery place in town, and where to hit the door when it wouldn't open," Surprenant smiles.

A predictable, promising future stretched ahead. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Like many of his friends, Surprenant wanted to enlist. He and a friend, Gay Stone, volunteered for the Air Corps.

"Everyone wanted to fly," Surprenant remembers. Stone eventually did get into the Air Corps, and would later get shot down over Europe. But with the Air Corps deluged with applicants, Surprenant's Air Corps enlistment was deferred. After six months, he was drafted.

A sergeant decided his future, randomly assigning every other draftee in a line to either the Air Corps or Army. Surprenant was sent to the Army.

After basic training, he become a supply sergeant when an officer learned that Surprenant had kept the books for his father's trucking business.

"You are my supply sergeant," the captain said. Surprenant's organizational skills were put to use coordinating supplies within the battalion.

Business looks at mini-golf operation

EDA gives tentative okay to loan

A Tracy business hopes to open a mini-golf course later this summer.

Brenda Beck is planning a 19-hole mini-golf operation near the Pit Stop restaurant on Hwy. 14.

"This would draw people from a 50 to 60 miles away," she told the Tracy Economic Development Authority Friday.

The EDA approved an $11,000 loan to start the mini-golf operation, provided that the EDA was able to obtain a first-lien on the mini-golf course, and that she was able to obtain other financing from other sources.

Total cost of starting the mini-golf business is about $36,000, Beck said. She indicated that she would invest some of the cost herself, and seek the remaining financing from a commercial bank. The bank was not filling to finance the entire project, Beck said.

The mini-golf course would be located to the rear of the Pit Stop, Beck said. The design, she said, would appeal to all ages. A six-month season is planned, although the course could be moved to an indoor location for winter use.

The mini-golf business, she said, would enhance the restaurant business.

"We'd like to open it up yet this summer," Beck told the EDA.

The $11,000 EDA loan is contingent upon the EDA getting a first lien on all the mini-golf course materials and equipment.

Bill Chukuske, said the mini-golf course would be a good addition to town. But, he stressed, the EDA needs sufficient collateral to finalize the loan.

"As long as we have first position on the course, I'm comfortable with it (the loan)," he said.

FFA continues success legacy

The Tracy Area High School FFA chapter continued a 75-year tradition of excellence during the past school year.

"We did a lot of things this year," said Chapter President Erin McCoy at a 2003-04 awards banquet last week.

The Tracy chapter was one of Minnesota's original 22 FFA chapters in 1930. Since then, the Tracy has produced seven state officers (one in 2003-04), 16 state champion judging teams (one this past year), 147 state FFA Degree recipients (seven this year), and 38 American FFA recipients (three this year).

Advisor Chris Howard thanked all the students, parents, and businesses who support the Tracy FFA program. He said he was pleased that 35 Tracy FFA members completed one or more supervised ag experience projects this year, maintaining the FFA's hands-on learning philosophy.

"I'm here as an advisor. The kids have to do the work themselves."

FFA Reporter Johanna Schmidt summarized some of the chapter's 2003-04 highlights.

• More than $5,400 was raised by the FFA corn drive for Camp Courage. The Tracy FFA has now raised over $100,000 for Camp Courage since 1956.

• The annual fruit sale fund-raiser generated $17,771 in sales. Courtney Bitker was the top salesman with $1,315 in sales. Laura Lanoue and Kim Lenertz also had over $1,000 in sales.

• Twenty students attended the national FFA convention in Louisville. Rhonda Bitker, Kami Skoglund, and Katie Lanoue received the American FFA Degree. Students visited a Ford assembly plant, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Churchill Downs.

• Mark Gervais and Kasey Schmidt were crowned king and queen of the FFA's snow banquet and dance.

• Crops, horse, small animal, farm management, forestry, dairy foods, and parliamentary procedure teams qualified for the state convention. Bobbi Buyck competed in a state extemporaneous speaking contest, and Celia Brockway, Derek Daniels, and Brad Lanoue participated in the FFA state choir.

• Erin McCoy was a state Star Farmer Award winner, while SDSU student Jeff Buyck was named the state FFA president.

• Twelve FFA proficiency projects finished in the top three of their categories.

• The Tracy horse team ranked No. 1 in state.

• The chapter earned the National Chapter Award as one of the top 20 FFA chapters in the state. Minnesota has nearly 200 FFA chapters.