banner.gif (15051 bytes)

News from the week of December 8, 2004

Company seeks welders for possible Tracy operation

Tracy is one of several Southwest Minnesota communities being considered as an expansion site for a regional company.

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, has been working with the company to find a suitable site and an adequate work force.

The unnamed company has placed “helped wanted” ads seeking experienced welders.

Gervais told the Tracy Economic Development Commission Friday that he and the company have identified sites in Tracy that would work for the manufacturing operation. Finding enough qualified workers, he said, is the greater challenge.

“If we can get 15 people, we’ve got a good chance,” Gervais said. The company, he said, would like to begin operations as soon as possible, and could eventually hire as many as 40 workers.

Applications are being accepted through Dec. 10 through the Tracy Chamber of Commerce.

The firm, Gervais said, is looking at the new site as a one-year project that could grow into a long-term operation. Pay being offered, he said, ranges from $10 to $15 an hour, plus benefits.

“This could be huge,” Gervais said, of the potential impact on the local economy.

To help attract qualified workers, Gervais said that the company offers flexible work plans to farmers who would want time off during the busy spring planting and fall harvest seasons.

At the request of the company, the Tracy Chamber of Commerce is acting as an intermediary for job applicants. For more information, people can call the Chamber at 629-4021. Applications can be sent to Welders, c/o Tracy Chamber of Commerce, 372 Morgan, Tracy, MN. 56175.

EDA eyes tax-forfeit properties

The Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) might bid on two properties at Lyon County’s 2004 tax forfeiture auction Dec. 16.

Friday, the EDA gave Community Development Director Robert Gervais and City Finance Director Dave Spencer the authority to submit bids on the closed P Plus Asian Grocery Store, and the former Red Alexander property on Morgan Street.

The EDA is interested in the vacant grocery store for two reasons: 1) To protect the EDA’s interest in a second mortgage on the property, and 2) To secure the site for possible future development.

The EDA is owed about $15,000 in principal and interest on a loan given out to help open the store in the late 1990s. That loan, issued to Jon Her of Walnut Grove, has subsequently gone into default. The EDA would lose this lien on the property if it is sold to someone else at the tax-forfeiture auction.

The P Plus building, built in the 1950s for Rignell Hardware, has been studied as the possible site for a wellness center. EDA member Claire Hannasch, who is also chairman of the Tracy Area Medical Services (TAMS) advisory board, said that hospital management is looking at the feasibility of developing a wellness center at the site. However, Hannasch said, TAMS would prefer to lease, and not own, the property.

To purchase the P Plus property at the auction, the EDA will have to pay at least $20,000, which is the county’s minimum price. The buyer will also have to assume $127 in unpaid special assessments.

The Alexander property consists of two parcels southeast of the Tracy United Methodist Church. One parcel has a small, vacant house, and the other parcel is bare land. The county’s minimum value is $6,400. Unpaid assessments amount to $4,700.

EDA members have discussed razing the house, and utilizing the land for housing , possibly townhouses or apartments.

Gervais said that a private group may also be interested in the former P Plus property. It was the EDA’s consensus to not bid against a private group that has a serious intent of developing the property. However, EDA members also felt that it is not in the city’s best interest for the property to be bought by a speculator who doesn’t do anything to improve and maintain the property.

“We don’t need another Coast-to-Coast,” said Hannasch, referring to a run-down main street store that has stood vacant since the 1990s.

Lyon County’s sale of tax-forfeited property is set Thursday, Dec. 16, 9:30 a.m., at the Lyon County Government Center in Marshall. Sixteen tax-forfeited parcels will be offered for sale.

State Grant sought to raze old housing

The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership has been hired to assist the City of Tracy, and the Tracy Economic Development Authority in seeking state grant money to demolish run-down houses.

The grant request is expected to be about $80,000. The City of Tracy, in its current 2005 budget, has $20,000 allocated for dilapidated housing demolition. It is hoped that the city contribution will help Tracy qualify for the state grant dollars.

What structures would be cleared in the program has not been decided, although city leaders did conduct an informal survey of vacant and apparently abandoned houses in the city this summer. The cost for demolishing old houses has been estimated at $4,000 each.

Occupied houses in poor condition could also be involved in a relocation and demolition program. Voluntary participants would receive relocation assistance from the housing partnership.

The EDA last week agreed to a $1,500 contract with the housing partnership to draft the grant application. The partnership will also receive $750 for each relocation that the agency assists with.

EDA accepts less than breakeven offer for Sunrise Drive rambler

An agreement has been reached for the sale of the Tracy Economic Development Authority’s “spec” house on Sunrise Drive. The sales contract to sell the two-bedroom rambler for $113,750 is contingent upon the buyers being able to obtain financing.

The house, which was listed for $120,500, has been for sale since late 2003. The consensus of EDA members, in accepting the offer, was that it was best to accept the offer rather than hold out for a higher price, especially with the winter heating season approaching. The $113,750 sale price was reached after the buyers had made a lower offer initially.

At $113,750, Community Development Director Robert Gervais said that the EDA will basically pay for construction and marketing costs, but not land costs. EDA members noted at their Friday meeting that the EDA would need to reimburse the city $8,000 (the price of recent Eastview lot sales) for the developed 100-foot lot.

The 412 Sunrise Drive house was built with financing and planning assistance from the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership. Karl Campbell Construction was the general contractor. The 1,100 square foot house has an attached two-car garage, desk, and main-floor laundry. Kitchen appliances are included in the sale.

EDA members had hoped that the house’s open rambler style, its handicapped accessibility, and a completed deck would contribute to a quick sale.

Several years ago, the EDA built a three-bedroom split-level house on Sunrise Drive. That house took about 18 months to sell. It also sold for less than actual costs.

Boltes see God's handiwork in new Christian book store

If you had asked Pastor Al and Cindy Bolte a couple of months ago if they planned to start a new business, chances are they would have said “no.”

Today, the Methodist minister and his wife are the owners of Cornerstone Inspirationals, located in The Etc. building in downtown Tracy.

It was around Nov. 1, Cindy Bolte said, that the couple decided to pursue putting a Christian bookstore in The Etc. building. The Boltes had learned that the existing Christian bookstore in The Etc. was leaving.

Both had thought about filling the vacancy and the need, but didn’t discuss it with one another right away, she said. They both thought it was a good idea, and started to research what it would take to start the business.

“People told us it was a needed asset,” Bolte said.

The Boltes put the final decision in God’s hands. They decided that if the name they had chosen, Cornerstone Inspirationals, was approved when they registered it with the state, they would go for it. The name was approved, and just over a month later the store is beginning to take shape.

“It had to have been God’s plan or it wouldn’t have worked out so quickly,” Bolte said.

Bolte said much thought was put into the name they chose.

“The scriptures often talk about Christ as the cornerstone of our faith,” she said. Scripture from I Peter 4:2 served as inspiration.

She said they wanted the name to be individual and fit with The Etc. building, located at the corner of Morgan and Third streets. The word “inspirationals” was included because they wanted people to know it was a Christian bookstore. This is also reflected in the store’s logo, which uses a cross for the “t” in “Cornerstone.”

The store features a variety of inspirational gifts for occasions such as weddings, baptisms, first communions, and confirmations. There is a wide selection of Bibles, books for Bible studies, and resources for pastors. Bolte said she will take special orders for Bible study books or Sunday school curriculums.

There are a number of books that make unique gifts, including a devotional book for people in the military. Bolte said the book would make a great gift as part of a care package to someone serving overseas. The store also features books by popular Christian authors, including Max Lucado and Rick Warren. There is also a selection of books from the popular “Hugs” series.

“Holy Bears” make good gifts as well, Bolte said. This line includes bears made especially for certain professions, branches of the military, military wives, and other special occasions such as a new baby or a confirmation. Each bear includes a Bible verse. Bolte said that she can make special orders for these as well. Other gifts include journals, photo journals, and devotional calendars. Boxed and individual cards will be available as well.

Bolte said she is trying to get a feel for what people in the area want.

“My goal is to be able to provide for people’s needs,” she said.

Cornerstone Inspirationals is open during The Etc.’s regular business hours. For more information, call 629-8010.

New Garvin business caters to bargain hunters

A new business has opened in downtown Garvin.

Mike Bethune opened Closeout Warehouse, which sells closeout merchandise, in Garvin’s old post office building about a month ago. Bethune, who first came to Garvin in 1968 and has lived there off and on since, said he wanted to put something back into the town.

“I just saw an opportunity,” he said. “I know people love bargains and thought I could give them some.”

Bethune said the premise of the store is that he buys small lots of closeout items, which he sells at his store. There is a limited quantity of these items, and the inventory will rotate regularly.

“It’s going to be constantly changing,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you see it, get it now because I can’t promise I can get more. But that’s why the price is so reasonable.”

Right now, merchandise at Closeout Warehouse includes everything from artificial Christmas trees to construction materials. He has a variety of items for RVs, electrical components, housewares, bulk screws, vertical and horizontal blinds, candles, trailer tires, picture frames, plumbing supplies, doors, oak trim, mirrors, and kids’ movies.

Bethune emphasized that everything in the store is new.

He said he uses a combination of resources to bring deals into his store, including trade publications, the Internet, and contacts he has developed through other contacts.

He said he has been buying and selling on a smaller scale for many years, and has seen other operations with the same concept. He feels he has a good grasp for the local market, having grown up in the area.

He said the goal is for the business to keep growing and eventually outgrow the walls of its current building.

Closeout Warehouse, located at 123 Sherman St. in Garvin, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is closed Sundays and Mondays.