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Even though we are having a slow start to our winter season here in beautiful Minnesota, that does not slow our thoughts in recapping 2004 and planning for 2005.

2004 was an exceptional year for our firm. W e saw greater interest in saving insurance dollars than at any other time in our 16-year history. Health care costs continued to increase with corresponding increases in renewal premiums. We did, however, sense a slowing of renewal increases toward the end of the year suggesting that 2005 might be a little gentler on us all.

Commercially, the economy and investments, two major components in commercial insurance pricing, improved over 2003 and 2004, but not at a rate that returned premiums to pre September 11th levels. We do expect, however, that 2005 will offer more options at slightly better pricing, assuming the economy stays on it’s current course.

We also completed the marketing side of our website this year and invite those interested to review it at, www.bates-inc.com. If all goes well, we hope to complete our client side in 2005. That will bring resources and convenience to our current clients. It will also include links to the HMOs and insurance companies in order to obtain forms, information, provider networks and more. Our company is committed to using and providing the technology that is available to us all in the 21st century.

It is hard to believe that our family business will soon be forced to consider expansion of our offices and additional staffing. Whatever happens due to our growth, we will never lose that founding commitment to personalized attention. We specialize in catering to the needs of the smaller employer and we pledge to work hard to be a resource for them that will contribute to their insurance programs.

At this very special time of the year, we do want to take a moment and thank you for your business and wish you all health and happiness in the coming year. Mary, Jereme and I, look forward to serving you in 2005.

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