Roughly a month after the announcement of two child care facilities closing in Columbus, a newly-formed nonprofit hopes to have a new facility running as soon as early October.
The two facility closures last month equaled to a loss of 155 child care spots for children of various ages. Columbus Area Childcare, the nonprofit, is planning to purchase and operate a child care center out of the previous Little Messengers Inc. building, 3105 25th St. Up to 110 kids between the ages of 6 weeks to 3-years-old would be accepted at this new center.
The Columbus City Council approved a resolution at its Sept. 6 meeting to give a $225,000 economic development loan to Columbus Area Childcare for the venture. The loan would last 15 years and have 1% interest.
The formation of the nonprofit was announced by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, as it’s supported by the chamber.
People are also reading…
A publicly available memo from the city states that additional funds have been pledged by the chamber; local banks have shown interested in funding the remaining amount through a loan or line of credit.
The building is currently owned by 4-C Investments, LLC, and Columbus Area Childcare is securing contracts to purchase the facility.
Chamber President Dawson Brunswick explained at the city council meeting that both entities have separate boards and a separate tax status.
Columbus Area Childcare is a public and private partnership, Brunswick said.
According to the chamber’s business to business newsletter, the nonprofit hopes to reopen the facility as soon as Oct. 3 under the leadership of Barb Braun, who will serve as center director.
Third Ward Council Member Rich Jablonski expressed concern over the nonprofit being able to find employees. He added that with a new casino coming to Columbus, the community’s workforce is going to be depleted.
“We received over $70,000 a year in commitments from private industry to help subsidize and pay child care employees in that $14 and $15 an hour range,” Brunswick said. “The idea is that people who are leaving child care right now because of a low wages, that we can retain them.”
Jablonski asked if low wages were specifically the cause of the previous facility closing, to which Brunswick responded he’s knowledgeable it was.
“Some of the day care providers that I visited with this, they just can’t find the kind of help you need to have to run a day care,” Jablonski said. “I don’t know if you’re paying $30 an hour you’re going to have anything better. That would be my bigger concern in trying to keep the thing afloat.”
Brunswick agreed that that is an issue, adding there are 2,300 open positions across industries in Columbus currently. At a minimum, he added, one child care employee keeps four people employed.
Brunswick was also asked about the impact the Kramer Education Center will have once it opens. Columbus Public Schools has been remodeling the former Kramer High School into a facility that will have a child care center and preschool, as well as eventually administration offices.
Brunswick said that Kramer will put a “nice dent” into the child care need and, while CPS is looking into other potential solutions, the Columbus Area Childcare project is intended to “stop the bleeding right here, right now.”
“As we’re making great strides on housing, you build a 100 houses but you don’t have child care, you’re only bringing 100 employees to town, not 200,” Brunswick said.
First Ward Council Member Beth Augustine-Schulte commented that the matter is definitely an issue and noted a teacher she knows who had to stop working for a period of time because their family could not find child care.
The chamber’s announcement of Columbus Area Childcare was made Tuesday afternoon and Brunswick noted that in two hours, a dozen people had already contacted them to request to be put on the waiting list for child care.
The chamber’s newsletter noted it has helped Columbus Area Childcare secure commitments from Becton, Dickinson and Company; Behlen Mfg. Co; Archer Daniels Midland and Pillen Family Farms to ensure the feasibility of the project. The nonprofit will continue to secure additional investments from private industry, similar to the chamber’s Drive for Five program.
“With unemployment at 2.1% in Columbus and Platte County, it is important that we have a competitive and wholesome work environment to draw professionals into. Every child care employment opening we fill allows us to keep up to 15 parents in the workforce, furthering the chamber’s workforce efforts,” said Sarah Ehlers, the chamber’s director of talent and workforce development.
“We cannot sit back and wait for the cavalry to come. We must think outside the box so the high quality of life in Columbus will continue to attract new families to our growing community. Columbus Area Childcare will be the beginning of a long-term strategic plan to bring more quality child care to the future of Columbus.”
Hannah Schrodt can be reached via email at [email protected].