Mason City, St. Ansgar, Sheffield child care projects receive state grants

MASON CITY — Projects in Mason City, St. Ansgar and Sheffield are among 23 that were awarded almost $27 million by Governor Reynolds this week to help businesses jumpstart new child care opportunities and make it easier for Iowans to find child care options through their employer.

The Child Care Business Incentive Grant awarded $25.9 million to address 19 infrastructure projects, while four other projects are getting $600,000 to support agreements between businesses and local centers that create new child care slots.

The North Iowa Child Care Slot Expansion consortium in Mason City was awarded $76,500 for 17 new slots. It’s a unique partnership between Curries and Sukup Manufacturing, Charlie Brown and Newman child care centers, the Mason City Chamber of Commerce and Child Care Resource and Referral.

Chamber vice president Collen Frein says when the funding became available, she set out to figure out how much capacity there was for expanding child care in the area’s existing child care facilities.  “What we discovered is between Newman Catholic Schools child care and Charlie Brown child care, there are close to 80 spots that could be filled with kids, however they just don’t have the workforce to be able to support those added kids. What we have done is then reached out to employers to see which of those might be interested in reserving slots for child care for their employees, so they will pay a fee to reserve those slots.”

Frein says in turn, those companies’ employees will have first access up to a certain number for those slots in the child care center, and the centers will be able to stabilize their workforce.  “What this will allow is for Charlie Brown and Newman to revisit their worker wages, hopefully raise wages a little bit or to incentivize new workforce, and bring on new workers that can support those new child care slots being opened up. We’re really looking forward to expanding our child care population by at least 17 kids, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but in this world, 17 kids is something we’ll take.”

Frein says access to quality child care is still a major factor in employees’ ability to work, with some area child care centers having waiting lists for up to three years.  “We know that there is a need to expand our child care availability. From an employer’s standpoint, if your employee doesn’t have care for their children, they’re not going to be able to come to work, and if they don’t have care that they can depend on, they might miss shifts, they might have to come late. We see this by trying to improve the child care situation in north Iowa, it’s really a win-win for the employee, for the employer, and of course for the kids.”

Looking at the other two area awards:


== The St. Ansgar Employer Consortium will be able to expand the Wee Saints Day Care Center to accommodate 55 additional children, while developing partnerships for ongoing operational support from the business community. 


== Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield in collaboration with the West Fork School District, UBTC and Apple Daycare are planning to build a new child care facility that would provide a capacity of up to 150 child care slots with an immediate need to accommodate 50 slots for Sukup Manufacturing as well as drop-in and additional slots for Sheffield residents.