The cost and availability of childcare has been identified as a barrier for individuals that may consider entering the workforce. The estimated need for childcare slots is 1,377 in Riley County and 511 in Pottawatomie County alone. Think how many individuals could reenter the workforce if we could begin to address these shortages. Source: Child Care Aware of Kansas
That is why Chamber leadership has identified it as something our organization should be focusing on an economic development strategy. But what is something we could do to help?
We had a task force made up of providers, business leaders and other interested organizations that began tackling this issue in 2021. The top strategy that came from this discussion was a new facility to assist entrepreneurial childcare ventures get off the ground.
The term we are using is an accelerator. This accelerator would have multiple pods for individuals to start a childcare business. They can access services, training and mentorships with the idea that after a set period of time, they would move that “business” either to their home or another site. The process for identifying new childcare providers would begin again.
Significant time has been put into this process with an eye to potential grants from the State of Kansas through rescue funds received in 2021. The State of Kansas has finally put together an RFP for these funds and our group, led by the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, is planning to submit an application.
We have identified potential sites and partners and are beginning the process of submission. I want to acknowledge several people putting in hours of volunteer work to get this done including Matt Crocker with SPS, Natalie Gordon with Anderson Knight Architects, Lowell Kohlmeier with KS StateBank and Kasey Kyle Wilkinson with MHK Play Studio. Also, a big thanks to Vern Henricks with GMCF and our own George Kandt who has been coordinating.
I’m optimistic about our opportunity to receive funds and believe it will be a significant opportunity to create a long-term positive impact on the childcare shortage in Manhattan. We’ll keep you updated on our progress.