DEED holds roundtable to share child care solutions

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development held a roundtable Monday with child care experts and government officials to discuss ways to increase child care availability in the state. The discussion came just a few days after DEED announced a new partnership related to child care.

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BEMIDJI -- A virtual roundtable regarding the importance of child care when it comes to economic growth was held Monday.

Hosted by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the digital discussion featured government officials and child care policy advocates from across the state. Locally, Erin Echternach, assistant director of Greater Bemidji Economic Development and a state child care taskforce member, joined the call.

During the discussion, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said for Greater Minnesota, child care slots are nearly 80,000 shot.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't hear from one business owner or another about how important child care is to our economy," Grove said. "It's been a year where every parent has had to figure this out, and even before the pandemic, Minnesota had major challenges with child care."

Before opening the floor to other participants in the roundtable, Grove touted DEED's Child Care Economic Development grant program, which helps entrepreneurs and would-be providers of child care start building their businesses.


In her comments, Echternach followed up on the state program support by stressing the importance of public-private partnerships.

"I'd say the private sector is very receptive and want to help in any way they can," Echternach said. "There are opportunities for employers to participate in solutions for child care. Specifically, one recommendation is to allow four licenses per employer, so they would own the family child care license. That would be huge, especially in Greater Minnesota. Right now, they can only operate with one license. If a business could get four, that would add capacity for an entire community."

DEED's roundtable took place just a few days after the agency announced a new partnership with First Children's Finance. On April 2, DEED announced that First Children's Finance will provide business and financial assistance to child care businesses across the state via the Minnesota Small Business Development Centers Network.

"Without access to affordable child care, parents can't earn a living, businesses can't recruit reliable workers and children miss out on early educational opportunities," said Grove in an announcement release. "We look forward to First Children's Finance and the SBDC Network helping to increase the number of child care providers in Minnesota and improving their success at businesses."

"With consultants located in every region of the state, First Children's Finance has 30 years of experience helping Minnesota child care providers navigate the business of child care," Suzanne Pearl, Minnesota director at First Children's Finance, said in the release. "We are thrilled to partner with the Minnesota SBDC Network to reach even more of these small businesses."

The assistance provided through the SBDC Network will be at no cost to businesses. First Children's Finance is a nonprofit community development financial institution.

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