by Jim Schuessler, Executive Director, DCEDC
When considering all that comes together to make a healthy community, you’ll always find factors such as a healthy job market, adults who want to work, amenities and recreation that make for a thriving economic ecosystem. Here’s a variable you don’t always see: day care, especially for non-first-shift and part-time employees.
It’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem in Door County, particularly in Sturgeon Bay. There are often hundreds of open jobs in Door County at any given time, and many of those are at local companies that offer living wages, benefits and career-advancement potential.
Unfortunately, many jobs are outside first-shift, and the seasonal nature of our county often means part-time employment, at least during certain seasons. That can create a problem for single parents – a much larger segment of society today – or families with two working parents. When parents are both working late shifts, how are their children cared for?
Most of the child care in the area is limited to traditionally first-shift hours, so parents end up creating a patchwork solution of neighbors, relatives or friends to care for their kids while they work, but that’s not possible for everyone, and it’s not a long-term solution. The result of this shortage is that people who would otherwise be great candidates for open jobs are declining them because they can’t find child care.
We are consistently told by elected officials, candidates, individuals, local employers and social-service agencies that there is an unmet need: a shortage of licensed day care in general, but particularly during off-hours. There are 161,000 total spaces in child care programs in Wisconsin, including licensed family child care homes, child care centers and programs for school-age children, the vast majority of which operate on a regular day-shift schedule.
We know Door County can do better, and DCEDC is here to help.
If there are non-first-shift child care providers who want to build up their businesses, or if there are people who are interested in starting such businesses, reach out to the DCEDC. We have already been working with one enthusiastic group seeking to help address the need.
DCEDC, in partnership with the Small Business Development Center at UW-Green Bay, can help with building a business plan, financing, location consulting and other services – including helping find clients who need non-first-shift child care – to get these businesses off the ground.
It’s all about making it easier for people to work and take part in the great things Door County has to offer. Addressing what we need to do to ensure that people earn living wages, companies meet their customers’ expectations, and we achieve thriving communities adds up to a more sustainable Door County.