With a daycare (and worker) shortage in Becker County as well as surrounding areas, some employers are getting creative with their solutions.
Ecumen in Detroit Lakes has recently applied for a $50,000 grant, funded by the LeadingAge Minnesota Foundation, to open a daycare on site in an "underutilized area" of their campus.
The grant, which Katie Lundmark, Ecumen's Executive Director, says will be a "catalyst" for the project, is designated "to allow service providers to do that innovative idea...to help workforce needs."
Ecumen finds out at the end of January if they will receive the grant, and if they do they're going to move "quick," said Laura Boreen, Ecumen's Human Resource Director.
However, it won't be a quick fix. There are regulations to go through, among other obstacles.
"The regulations that fall under the daycare providers are very specific," said Lundmark, adding that one regulation, for example, is "they need a special bathroom (specifically for the children)."
The hope is that the grant will be enough to get the space renovated to regulation standards and get the daycare up and running.
"It's really expensive to get the daycare up and running," said Lundmark, adding that the beginning will be the biggest hurdle--after that the hope is the child care facility will then generate enough money for itself to stay up and running.
If they get the money, Lundmark says the first priority will be making sure all the staff has the chance to fill daycare spots. Then, if there's any room left, they'd open it up to the public.
"I just know the benefits," Lundmark said, adding that in the past, she has worked at a business that provided child care.
"Having a stable daycare provider--it really makes a difference in your ability to be a successful employee."
According to a survey done by the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce, 80 out of 275 employees (just shy of 30 percent) from four different Detroit Lakes companies, said childcare was a concern for them.
When broken down further, 59 of the 80 said day care cost was a challenge, 59 said availability was a concern, 49 said daycare hours of operation didn't line up with their work schedules, and 25 said daycare location was an issue.
So the concern is there, and until the grant comes through, Ecumen has a few initiatives in place to make sure their employees are as successful as possible.
For one, they have a Families Helping Families program, which is basically an employee funded grant program, set aside for employees who may be struggling to make ends meet.
Boreen says the company has used the money to help employees pay for groceries, and it would certainly be available for employees struggling with the cost of daycare.
Then there's a scholarship program, which now has a daycare assistance component to it.
The scholarship, which is money set aside for employees who are in school, pays for the remainder of an employee/student's tuition after state and federal grants.
"What they would have taken out in a loan experience, we're going to cover that," Boreen said, adding that now child care is covered as well.
"We see staff that struggle," said Lundmark, adding that the company has been having discussions on ways to help employees overcome these hurdles.
"We have the best employees. We appreciate them all," said Boreen, adding, "We want to work with people."