A complex problem

Two bills introduced in the Minnesota Legislature aim to increase child care access and space across the state.

To Albert Lea Children’s Center Executive Director Sue Loch, however, the legislation does not address the need to pay child care teachers more, which she said is needed to increase child care access.

One bill, authored by Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, and Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, awards $3 million in grants to Minnesota Initiative Foundations for planning, coordination, training and education to expand child care access. The money is expected to be used to help providers with business improvement planning, quality mentoring and workforce development.

The second bill, authored by Sen. Jerry Relph, R-St. Cloud, and Brand, aims to have more child care spaces through the Child Care Capital Grant Program, which would provide grants to child care providers, local governments and regional economic development organizations in Greater Minnesota to cover up to 50 percent of costs to build, upgrade or expand child care facilities to meet state requirements and increase capacity.

Continue reading the Albert Lea Tribune article.

Free business coaching for minority-owned businesses

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, in partnership with Region Nine Development Commission and Faribault Diversity Coalition, is recruiting minority-owned business leaders for a new cohort of its Prosperity Initiative.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 percent of Minnesota’s population in 2040 will be people of color, an increase from only 4 percent in 1980. In response to this rapid growth, the Prosperity Initiative was designed to provide education and business resources to minority business owners and educate resource partners on the barriers and opportunities these individuals encounter.

SMIF is seeking 15 businesses to participate in a 2019 Prosperity Initiative cohort. The program provides directed, educate resource programming, while also creating a unified and coordinated resource structure, informing partners of best practices and creating opportunities for minority populations to network and access the business community. All resources are free for participating businesses. Eligible participants include minorities, women, veterans, persons with disabilities provide low-income business owners in SMIF’s 20-county region.

Continue reading the Albert Lea Tribune article.

Tackling the child care crisis at all levels

Last May U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar sat inside the conference room of the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce office building and listened to community stakeholders share child care issues during a roundtable discussion.

Chamber President Brad Gruhot said child care used to be a cost issue, but he now told the senator “it’s also an availability” issue.

“Right now, a lot of directors and in-home providers are going to tell you the joy is being taken out of the business,” Kari Condezo also told the senator. Condezo is director of the Southwest Minnesota State University Child Care Center. “A lot of in-home providers are quitting because it’s getting pushed to the regulations.”

Condezo also revealed she sees a decline in availability for child care and the waiting lists are long at all the centers. Condezo’s remarks are supported in a study conducted by the Center of Rural Policy and Development which reported Greater Minnesota lost more than 15,000 child care spots between 2006-2015. The report claims the decline is due to significant decline in in-home providers.

Meanwhile, child care has also been discussed at local county commission and city council meetings for past couple years.

Minnesota Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne held a town hall meeting in September and child care providers shared their frustrations.

It was at that meeting that Condezo pleaded with the lawmakers to do more than talk about the child care issues. She asked them to go to work.

“Minnesota is an innovative state. Be innovative,” she said.

Maybe state lawmakers heard her plea because they are finally putting the wheels in motion to address child care issues.

Two bills dealing with child care issues were introduced at the Legislature Monday. The bills authored by Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, and Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, both create and fund new grant programs with the shared goal of increasing child care capacity while fostering successful and sustainable child care business operations in Greater Minnesota.

Nicole Griensewic Mickelson, executive director of the Region Nine Development Commission and president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, hailed the bills as “a promising start to bringing more child care options to Greater Minnesota and helping providers run successful businesses,” she said.

Continue reading the Marshall Independent article.

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Two bills, one goal: Legislation aims to create long-term solutions to Greater Minnesota’s child care shortage

ST. PAUL—A pair of bills that call on the state to make modest investments to help address the critical child care shortage in Greater Minnesota were introduced today at the Minnesota Legislature.

SF 537/HF 422, authored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter), and SF 538/HF423, authored by Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud) and Rep. Brand, both create and fund new grant programs with the shared goal of increasing child care capacity while fostering successful and sustainable child care business operations in Greater Minnesota.

“A big thank you to Sen. Nelson, Sen. Relph and Rep. Brand for taking on this complicated issue,” said Nicole Griensewic Mickelson, executive director of the Region Nine Development Commission and president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP), an economic development advocacy organization that has been working with legislators to explore ways to address Greater Minnesota’s child care needs.

“Communities and businesses are reeling from the effects of the child care shortage,” Griensewic Mickelson added. “These bills are a promising start to bringing more child care options to Greater Minnesota and helping providers run successful businesses.”

While the child care shortage is a major concern across the entire state, the impact is particularly acute in rural communities. According to a study by the Center for Rural Policy and Development, Greater Minnesota lost more than 15,000 child care spots between 2006-2015—largely due to a significant decline in in-home providers. Child care centers have helped make up for the loss of in-home providers in the metro area and larger population centers, but small and medium-sized rural communities are still struggling to fill that void.

Continue reading GMNP article.

Why Greater Minnesota interests have high hopes for the 2019 legislative session

When groups representing rural Minnesota interests released their wish lists for the 2019 legislative session, some of the items looked familiar: a boost in funding for the Local Government Aid program, proposals to generate housing, more money for broadband expansion.


Yet while the issues might not be new, some of the players at the Capitol are, including Gov.-elect Tim Walz, the former U.S. congressman from Mankato whose campaign theme – “One Minnesota” – heartened some rural leaders who have long felt left behind by the Twin Cities metropolitan region.


“I’m a ‘One Minnesota’ kind of guy, so I’m kind of optimistic,” said Dan Dorman, the executive director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP), a collection of businesses, nonprofits and other groups. Dorman, a former Republican state lawmaker, said he was committed to supporting a gubernatorial candidate from Greater Minnesota – regardless of party. So, in the fall election, he filled in the oval next to the Democrat Walz’s name.


Much of the chatter at the fall convention of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), held in Alexandria, centered on the possibilities of a Walz administration, said Bradley Peterson, the executive director of the organization, which represents about 90 cities. “Our members are pretty excited that there is going to be a rural governor,” he said. “That opens up, hopefully, some opportunities and brings some fresh perspective to the process here for the next four years.”

Continue reading the MINNPOST article.

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Can child care shortage be fixed?

Something rare happened at an event last week in Alexandria.

Two DFL leaders and two Republican leaders all agreed on something — Minnesota’s child care shortage is a big problem that should be a priority in the next legislative session.

The legislators talked about possible solutions at a panel discussion Thursday, Nov. 15, during the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Fall Conference at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center. The two-day event drew hundreds of city leaders from throughout the state.

Minnesota has a greater need for child care because it ranks third in the nation for having both parents in the workforce, said Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley. Adding to the complexity of the problem is that many workers have non-traditional work hours or have children with special needs, he added.

Another panelist, Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said the child care shortage is a statewide problem and solutions for metro and rural areas require different approaches.

Continue reading the Echo Press article.

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