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Nov 11 2023

Our Children Today, Your Business Tomorrow

Community ImpactPartners

polaroid prints of adults with their children laying atop a wood surface

Unlocking Regional Economic Growth by Addressing Childcare Challenges

Many of us share a common aspiration to secure a brighter future for our children, fueled by our yearning to see them happy, loved, and prosperous. But what do we mean when we say a ‘better future’ for them? Is it the best possible education? Is it a “good job” or “good money”? Or is it encouraging them not to repeat our mistakes?

One barrier to a better future is a deeply rooted, complex problem—unaffordable and inaccessible childcare. Childcare is often viewed as a family or personal concern, yet its significance extends to our economy’s health and regional culture. Businesses may not directly see the connection yet feel the effects and pivotal role of workforce shortages, difficulty recruiting and retaining talent, and decreased productivity.

Childcare: A Longstanding Challenge for Workforce Growth

The American childcare system finds itself mired in a prolonged period of confusion and frustration, primarily driven by a challenging financial dilemma. This quandary revolves around a fundamental paradox: childcare providers face substantial fixed costs, primarily driven by the imperative of maintaining low child-to-adult ratios. As a result, they are unable to offer competitive salaries to their staff without imposing substantial fee hikes on parents. In essence, the conundrum lies in the fact that childcare is both financially burdensome for families and generates insufficient revenue for providers to ensure long-term sustainability.

Childcare is often viewed as a family or personal concern, yet its significance extends far beyond individuals. Business owners feel the effects and the pivotal role that accessible, affordable, and quality childcare plays in shaping their workforce, productivity, and resulting economic outcomes.

Northeast Indiana Childcare Challenges

Addressing Labor Shortages: Labor shortages are among the most pressing challenges businesses face. This problem has multifaceted roots, with a significant contributor being the difficulty faced by working parents in securing affordable, accessible, and reliable childcare. When parents are unable to access quality childcare, they are often forced to make a difficult choice: leave the workforce or reduce working hours to care for their children. This reduction in available labor exacerbates shortages and hinders business growth, which in turn limits economic prosperity.

Enhancing Workforce Participation: Accessible childcare enables more parents, particularly mothers, to participate fully in the workforce. This broadens the talent pool and leads to increased diversity and perspectives. When parents can pursue their careers without the fear of sacrificing their children’s well-being, they become more productive and committed employees.

Boosting Productivity: Quality childcare services enhance employee productivity. When parents have peace of mind about their children’s care, they can focus on their jobs. This heightened concentration and dedication translate into a more productive workforce.

Fostering Innovation and Creativity: Childcare initiatives contribute to a culture of innovation and creativity. When working parents have reliable childcare support, they can dedicate more time and mental energy to their professional endeavors. This leads to greater innovation and problem-solving for organizations and communities, driving economic growth.

Supporting Business Growth: All businesses benefit from investing in childcare support for employees. Reduced turnover, increased retention, and a larger talent pool enhance a company’s ability to expand and thrive. Moreover, companies known for their family-friendly policies attract top talent and build strong reputations, driving business growth.

Economic Impact: The economic impact of accessible childcare cannot be overstated. It leads to increased workforce participation, higher productivity, and a more skilled and competitive workforce. These factors contribute to economic prosperity—regions with a well-supported childcare infrastructure are better positioned to attract businesses and investment.

  • Imagine a Northeast Indiana that is a magnet for families searching for a home community that prioritizes accessible and affordable high-quality early childhood care and education as a cornerstone of its identity.”

    Sherry Grate

    Sr. VP of Community Impact

group of early childcare educators facing forward smiling

Representatives of the Northeast Indiana Early Childcare Coalition (left to right): Kathleen Alter, Ruthie Hall, Sherry Grate, Jami Hubbard, Tammy Pifer, Allie Sutherland, Doug Clark, Jenna Anderson, Courtney Bonbrake, Camryn Hotell, Colton Bickel, Sherry Searles

What would it take to make a difference?

A small team of lifelong educators and committed community members, Allie Sutherland (Northeast Indiana Early Childcare Coalition, Bridge of Grace), Jennifer Hunter (Gensyn Design), and Sherry Grate (Ambassador Enterprises) asked two questions regarding the stress unaffordable and inaccessible childcare places on parents and families: 1) Why is the solution to this problem so elusive, and; 2) How is Northeast Indiana uniquely positioned to address this challenge with our region’s emphasis on family values, community dedication, and faith-based culture?

Ambassador Enterprises and the Northeast Regional Chamber commissioned a research study through Thomas P. Miller and Associates to support the effort and inform a solution. “The Childcare Challenge: Impact, Cost, and Opportunity in Northeast Indiana” analyzed the potential impact of an expanded childcare program in Northeast Indiana. The report indicates that the Labor Force Participation Rate is “perhaps the best measure of a region’s economic vitality,” the impact extends beyond lost wages and earnings to include low productivity, lagging sales, and lost revenue for the region and state.

Report findings have helped leverage data and opportunities at the regional level, catalyze conversations, and identify and grow partnerships. By the end of 2023, each county will have infrastructure in place through a regional coalition and a recognized leader. “The complexity and interconnectivity of this challenge requires voices and commitment beyond educators and parents. This challenge requires sincere collaboration, interdependence, and mutual trust working toward a common goal,” says Allie Sutherland.

As discussions progressed, the Northeast Indiana Early Childcare Coalition (NEIECC) team discovered that neighboring county organizations, as well as Chambers of Commerce and foundations, were already working to answer similar childcare questions. A common thread was a general lack of acknowledgment that childcare is a complex, collective issue, not solely an individual or family problem, but a mutual responsibility. Rather than compete with one another, they embraced collaboration, recognizing that their shared goals could be achieved more effectively together. And, for greater efficiency and effectiveness, every county in Northeast Indiana would have a coalition established and a leader identified by January 2024. The initiative would become a program within the Early Childhood Alliance to ensure governance and sustainability.

The Coalition collaboration reached a critical juncture with the introduction of Senate Bill 368, drawing attention and interest at the state level. A summer 2023 study committee hearing underscored the need for impactful changes, sparking more advocacy efforts.

The journey has been a collective effort, with individuals and organizations contributing to its success. Ambassador Enterprises celebrates the collaborative relationships and selfless dedication stakeholders have displayed.

Investing in our future. Looking beyond today.

Leaving a legacy transcends financial gain—it embodies a vision for the future rooted in a genuine concern for the well-being of others and your community, guided by a higher purpose and a better tomorrow. Ambassador Enterprises recognizes that when parents and families prosper, so does the workforce, the community, the customer base, and market opportunities for economic growth. A thriving community is essential for the long-term success of all our businesses.

Please join this initiative by keeping your mind and heart open to a role you and your business can play in supporting innovative childcare solutions in Northeast Indiana.

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