“The availability of child care in a community directly involves and affects the workforce for the businesses,” said Kurk Kramer, EDA Coordinator. “It is an issue of importance to the local economy.

EDA Coordinator Kurk Kramer said a shortage of child care openings, in communities across the state, is an issue he’s heard about for several years, from both the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and the Economic Development Association of Minnesota (EDAM). He’s also heard about it locally, from business people and parents. The issue has been one of importance for the Sleepy Eye EDA for a number of years.

“The availability of child care in a community directly involves and affects the workforce for the businesses,” said Kramer. “It is an issue of importance to the local economy.”

Kramer explained several years ago he learned of a DEED grant program for the start-up of child care centers. “I shared the information with Tri-Valley at that time, asking them if they had an interest in adding an early childcare program to their facility, since they were doing it in a couple other communities.”

The work with Tri-Valley culminated in the opening of a child care center in their migrant school facility in March 2017. However, by late that November, Tri-Valley announced to staff, parents, and Kramer, that a decision had been made to close the center due to a financial strain on their organization. They said they intended to close by mid-December.

“Well, this set every parent that had children there, about 28 kids, into a frenzied panic,” said Kramer. “Where were they going to get child care? These parents were checking all available centers and home providers within an hour radius of Sleepy Eye and there just was not anything available for up to a year and a half wait.”

The EDA worked with Tri-Valley to keep the center going, agreeing to provide payments for deficits incurred, while also assisting in the establishment of an independent center to take over the operation.

In January of 2018, a board of directors was formed for the Little Sprouts Learning Center. Even though the organization would be operating in the already established child care center, the process of obtaining licensing from the State of Minnesota was a long one and Little Sprouts Learning Center officially opened on Aug. 13.

Kramer said he’s aware of questions about Little Sprouts Learning Center’s location. “As the EDA was in the process of assisting LSLC to get organized and put down roots, we did explore the possibility of other locations,” he said. “There was not anything that would work due to size requirements and other facility needs. There is no plan to move the location at this time. Recently the mayor, city manager, and I held a teleconference with Tri-Valley Board represen-tatives, the CEO, and Financial Office. We discussed what their vision and expectations were of having LSLC in the facility and what our expectations of them were. We all agreed that our expectations were similar and cooperative.”

Kramer said the EDA continues it discussions on their support for the center. He said LSLC is currently in the process of an application for an EDA loan.

Parents invited to visit Little Sprouts Learning Center

The staff and board of LSLC are having an open house on Wednesday, March 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. They invite parents to check out the classrooms, meet staff and see what the kids have been working on at the center.

Joy Wiese, Center Director, said the toddler and preschool rooms currently have openings. Wiese said there are periodic openings for infants and the center keeps a waiting list for infants.

“We are happy in our location,” said Wiese. “Even in the winter we try to have some outside playtime, if the weather allows. And if we can’t go outside, we do have space inside for the kids to use up some energy with large muscle activities.”