Accelerating Childcare Solutions in Oregon

December 10, 2019

Takeaways

Property owners will lease to a low-risk/high-profit enterprise over a higher-risk/lower-profit childcare center.
The Bend Chamber's primary goal is to find ways to lower childcare service startup or operational costs.

Like much of the nation, Oregon is in a childcare crisis. There are openings for only one in three children under the age of five in registered childcare centers and in-home providers. This is not only a crisis for families seeking affordable and high-quality childcare, it impacts employers who are struggling to attract and retain talent in a record low unemployment environment. 

The barriers to potential new childcare facilities in Oregon are often insurmountable. Providers are faced with a highly competitive commercial market where property owners will lease to a low-risk/high-profit commercial enterprise rather than a higher-risk/lower-profit childcare center. If providers want to build their own facility, property prices are out of reach. The regulatory requirements, though important, set huge financial barriers to starting new childcare businesses. And finally, providers are faced with limited resources to pay their childcare employees, resulting in low-wage jobs and high turnover.

Uniquely Positioned to Lead

A chamber of commerce is uniquely positioned to assemble partners and local employers in a given region and lead efforts to address the childcare shortage. The Bend Chamber of Commerce assumed this role and, with those regional partners, determined that the only way forward was with a private/public and collaborative approach. 

Now, a new initiative is under way that will seek financial offsets, property identification, and shared overhead. 

Our primary goal is to find ways to lower childcare service startup or operational costs. This complex task includes working with regional employers who are willing to offset these costs in exchange for securing openings for their employee’s children, raising funds from foundations and donors, and finding viable development partners to ensure efficiencies for tenant improvements and new builds. 

Needless to say, this is a fulltime effort. And with funding assistance from regional partners and employers, we have hired a Childcare Accelerator position to find a solution to this workforce and family issue. 

The role of the Accelerator position is to lead these efforts and work with the local higher education community to streamline how we build and expand childcare facilities throughout the region. This will likely be coordination through a 501c3 that will provide programming, staffing, and operation support to newly developed or expanded facilities in the region. 

The Accelerator will also work to increase quality childcare in other ways, including partnering with the regional Early Learning Hub (who deploys state funding and assistance) to find viable operators, available land/buildings, and funding to increase the number of childcare openings in the region. 

Measuring Success

The initiative will be benchmarked by measuring total additional childcare slots (openings) added to the region’s inventory over time. The Accelerator began work in November and targets in these areas are under development. We're excited to share our progress this time next year.