Ashland building childcare center to help expand employment opportunities

Shaun H. Ruff

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ASHLAND, Ohio  — Plans for a new child care center in the heart of Ashland are coming to life as the city aims to help expand employment opportunities to parents in need.

The new childcare center is set to be built on donated land on Ford Drive in Ashland Business Park, home to 27 businesses with a total of 1,200 full-time equivalent employees. Plans for the center include an initial capacity to serve up to 150 children—infants through school age—with room for expansion.

“Our Women’s Fund Child Care Initiative began about two years ago when we posed the question at our annual retreat:’ What is the number one thing that holds women back in Ashland County?’ And so that discussion ended up centering around child care, so that is what our child care initiative was born,” said Kristin Aspin, Chief Program Officer of Ashland County Community Foundation. “In the very early stages, we learned from speaking with parents, employers, childcare providers and others that childcare for many families in our community is unaffordable and unaccessable. So primarily, we need more child care spaces for all ages in our community from infant through school age, with a huge emphasis on more infant care and more toddler care.”

The need for child care at that age is crucial in Ashland County. According to the Ashland County Community Foundation, there are more than 3,000 children under the age of five in the county but only 56 licensed toddler childcare options and just 26 licensed infant options. There are no centers open beyond the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

“Employers want to be able to recruit talent, retain talent, and parents want to be able to work and provide for their families. And child care is an obstacle for many,” Aspin said.

Mayor Matt Miller said that the effort to open the child care center directly addresses a major need in the city of Ashland.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the Ashland community is finding enough men and women to fill all the job vacancies that exist at our many area manufacturers and small businesses,” Miller said. “This is a great example of a community working together to solve a problem that exists within their borders.”

An individual wanted to help the city create more child care option and donated the plot of land in the heart of the business area. A non-profit organization has committed to running the child care center, which also allows it to receive grants to keep it in operation once it does open. The center will feature income-based child care rates as well as employer-supported institution programs and an endowment fund will help sustain operations.

Much of the Ashland community came together to support the center—from Family Services, the Chamber of Commerce, local law enforcement, churches, and others in the nonprofit sector—the project was a true collaboration.

“It’s a $4.5 million project to include the endowment fund, a component of $1 million. We have raised $3.2 million of that today,” Aspin said.

Families like Roeliff “Bubba” Pryor’s are looking forward to having a child care center that they will be able to utilize in ways they are unable to know.

“I would say the biggest hurdle for us has been the time availability, not having access to something early in the morning to drop the kids off,” Pryor said. “I think it would take a lot of stress on my significant other if I could help pick them up or take them to daycare or if they could stay there a little later, if I had to work over something like that. I feel like that would be a big plus for us.”

Aspin said expanding the access to child care for working parents will not only help those who may be struggling to balance things now, but may also encourage those unable to seek employment due to a lack of childcare to soon enter the workforce.

“This initiative and having this child care center available allows parents to enter the workforce, remain in the workforce, advance their careers, provide for their families,” Aspin said. “We’re looking not only to help those that are already employed but really ultimately to help those people who are not yet employed, who want to be employed.”

Construction on the new child care center is expected to begin in early 2023 with hopes that the center will be able to open and begin operation by the start of the 2023 school year.

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