I’ve been in this job for three and a half years now. When I started, I fielded two common requests: large industrial buildings and large greenfield sites that could potentially host an industrial building. Those are still among the more common requests, but lately, they’ve been overwhelmed by a search for a new type of building: an adequate child care facility.
Nothing in my urban planning education prepared me for dealing with a child care shortage. Lived experience was a different story, however, as I moved back to the Northland and found so many of my peers struggling to find affordable, quality care for their kids. The search for a solution seemed overwhelming, and a lack of resources could easily have left us all feeling helpless.
Northspan’s data services, which are made possible by Northland Connection, gave us a place to start. After the Northland Foundation released its 2018 report “The Economic Impacts of the Child Care Shortage in Northeastern Minnesota,” we jumped into action and began analyzing child care demand across sub-regions of northeast Minnesota. We dived into state code and undertook a rapid education in what makes for a good facility, and we have since toured former churches and assisted living facilities and tried to assess how difficult it would be to add a commercial kitchen or an outdoor playground. We’ve partnered with the Northland Foundation to use our demographic data and property listings to compile information on the resources necessary to build a business case for a new facility. That work is now spinning off into other opportunities as we help communities connect potential child care providers with the resources they need to succeed.
Our response to the child care shortage is just the latest in a long list of examples of how Northland Connection seizes on issues that affect the region and helps get a response off the ground. Whatever the next major regional issue may be, our data and expertise is on hand to help.