Local economists look to add childcare services to Coulee region to attract more workers

As the CEO of the 7 Rivers Alliance Chris Hardie took the podium at the State of the Region, there was one glaring issue facing the area economy.

“We need to do a better job promoting our region as a great place to live and work,” said Hardie.

Hardie projects that the coulee region will be short by around 16,000 workers in 7 years.

“It would be easier to say what jobs we don’t compete in.”

Hardie says that the La Crosse Area lacks one major service potential employers want.

“One of the first questions they have after a place to live is what’s the childcare situation.”

The Coulee Children’s Center is one of only a few area child care centers.

“We have a pretty lengthy waiting list.”

Director Angie Wells understands why other places for kids to play aren’t opening up as easily.

“It takes a lot of money to run a building. It takes a lot of money to feed children throughout the day, and we just don’t have the tax dollars coming in like a school program does.”

Combined with expensive upkeep, the center has a hard time hiring as well.

“Our teachers don’t make a lot. Our directors don’t make a lot.”

“The challenge of the business model of childcare is that it’s not a profitable one,” said Hardie.

Hardie has met with Wells and other childcare leaders on ways to promote more child care in La Crosse. But he admits that creating spaces to help raise a child takes a village.

“This is businesses needing to step forth. This is parents needing to step forth. And the entire community to say ‘look, this is really important to us to have quality childcare.”

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