The pandemic has been challenging for many people and businesses. One area hit particularly hard is that of childcare. 

A pressing community and workforce need of the central Minnesota region is access to quality, affordable, and economically sustainable childcare. 

Due to the pandemic, a lot of childcare facilities and the businesses that relied on them had to close as families were forced to take their kids out. And many could no longer afford it.

Some businesses now want their workers back, but a lack of childcare options has made it challenging.

The Initiative Foundation is trying to help with this crisis. The foundation is a regional community organization established in 1986, which serves the economic and community development needs of 14 counties, 163 cities and two sovereign tribal nations of Central Minnesota.

The Initiative Foundation provides Resources for childcare solutions such as people wanting to enter the field of childcare and the facilitation and exploration of sustainable business models for communities and employees trying to solve various issues. The foundation provides both grants and gap lending.

“In our regions’ 14 counties, they’re short between 13 or 14,000 slots of childcare,” Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for community & workforce development, stated. “And if that many people could return to work, we would not be short workers. It’s not the universal cure-all, but it’s definitely one of the barriers.”

The last several years, the state legislature has been authorizing the Initiative Foundation to receive grant support from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in order to identify what the challenges and opportunities are, and to create more access to affordable, economical and sustainable childcare.

The most important partner in this effort, according to Hickman, is First Children’s Finance based in Minneapolis. They are a CDFI (community development financial institution) which receives funding from the U.S. Treasury to lend. Their expertise is strictly childcare. 

“If someone wants to build a childcare center, they will come in and tell you if the local economy can support it,” Hickman said, “or if you are looking at home-based care, which tends to be more affordable and less regulated, but maybe shorter hours than a center.”

“Anyone interested in exploring childcare as a career can gain the credentials,” said Hickman, “whether it’s a certificate or four year degree, to enter the field virtually at no cost.”

Those interested in gaining childcare credentials, looking for childcare solutions or wanting to receive more information, can contact Don Hickman via email at or by phone at(320) 631-2043.

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