Yesterday, Traverse Connect and our partners in the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance celebrated the culmination of collective work in the childcare space. Stacie Bytwork, Alliance chair, joined legislative leaders and the governor to unveil a package of childcare initiatives inside the Michigan State Capitol. Childcare is one of the Alliance’s top policy priorities because of its impact on the region’s availability of talent. The Alliance is comprised of 16 chambers and economic development organizations, including Traverse Connect, and over 7,000 member businesses from across northern Michigan.
“Our businesses are so hungry for talent that we are entering policy spaces like housing and childcare,” said Warren Call, president and CEO of Traverse Connect. “We know that quality childcare is a barrier for our regional business community and this bill package builds upon other community efforts in this space, like the tri-share childcare pilot.”
The announcement included a package of eight bills addressing both regulatory reform and supply building to support providers and increase their capacity and strength. Many of the proposals are the product of a work group consisting of legislators; child-care providers; Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration; and Traverse Connect and Alliance Director of Government Relations, Kirstie Sieloff. Legislation includes giving providers time to comply with new health and safety rules by allowing a 90-day grace period for implementation; ensuring documentation for each provider is easily accessible for three years, rather than varying retention periods; helping expand and support family childcare provider supports by creating Family Child Care Networks; and more.
The House bill sponsored by our county’s very own State Representative John Roth helps providers co-locate where families live and work by giving childcare providers a safe path to locate in multi-use buildings. This legislation is inspired by the Commongrounds development here in Traverse City, where efforts to locate childcare near families encountered hurdles.
“Commongrounds is excited to see the introduction of a bill that simultaneously ensures childcare is provided in a safe environment that protects children, while also reducing unnecessary barriers to locating childcare in the neighborhoods where parents work and live,” said Kate Redman, Commongrounds Project Director. “This change is essential to help communities and projects like ours take action to invest in long-term childcare solutions that meet the urgent needs of their communities.”
The Alliance has partnered with the Great Start Collaborative of Traverse Bay to ensure policy solutions meet the needs of northern Michigan and have the intended effect of increasing access to quality childcare.
“Childcare is a critical part of our economy, and in short supply in many communities,” said Mary Manner, coordinator of the Great Start Collaborative of Traverse Bay. “With greater co-location of childcare facilities in multi-use buildings, we envision thriving communities where childcare is so well integrated into our downtowns, suburban office parks, and industrial complexes, and such an everyday part of life, that we won’t remember a time when we struggled to find care for our babies.”