Childcare continues to be a challenge for Idaho communities large and small.
However, the Child Care Expansion Grant Program, administered by the Idaho Workforce Development Council, has offered assistance to communities
One such community to benefit from this grant, with the help of a local Rural Economic Development Professional, is Driggs.
Amplifying its economic development efforts through the Rural Economic Development Professionals grant program, the BRE team partners with 18 experts located in Idaho’s seven regions. Rural communities can tap into the Idaho Rural Economic Development Professionals grant program (Rural ED Pro) which awards grants, in tandem with local funding, to hire full-time economic development professionals. Experts are managed by a local board and work on initiatives such as business retention, expansion, attraction, community development and more.
Brian McDermott has been a Rural Economic Development Professional with the Teton Regional Economic Coalition, funded through Idaho Commerce, for over a decade.
During that time, he said their community has shifted focus from business attraction and tourism to more pressing issues like workforce, housing and childcare.
To address the issue, Driggs Mayor, August Christensen, and other community members formed the Collaborative for Early Learning.
As a member of the Collaborative, the Teton Regional Economic Coalition stepped up to serve as the financial administrator for the Child Care Expansion Grant, which awarded $1.17 million to create a new childcare center in Driggs.
After a community member donated a 4,500 square-foot home to serve as a new cooperative center for early care and learning, the community got to work relocating and renovating the space.
At the time of publishing, the foundation has been finished and the house is ready to be placed.
McDermott said when the center is complete it will serve 74 children and increase childcare availability in Teton Valley by 51% for essential workers including teachers and firefighters who need care for
“One of the beautiful things about rural Idaho is we know each other, we work together, we socialize together and we come together to solve problems, and that is what Mayor August Christensen and the Teton Regional Economic Coalition were able to do,” McDermott said. “With good leadership, a community can accomplish anything.”