Platteville leaders working toward creation of multi-million-dollar child care center

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Southwest Wisconsin health care, city and educational leaders are attempting to address one of the region’s top workforce issues: child care.

They hope to construct a new child care facility in Platteville that could provide up to 160 slots for infants through 3-year-olds, and after-school care for children up to fourth grade. The project is contingent on the receipt of federal grants, however.

“The No. 1 barrier that employers were discussing was access to reliable child care and also the cost of child care,” said University of Wisconsin-Platteville Assistant Provost Carolyn Keller, referring to feedback received at a workforce development summit earlier this year at the university.

UW-P is one of five entities that have partnered to work to bring the multimillion-dollar project to fruition. The others are Southwest Health, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, City of Platteville and Platteville School District.

Workforce shortages have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when parents, predominately women, left jobs during economic and school shutdowns to care for their children.

Families often realized that it was more economical to survive on one income rather than pay for child care services while both parents worked. Employers now are feeling the consequences, and the pressure to offer a solution has intensified.

The project not only would increase child care capacity and assist employers, but it would serve as a training ground for expanding the pipeline of child care workers, which, too, are in short supply.

As envisioned, the center would be constructed on 2 acres of a planned residential and commercial subdivision adjacent to the hospital and Eastside Road in Platteville.

The entire 27-acre subdivision is intended to be the site of commercial office space and health-related businesses, such as orthodontics and dental clinics, along with senior housing residences and long-term care facilities.

The city has agreed to provide Southwest Health with up to $2.5 million using revenue generated by the special taxing district in which Southwest Health is located.

Operational costs would be financed through tuition, possibly subsidized or covered by local employers, Keller said.

The project is contingent on the receipt of federal grants. Southwest Health recently was informed it was unsuccessful in obtaining about $7 million, but the City of Platteville awaits a response on its application for nearly $4 million, which would help finance construction.

If the city does not receive its grant, the project will be reassessed.

The Platteville School District has committed to provide busing to and from the proposed facility, as it does for other day care centers in the area, said Superintendent Jim Boebel.

“We are in full support of increasing our capacity for high quality day care in the area,” he said.