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News Plans under way for 24-hour child care facility

Macon Child Care and Education Center is working with town and county officials to secure state grants to open a 24-hour daycare facility in the old orthopedic building in West Franklin.County, town offers letters of support for grant funding.

The addition of a new child care facility in Macon County is one step closer to reality since Franklin Town Manager Warren Cabe issued a letter of approval on behalf of the town in support of the Macon Child Care and Educational Center (MCEC). The letter was issued on March 18 to the Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh. MCEC is currently in the process of securing a grant from the Building Reuse and Restoration Program that would allow them to proceed with their plan to open the childcare facility. The center was also required to get a letter from the county commissioners expressing the same sentiment.

According to a 2010 report by the Macon County Child Care Issues Committee, Macon County parents are in dire need for a solution concerning child care availability. The committee was initially established at the request of the county commissioners and submitted a detailed report to the board outlining the need in specific terms and data.

The committee met with local childcare providers, childcare consultants, and community experts in order to gather accurate and reliable information.

Statewide, the child care industry provides around $2.77 billion in revenue and provides 47,000 jobs. In the county, as of the 2010 study, it generated $4.8 million annually and supplied 178 jobs. The report also outlines the importance of having sufficient child care options by detailing the impacts that these facilities can have on children enrolled in them.

Among the findings:

  • Children having good early childhood education are well prepared for the public school system.
  • Children with preschool and early childhood education have higher high school graduation rates and higher college achievement results.
  • Licensed child care centers provide a safe and stable environment.
  • Parents of the children are more likely to be focused on their jobs when their children are in stable arrangements.
  • Parents who do not have stable arrangements are less likely to be on time for work, present, or efficient. Unscheduled absences costs an average of $60,000 to small business and $3.6 million to large companies annually.
  • Every $1 invested in early childhood care returns $7 or more to the community in the child's adult lifetime.

The report also compares the importance of affordable and available child care to that of affordable housing and affordable health care and the committee believes that parents value the availability of child care as much as other employee benefits.

“Jobs, housing, and child care are interrelated,” says the report. “Economic growth for Macon County is vital and, in today's society, the availability of affordable child care for young working parents and single parent families is becoming more and more important for business competitiveness and the employee's quality of life. If Macon County wants to attract new industry and new workers, an investment in quality child care capacity will be required to support economic growth. The results are well known. Business growth generates a larger tax base and supports community improvements. Child care is an investment in everyone's future.”

Though there are a number of childcare providers in the community, the report says that the county was estimated to have around 2,161 children of preschool age and only 678 available slots for these children. The data that was presented asserts that there is a need to be met within the county when it comes to offering adequate childcare options.

MCEC hopes to help address these needs. In 2009, the Town Board of Aldermen voted to extend water and sewer services out to the building on the Old Murphy Road from which MCEC has chosen to conduct their operations. The building which was once an orthopedic clinic, has been sitting vacant, waiting for the MCEC to move in. Since the decision was put on the record, the organization has pursued other requirements that are necessary to qualify for grants as well as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

“We've got the letters of support from the town and county,” said Christy Raby, executive director of MCEC. “Right now we're working on that grant so we can get the funding. We've also applied for a small business loan so we can go ahead and get started and get the building bought and the renovations started.

Once everything has been secured and the center can open, Raby says it will offer 24- hour child care to children ages six weeks to six years old as well as before and after school programs, and summer programs for children up to age 12.

“For the daycare, or pre-school age, we will be licensed to take care of 120 children per shift,” says Raby. “We'll have three shifts. It'll be 24 hours so we can serve the plants in the area and anybody else who may need the child care. Parents need child care and there is just no available care for second and third shift.”

County Commissioner Ronnie Beale agreed that children and parents in the area would benefit from an organization like MCEC.

“[MCEC] is taking the steps that they need to take,” said Beale. “Our report proves that there is definitely a need for child care options in the area, but it is a hard process to secure the funding. I'm really hopeful for the families in Macon County.”

The center will create 79 full-time jobs for Franklin and Raby hopes to have the doors open this fall.

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