The Finney County Economic Development Corp. is opening up a workforce needs study to Finney County businesses, intending to give them a closer look at their workforce and gauge local employees’ desire and need for expanded childcare services.

The FCEDC recently completed the study with a local business, which has about 100 employees in larger cities across western Kansas, FCEDC Strategic Analyst Shannon Dick told the FCEDC board of directors Wednesday.

Several of the questions in the study pointed directly to childcare, asking how many workdays in the past year had the employee missed because of childcare issues or if they felt their area needed more childcare options.

“So, we can start to put some numbers from the business perspective of the childcare need to build that case,” Dick said.

Beyond that, the study asked employees about their company, Dick said. How satisfied are you with your work/life balance? How valued do you feel at your place of work? How could your place of work improve that balance or internal communications? The result, Dick said, was a study that benefitted the company while connecting the corporation with vital information.

The study gave the FCEDC a look at what mattered to employees across the region, Hahn said. Participants’ thoughts on several subjects varied from place to place, but their belief that the area needed more childcare services was consistent, she said. This was an issue prevalent throughout western Kansas, she said.

The lone, initial survey had a high response rate, and showed several useful datapoints regarding childcare, Dick said. Fifty-three percent of responders said they would need or are planning to need childcare within the next three years. Of responders that had children, 80.6 percent missed at least one day of work due to childcare issues and almost 25 percent missed at least five days for the same reasons, Dick said.

“That’s a significant amount of misproduction because of childcare issues that we found in this one business...” Dick said. “Eighty percent of the people in this place said that Garden City does need more childcare options.”

FCEDC President and CEO Lona DuVall told the board that a foundation had shown interest in investing in childcare facilities and had asked the FCEDC for estimates on construction costs. DuVall said a contractor would be providing the cost estimates soon. Construction funding for childcare centers, unlike operational costs, has long been an unsolved problem, DuVall said. An existing building in town could potentially serve as a large center and home for executive offices, she said.

Dick said the FCEDC was working with other businesses interested in conducting an identical or similar study, and hoped to offer it to as many local businesses as possible over the next several years.

The cost to conduct the study will vary depending on the number of employees, requested changes to the survey and complexity of the delivery and analysis processes, DuVall said. For the next several months, the FCEDC will offer the service for approximately $300 per business with 50 to 100 employees, about a $500 discount from its typical rate, she said. Translations are available, but would likely add to the cost. 

Questions about workforce development and the company itself can be customized to the business, he said.

On top of the data the studies would provide, the FCEDC also would tabulate how much employees missing work because of childcare issues cost their companies, Dick said.

The first company had come to the FCEDC about the study directly after hearing staff members present about childcare in the past, DuVall said. They wanted to better understand how the issue was affecting their company specifically.

“Anecdotally, I think every employer knows there’s issues...” DuVall said. “But being able to actually do a survey and really get specific numbers for their own company makes a big difference because it allows them to really quantify what it’s costing them, and then they can make those decisions. If it’s costing us $100,000 in productivity every year, is it worth investing $50,000, $60,000, whatever, to ensure that you have those in place?”

“Obviously having childcare available isn’t going to fix every productivity issue that companies have, but if it’s low-hanging fruit and you know it’s going to have a large impact, you want to do it,” DuVall said.

In other business:

• DuVall said Flat Mountain Brewhouse, 207 N. Main St., has begun advertising positions on Facebook and hoped to open shortly after the new year.

• The owners of Pinky’s Grilled Cheestro have found a permanent location in downtown Garden City that they plan to renovate. DuVall said the FCEDC was working on helping the business obtain an E-Community loan. DuVall said she could not yet disclose the address.

• FCEDC Project Manager Nicole Hahn said the FCEDC likely will post its new relocation guide, a go-to digital resource for Garden City newcomers, to its website in early December. The guide will include a directory of local real estate companies, restaurants, employment offices, healthcare services, churches, banks and financial institutions, hairdressers and spas, parks, entertainment options and other resources for those new to town.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.