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Wisconsin’s child care crisis – it’s a business issue

The NEW Manufacturing Alliance to host first ever ‘Future of Work’ summit with a spotlight on child care crisis

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May 5, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – According to Ann Franz, NEW Manufacturing Alliance executive director, the Harvard Business Review describes child care not as a family issue, but a business issue – one that affects how we work, when we work and for many, why we work.

Franz said it’s an issue many families right here in Northeast Wisconsin grapple with on a daily basis – and will require the time and effort of everyone to find a solution.

COVID-19: the great eye-opener
When schools went virtual during the first phase of the coronavirus, students were forced to stay home, which Lynn Coriano – the executive director of the Basic Needs Giving Partnership – said put parents in quite a quandary.

“(But) what folks probably don’t know is that the child care (sector) pre-COVID was a pretty fragile system,” she said.
Coriano said high overhead, low-profit margins and low wages in the child care industry make it difficult to recruit and retain staff – which was only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Franz said the average wage for a child care worker is about $11 an hour.

According to the advocacy group Child Care Aware of America, American Rescue Package Act (ARPA) dollars kept many centers afloat, but since 2019, some 16,000 child care centers across 37 states have closed permanently.

Most things are back to normal following the pandemic disruption, but Coriano said the issues with child care remain. 
A community issue
Franz said it’s in a business’s best interest to be part of the solution.

“We feel to solve this issue, it’s not just a company or a daycare issue, it’s a community issue,” Franz said.
According to, the Badger State loses $1.9 billion every year in economic productivity, earnings and revenue, due to the ramifications of the child care crisis.

The United States misses out on $122 billion due to the same cause. found that 86% of working parents say child care issues have a negative effect on them, with cost among the largest issues.

As reported by, the typical Wisconsin family with an infant will spend a fifth of its annual income on child care – add a toddler, and the costs jump to a third of the family’s income.

Franz said many of the 18 counties covered by the NEW Manufacturing Alliance are also considered child care deserts – where there aren’t enough licensed slots for the number of children who need care.

A study by students at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs – a public graduate public policy school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison – found a third to half of the 774 ZIP codes in Wisconsin can be considered child care deserts.

Franz said she’s concerned Wisconsin may not be able to be as competitive as other states, because of the child care situation here. 

// Franz

“We always talk about trying to get more people to move here, and how we do not have enough people for all the jobs,” she said. “But what happens if they move here, where are they going to find child care?”

Coriano said employers do seem to be taking notice.

“Employers are feeling the pinch,” she said. “Given the cost of care and navigating the ups and downs of accessibility, more families are making a decision not to return to work, or families are moving to areas where there is more child care availability.”

Coriano said that means it’s harder for employers to retain their talent or attract it in the first place – which has resulted in some reaching out for help.

“This is the first time we’ve seen the volume of businesses reaching out and trying to understand,” she said.

Advocating for change at the policy level and at the society level, Coriano said, may be a start to turning things around for child care.
Thinking outside the box
Developing partnerships, Franz said, could be a route toward a solution.

The State of Wisconsin is offering Partner Up! grants to help offset some of the costs of child care by helping companies purchase slots at child care centers.

Getting employers to invest in child care centers, Franz said, is another possible route. 

She said several employers in the state already do so, including Ariens Company in Brillion and Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry in Manitowoc. 

Franz said Ariens has a partnership with KinderCare, which includes a site near the company with hours that accommodate the schedules of Ariens employees. 

“Ariens also offsets or subsidizes some of the cost of child care for their employees who are parents, as well as those who are grandparents (who are caring for children),” she said.

Franz said some employers provide annual daycare stipends to their employees.

Coriano said it might help if people started thinking of child care and early childhood education as key infrastructure, just like roads.

“Just as we invest in safe roads for people to get to work, we need people to be investing in the early care and education system so people can get to work,” she said.

Coriano said child care workers have been called the workforce behind the workforce. 

“Child care work allows people to get to work because they have care for their kids,” she said.

Brainstorm session
Franz said the alliance is trying to do just that.

Later this month, it will bring together thought leaders and partners throughout the region at its first-ever “Future of Work” summit.

Franz said the event – set for 8:30-10:30 a.m. May 23, at the Green Bay Botanical Garden (2600 Larsen Rd.) – aims to address the child care crisis and create solutions that will impact families and businesses.

“To come up with solutions, we need industries, we need communities, we need nonprofits – we need them all to work together to find solutions to this,” she said.

Franz said the free event – which is being hosted in partnership with the Greater Fox Valley child care Alliance and U.S. Venture – will include:
An overview of the child care crisis and the impact it has on attracting and retaining talent.A look at best practices from regional and statewide manufacturers and communities.A discussion on how you and your community can address the child care crisis. 
Franz said the intent of the summit is to delve deeper into an important topic than the alliance’s quarterly meetings usually allow.

“We have so many people out of the workforce who want to be part of the workforce, but because they do not have child care, they can’t,” Franz said. “Our companies know this is not just a problem for their employees, but it’s a problem for them. They need to be the support to help their employees through this huge issue.”

Registration for the event is due by May 12.

For more information, check out

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