Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Selects Five Communities to Address Child Care Shortage

Monday, February 25, 2019

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) has selected five communities to participate in a new program called Communities Addressing the Child Care Shortage. More than one dozen applicants from across SMIF’s 20-county region applied to participate in this program. 

Child care is an economic driver for communities in greater Minnesota, and child care shortages have a dramatic impact on families and the local economy. Recent research shows that in SMIF’s region, there is a potential need of 8,919 licensed child care slots. When families cannot find child care, they are unable to fully participate in the workforce and may eventually leave the area in pursuit of other opportunities. 

Each community will work with SMIF for 6 to 18 months to develop individualized action plans to address local child care needs. The selected communities are:

  • Albert Lea (Albert Lea Economic Development Agency), short 315 slots
  • Austin (United Way of Mower County), short 847 slots
  • City of Eagle Lake, short 107 slots
  • Watonwan County (Watonwan County Early Childhood Initiative), short 337 slots
  • City of Wells, short 102 slots

Selections were made based on shortage numbers, community readiness and core team participation. Representatives from a variety of sectors will be involved in a core team throughout this process, ranging from City and County economic development staff, employers, elected officials, child care providers, Chamber of Commerce leaders, and more.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the child care shortage,” said Teri Steckelberg, Early Childhood Director at SMIF. “We look forward to sitting down with each core team to develop a plan that is best suited for their unique needs.”

After completing the process, these communities will become eligible for competitive grants of up to $10,000 to support the implementation of their plans.

For more information contact Teri Steckelberg at or 507- 214-7015. 

This program is partially funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.


About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $111 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 32 years. SMIF's key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit