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Eco Devo’s childcare center nearly fully funded
Grant gets GBED close to goal
GBED Inc logo

Great Bend Economic Development President Sara Hayden had some exciting news when she addressed the City Council Monday regarding the GBED’s planned new $1.6 million childcare facility.

“We were just awarded pretty much the last bit of our funding for our childcare project, Hayden said. “We had a large grant come through. We are now 95% funded. It has been a long time coming and we’ve had a lot of partners helping to work on this.”

She did say they aren’t at liberty to release the name of this donor at this time.

Now, she has called the childcare board together. This consists of major employers throughout the area, public partners, school partners and childcare specialists – 11 in all.

“This group is going to get together,” she said. “We hope to have our job description out by the end of the month till start looking for that executive director person.”

And, if all goes as planned depending labor and supply shortages, their architectural (GLMV Architects of Wichita) firm has the finalized plans and is still thinking they should be able to break ground in the fall.

“So we’re very excited to move forward and share that with you,” she said. “We’ll keep you posted as we have more details on that.”

Hayden, during a council study session after the agenda meeting regarding agency budget requests, said her requests included $70,000 to fund the director job for the first year. However, she noted those funds could be used for another full-time position at GBED.

However, Mayor Cody Schmidt had an issue with this.

“I totally support childcare, but what if it’s not completed for two more years? Are we going to continue to find that $70,000 for that position until it’s filled??” he said. “That one’s a little tough on me.”

“We are going to already start the hiring process for this position, and the goal was that this person would be in place before the completion of the center,” Hayden said. “We’re going to need that person who is licensed and the expert to come on board and pick curriculum, hire the specialists that they’ll have and help us to get the building process right.”

She stressed she wanted the council to look at this money as funding a staff position, be it the director or a GBED employee.  

They have a location selected for the center, she said. The current property owner wants to keep it private for now, but the site is centrally located.

The planning for this was done by a childcare task force under GBED. They are working closely with Garden City to duplicate successful efforts there. 

The Finney County Childcare and Early Learning Network board was formed in 2019 and began work in identifying spaces that could accommodate childcare. The group has been awarded tax credits to help expand services to address long-term workforce requirements in the growing community.

Hayden’s group is developing a self-sustaining childcare center in Great Bend. This is just the start and they hope to continue with this model and establish centers in other county communities.

She said they will not compete with existing childcare providers. Instead, they want to network with them and offer assistance where needed.