CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Leaders in Montgomery County are proposing to build a childcare facility that can help hundreds of families.

According to the Tennessee Child Care Task Force, 48% of Tennessee residents live in a childcare desert.

The Clarksville Montgomery County Industrial Development Board is trying to address the problem and announced they’re inviting and welcoming proposals for an Industrial Park Childcare Facility project.

According to Vice President of Industrial Development, Shea Hopkins, conversations through their Business Retention and Expansion program, where they talk with existing businesses about their needs for growth and success, revealed that workforce concerns include many socioeconomic issues that play into hiring people and keeping them hired.

“What I identified is consistent: they were saying, ‘We don’t know where the workforce went; you know, we had these people and now we’re struggling to hire,'” said Hopkins. “What I really thought is, it’s not that we lost our workforce, it’s that the obstacles to reentering the workforce became too great.”

Her own personal experience moving to the area several months ago revealed a specific challenge – childcare.

“I had a three-year-old, and every single place that I called looking for childcare had about a two-year waitlist,” she said. “I started asking around and actually even got on some mom blogs here in the community, to kind of see if other people had experienced something similar. And that’s when I kind of went down the road of looking into what was the cost of childcare in this community and across the country. Because Clarksville-Montgomery County is still on the more affordable end for those services. So I started looking into that. It’s definitely been in the pipeline for David ‘Buck’ Dellinger as well with the EDC. This was something that he definitely was passionate about as well.”

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The RFP states the IDB is looking for an owner and operator for a childcare facility located in the South Industrial Park off Exit 8 and International Boulevard in Clarksville. The requirements include a minimum of 400-full time capacity with half the spots allocated for Industrial Park partners. The IDB’s goal is to provide affordable and reliable childcare to the industrial workforce as well as the entire region.

“Even for me, that [challenge] wasn’t factoring in cost, and there was still a two-year waitlist. That kind of concluded that if there are only certain facilities that maybe cater to a certain demographic or a certain echelon of affordability, then it even reduces your options even further,” she said. “That’s definitely a big piece of this. It wasn’t just access to childcare. It was also the affordability of that childcare.”

Hopkins explained that the pilot agreement will include some sort of land and tax incentive, but all those specific details will need approval from the industrial development board.

“We’re really taking a look at curriculum and quality of care. I think a lot of times, sometimes when you think of a facility or anything that the government steps in and does or even a private-public partnership, sometimes you don’t get the best result,” Hopkins said. “We really want this to be the best. We want to make sure that these kids and these families have access to the best that our county has to offer, and so we’re really keeping a close eye on all of those pieces as well.”

Overall, they’re trying to look ahead as Clarksville-Montgomery County sees continued growth with its population.

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“I think that growth is one thing, but growing in a sustainable, thoughtful way is really what our goal is here,” Hopkins said. “I’ve been just extremely pleased with how everyone has worked together with that kind of common goal of making sure that we’re taking care – we’re looking at childcare, we’re looking at housing, we’re looking at the way we’re growing, we’re looking at infrastructure and trying to really grow all of those things together.

All proposals must be received by July 1, 2022, at 5 p.m. Central Time for consideration in the project proposal selection process. Interested parties can find RFP information here.