Local workers and employers soon will be able to connect more easily with childcare openings.

Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County’s board approved $5,000 to pair with a $21,500 grant from Duke Energy and Indiana Economic Development Association foundations for a year’s subscription to an online directory service and creating a child care subsidy program.

TOOTRiS is described as an “in-between solution” to the area’s lack of sufficient childcare options because it won’t add facilities or seats, but could help connect providers with parents to fill vacancies. 

EDC received “very positive references” for the California-based company, President Valerie Shaffer said. 

TOOTRiS will analyze local child care opportunities and help list organizations and home-based providers online. Families then can search, sign up and arrange payroll deductions.

EDC’s Theresa Lindsey said she feels the program could be a “gamechanger” for the community if employers engage, and would improve visibility of home-based providers who might have a few spots available.

In future years, companies would be responsible for paying $1.25 per employee per month to use the platform. Lindsey said that investment is still usually less than the cost of replacing one employee who leaves because of childcare issues.

EDC and Forward Wayne County have been seeking childcare solutions, including adding more seats and increasing the number of trained childcare workers, after surveying local employers and workers last year about obstacles. Child care was the No. 2 requested benefit behind tuition reimbursement. 

Housing update

The board approved $12,500 for a consultant to update data about local housing development opportunities, since rents and the housing market have substantially changed in recent years.

EDC staff said new data would help them and developers understand current local subsidized and market rates, which is needed to maintain developers` attention. Board members and staff said time is of the essence because upcoming Interstate 70 expansion could lead to faster Indianapolis commutes and thus grow local bedroom communities. 

If developers ask for funding to make projects viable, data will help with investment decisions, Shaffer said. This countywide study would include apartments, single-family homes and senior housing.

The consultant’s previous study also didn’t include low-income housing.

In other business

  • Approved $20,500 for Irongate Creative to help implement Home in Wayne marketing to attract new or returning residents. Workshops will be conducted to build a broader community brand with help from strategic partners.
  • EDC staff gathered information for four new potential attraction projects leads from Indiana EDC. One manufacturer could add 300 to 500 jobs in plastic and metal forming, investing $45 million. Another might add 200 jobs and invest $200 million to make exterior home products. A wire manufacturer might invest at least $9.8 million and add 68 jobs. A tire recycler could invest $150 million and create 25 jobs.   
  • Shaffer also met with Earlham College, Indiana University East and community leaders to identify projects for their Lilly Endowment grant applications, and hosted developers who might collaborate with Earlham on downtown redevelopment opportunities.
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A version of this article appeared in the July 19 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.