Grants and other contributions to Regal Academy Child Care Center might free up money for other child care investment opportunities in the community.

A large non-profit child care center just east of Crookston might not only be open for business by the end of 2019, it might not even need the $50,000 that the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority agreed a couple months ago to contribute in order to make Regal Academy Child Care Center a reality.

CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth told his board of directors Tuesday that since they green-lighted the contribution, several grants have been pursued and subsequently awarded to the child care center. They include $7,500 from Halstad Telephone Company, $10,000 from Otter Tail Power Company, and $10,000 from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. In addition, the Crookston Township Association Board is considering a $1,500 contribution, and Erika Leckie, who would presumably manage the center, has said she will invest the $16,000 remaining in a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development grant in the renovations necessary at the former Sisters of St. Joseph Marywood Residence/Glenmore Recovery Center on Highway 2 east of Crookston.

That all adds up to around $45,000, Hoiseth said, to contribute to the renovations, which he said building owner Jeff Evers has been able to make less expensive as discussions on renovating a portion of the building he bought last year have progressed. Much of the work involves plumbing and modifications to restrooms to make them more child-friendly. The plumbing permit has been secured, Hoiseth said, and construction will be able to commence as soon as Erika Leckie and her husband, Scott, get final IRS approval for the center’s non-profit status.

Hoiseth said the grant awards are a big deal.

“These are big numbers that these folks have applied toward a child care center here, which will be a model followed by other communities in the state,” he said. “…A full compliment to all the partners; I can’t say enough about their generosity. These relationships are really exciting.

Some of Crookston’s major employers, who struggle the most to attract or keep workers often because of the major shortage of licensed child care slots in Crookston, have voiced strong support for Regal Academy, Hoiseth reiterated, and many have agreed to contribute to the center’s ongoing operating costs.

It’s estimated that the center will be licensed for anywhere from 50 to 60 infants, toddlers and children up to, eventually, 80 or even 100. It will have three rooms solely for infants.

Even though Regal Academy itself won’t likely need the $50,000 CHEDA contribution, Hoiseth suggested that the money remain available for improving and expanding other child care operations and opportunities in the community. “I want to make sure that (the CHEDA Board) keeps child care and centers and home providers at the forefront,” he said. “The $50,000 should be made available (to child care). If we have a need for it, we may tap into it for other child care needs in the community, in the spirit of what you approved the $50,000 for.”

Meanwhile, board member Leon Kremeier continues to work on behalf of CHEDA on expanded programming that would allow for more child care certifications or otherwise make them possible. “The issue is a lack of qualified workers, and we want to expand programming on that,” Hoiseth noted.