By TONY BROWN Staff writer
Maryville Daily Forum
Oct 5, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was in Maryville Tuesday to tout a couple of state-backed local initiatives he praised as measures that will create new opportunities for early childhood education on the one hand and workforce training and readiness on the other.
During ceremonies at SSM Health St. Francis Hospital, Nixon announced $1.5 million in approved state grant funding and tax credits that will be used to construct a new, larger daycare and early childhood education center on the hospital grounds.
The governor also congratulated local business leaders and government officials on Nodaway County’s recently granted status as a Certified Work Ready Community, which means that a portion of the local workforce has successfully completed ACT (American College Testing Inc.) WorkKeys assessments required to obtain a National Career Readiness Certificate.
St. Francis Hospital Foundation Development Director Megan Jennings said construction of the new $3.2 million daycare building is to begin next spring, and that the center will likely begin serving youngsters, including infants, early in 2018.
About $1 million of the state aid is in the form of Community Development Block Grant funds set aside under Nixon’s Smart Start initiative, which is designed to expand access to early childhood education across Missouri.
Smart Start is currently in its third, and possibly last, year, since Nixon is nearing the end of his second and final term in office.
In addition to the CDBG funds, Nixon also announced that St. Francis has received approval for the sale of up to $250,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits, which Jennings said will generate an anticipated $500,000 in funding for the new childhood center.
Locally, NAP tax credits have been used in recent years to fund a couple of other projects: the West Fourth Street pedestrian corridor and the Lettuce Dream greenhouse complex, which is to provide vocational training for the developmentally and cognitively disabled.
Under state regulations, CDBG money must be spent on construction, but NAP proceeds are flexible and can be used to cover a number of preschool development costs — anything from furniture to staffing.
In applying for the grant and tax credits, St. Francis worked closely with the Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments and the City of Maryville.
Since community development grants can only be issued to governments, the city acted as a “pass through” fiscal agent — the actual grant recipient — and will turn the money over to the hospital, which bears all responsibility for using the funds appropriately.
The St. Francis facility will embrace a new 15,800-square-foot daycare, early learning, and Early Head Start operation that will double the capacity of the existing SSM Health Preschool & Child Care Center at 2112 S. Main St. from 67 to 136 children.
Twenty-four of those youngsters, ages 0-3, will be served by the Early Head Start program, which is to be administered by Community Services Inc., a local social services agency.
In addition, early childhood education majors at Northwest Missouri State University will work at the center while completing practicums in pursuit of college degrees.
St. Francis began providing daycare and early childhood learning programs in 1986 after converting the current 3,000-square-foot facility, a former single-family home built in the late 1950s.
Nixon said that to date more than $23 million in Start Smart funding has been awarded to 24 projects across Missouri that will serve approximately 2,300 pre-school-age children.
“Access to early childhood education is a vital component of ensuring children are ready to start kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful,” said Nixon, who called creating educational opportunities for young people and adults alike “the best economic development tool there is.”
“The first five years of a child’s development have an impact that lasts a lifetime,” the governor added. “Early education is a smart investment.”
As for the Work Ready Community certification, Nixon said the designation will help employers identify qualified employees while providing a tool for economic development officials to use in recruiting new businesses and industries.
“Nodaway County brought together local businesses, educators, and economic development leaders to earn this important designation certifying that the local workforce is ready to compete and win in the global economy,” Nixon said.
The governor was joined at the podium at Nodaway County Economic Development Executive Director Josh McKim, who described Work Ready Communities as “an outstanding example of what is possible when a community sets its sights on excellence and works hard to achieve it.”
McKim continued that the program is “a great way to assess the skill level of our existing and emerging workforce” that will allow business and community leaders to “understand the strengths and weaknesses of our labor base so that we can shape local workforce efforts.”
He said the “metric” would also be useful in terms of recruiting new investment in the Maryville region by both new and existing employers.
Work Ready Communities qualify for the designation by meeting requirements set by ACT, which is best known for its widely used college admissions test.