Child care persists as issue for Wilson workers | The Wilson Times
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Child care persists as issue for Wilson workers

Posted on June 22, 2022

Updated on June 26, 2022

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Two girls color umbrella illustrations with crayons at Hunt High School’s day care center in September 2016.

Kelsey Padgett | Times file photo

Two girls color umbrella illustrations with crayons at Hunt High School’s day care center in September 2016.

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7821

Transportation and child care were the top two issues identified in a 2017 study of Wilson’s unemployed and underemployed workers. The 2020 launch of Ride helped with transportation, but leaders said Tuesday that child care is a persistent barrier to employment.

“We have lost a number of child care businesses,” Wilson Economic Development Council Executive Director Jennifer Lantz said during a board meeting. “We weren’t making headway, but the private sector was. We had some 24-hour child care places and more people keeping children in homes in small groups, but COVID wiped a lot of those opportunities out.

“I think, at this moment, we are in worse shape than we were when that survey was done.”

Board member and Wilson Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Simons said the survey was meant to identify the challenges to employment rather than to propose solutions. He added that he recently was in a meeting with the local head of the Department of Social Services.

“He mentioned public dollars are available for child care, but there are not enough slots for those eligible for subsidies,” Simons said. “It is not just the cost of child care in Wilson, but the capacity.”

Lantz said she’s working to assemble a group of leaders to figure out why opportunity youths — 16- to 24-year-olds who are not working, attending school or serving in the armed forces and have no plans — are disconnected.

“If we can pull those people in the workforce, it will help all our employers. Almost every employer in this town has job openings, and there are a lot, especially in manufacturing,” Lantz said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re covering everyone who could be brought into productivity.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS

Lantz said the pandemic stifled marketing efforts for economic development, but conferences are now moving ahead and the upcoming marketing calendar should be full, with staff traversing the country and the globe to sell Wilson to prospective employers.

While Lantz said she couldn’t identify the first Campus at 587 tenant — which company officials have confirmed as FedEx — she did say the water and sewer infrastructure work the public partners have undertaken should be complete by July 2.

“We will deliver our part on time and as far as it looks now, we’ll deliver it on budget,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with the fact we have gotten so little rain between January and now, which helped tremendously to avoid overtime, and bringing in fill material. Kudos to Ralph Hodge and his great job for managing that project for us.”

“If you haven’t ridden that way, it is a pretty impressive construction site just from what you can see from the road,” said board Chairman Lee Stephenson.

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