A Word from the CEO

Why businesses should be concerned about child care challenges

Solving the child care challenge in our region is obviously not simple or it would have been done by now.

And there would no need to hold a childcare summit like the one that 7 Rivers Alliance, The Parenting Place, La Crosse Area Development Corporation and the La Crosse Area Society for Human Resource Management is holding in La Crosse on April 23.

But after spending the last year working on the challenge of not having enough child care in the region, I am convinced of at least one thing: Businesses should be more engaged in the process. Because if they are involved it will likely improve their bottom line.

Let me emphasize that I am not suggesting that every business have its own child care center. That’s an option for a few, but not for many. Other options include child care subsidies, working with existing centers to guarantee slots and other ideas.

Every business needs to keep a close eye on the bottom line. And I can guarantee that our region’s lack of child care impacts their finances.

But if I told you that making a specific investment in your business would not only result in a positive return but also improvement in your employee retention and recruitment, would you be interested?

Because those are the results -- according to research -- when businesses become involved with child care. Employees who have access to consistent and reliable child care are more productive, have lower absentee rates and lower turnover.

Let’s look at some of the productivity costs. A group working on child care in Jackson County that the 7 Rivers Alliance is a part of did a survey last year of parents. One of the questions asked in the survey was:

“How much time do you spend making alternative child care arrangements during our work hours? This includes arranging for early school releases, snow days, etc.”

The answers were:

Less than 1 hour per month: 34%

1-2 hours per month: 29%

3-4 hours per month: 15%

5 or more hours per month: 7%

Never: 15%

So what does this mean? Using workforce data from the the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development 2017 Jackson County Workforce Profile, I was able to calculate what these answers mean.

It should be noted that dollar amounts reflect a total loss of productivity. Actual productivity loss will vary by sector as there would likely be some work done during that time. It also doesn’t take into account time lost from work that was covered by benefits such as vacation or sick time which would be paid out anyway.

There are 758 employees work work in the manufacturing sector in Jackson County. The average pay rate is $22 per hour.

34% = 258 employees = 1 hour per month = $5,676

29% = 220 employees = 1.5 hours per month (average of 1 and 2) = $7,260

15% = 114 employees = 3.5 hours per month (average of 3 and 4) = $8,778

Total manufacturing lost productivity = $21,714 per month or $260,568 per year

Trade, Transportation and Utilities

2,099 employees with annual payroll of $68 million or $16 per hour

34% = 714 employees = 1 hour per month = $11,424

29% = 609 employees = 1.5 hours per month = $14,616

15% = 315 employees = 3.5 hours per month = $28,665

Total trade, transportation and utilities lost productivity = $54,705 per month or $656,460 per year

All industries

8,614 employees with annual payroll of $38,952 or $18.73 per hour

34% = 2,929 employees = 1 hour per month = $54,860

29% = 2,498 employees = 1.5 hours per month = $70,181

15% = 1,292 employees = 3.5 hours per month = $84,697

All industries lost productivity = $209,738 per month or $2,516,857 per year.

I repeat -- the cost to businesses in Jackson County because of employee child care issues is more than $2.5 million a year. Again, these are not perfect numbers, but it gives you some idea of the cost to businesses when employees are dealing with child care issues on company time.

But there are other costs as well -- and not just to businesses but to families and parents. Another question in the Jackson County survey asked: “How have your child care arrangements interfered with your employment (check all that apply).”


I have been absent from work due to child care issues: 68%

I have been late for work due to child care issues: 56%

I was unable to work overtime due to child care issues: 68%

I have been charged a fee due to late pick up when I have stayed at work beyond my regular work schedule: 21%

Due to stress and concern about my child care arrangement, there are times when I cannot work to my full capacity: 50%

Absenteeism, showing up late, not being able to work overtime -- these are bottom line costs to the business. It’s harder to measure the emotional and social costs to parents who can’t work to their full capacity because they’re worried about their child care.

So why should businesses care about their employees’ access to child care? Because it affects them -- one way or another.

If you’d like to learn more about the problems and potential solutions to our region’s child care challenge, attend our summit.

Tickets are $25 for 7 Rivers Alliance members and $30 for non members. Purchase tickets here!


Chris Hardie, CEO

Childcare Summit
On Tuesday, April 23rd, we will be hosting our first event of the new year, a summit focuses on bridging the childcare gap in our region. The even will feature speakers and round table discussions on what our next steps are to address this challenge. 

Registration is STILL open and available to everyone until Friday, April 19th. Follow the link below to learn more, and reach out with any questions.

We can't wait to have you all join us.
Register Here
2019 Spring Lean Certificate Series

The Lean Certification series comprises a series of workshops that include live simulations with a mentored implementation project at your company. This powerhouse combination provides swift and targeted technical competencies custom-fit to your unique needs.

The cost savings from your first project typically pay back your investment many times over and promote the next continuous improvement activities. The program includes six sessions beginning Wednesday, April 3, 2019 through June 12th, 2019. 

This program is being hosted by University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Professional Education Programs & Services and Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC) and will be held at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Menomonie, WI. 

Click below for more details or contact Heidi Rabeneck at (715)-232-5506 or

Click here to learn more
Inspire Update

The Inspire 7 Rivers team has taken initiative to grow its network of employers and students. Inspire is a way to link together education and industry to help students and job seekers achieve their goals and address communities’ workforce development needs. Inspire 7 Rivers is launched in school districts within Black River Falls, Holmen, Tomah, Hillsboro and Blair-Taylor, and over the next three years, the program will expand to include school districts throughout the entire 7 Rivers Region.

The Inspire program is now up to over 100 employers and 80 coaches that collaborate with over 1,000 active students in the area.

 Our team continues to communicate about the benefits of the program to local organizations. If you or any employer is interested in learning more please email Jeff at
Regional News

City of Fond du Lac receives $90,000 state grant to support redevelopment of downtown historical building'

The City of Fond du Lac is receiving a $90,000 state grant to assist in the redevelopment of a vacant commercial building into The Livery Lofts, featuring an upscale tavern and residential lofts.

The Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will support the renovation of the building to improve the exterior façade and support the change from a fully commercial use to a mixed-use development.

“One of WEDC’s top priorities is to help communities invest in revitalizing their downtowns and enhance their business districts,” said Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “The Livery Lofts project is the latest example of a positive and substantive local development happening in Fond du Lac and will serve as a foundation for future economic growth.”

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Minnesota Exports Jump to Record $23 Billion in 2018

 Minnesota exports of goods grew 10 percent between 2017 and 2018, reaching a record high of $23 billion, according to a report released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). U.S. exports grew 8 percent during the same period.

Minnesota’s solid export performance led to the state’s ranking rising to 20th highest in exports among all states in 2018, up from 23rd last year. Export growth was strong, even within an environment of continued uncertainty created by changing trade policies in the U.S. and trading partners.

“Minnesota businesses exported more than 1,000 different products to over 200 countries last year,” said Governor Tim Walz. “These businesses are expanding sales to their core customers as well as finding new markets around the world.”

Learn More


The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and the Iowa Energy Center (IEC) board launched two financial assistance programs that support projects and initiatives that align with the Iowa Energy Plan and IEC’s activities. The IEC Grant Program and Alternate Energy Revolving Loan Program (AERLP) have been designed to facilitate energy-related economic development in Iowa.

“We’re pleased to launch the Energy Center’s grant and loan programs and encourage interested Iowans to submit innovative, impactful and diverse projects that maximize the energy-economic benefits throughout our state,” said Debi Durham, Director of IEDA and the Iowa Finance Authority. “Energy is an important resource and key economic advantage for Iowa and these program offerings will provide new opportunities for collaboration and spark innovation,” said Durham. 

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Outdoor Recreation Alliance shines spotlight on La Crosse recreation

The people of the Outdoor Recreation Alliance aren’t “they-sayers.”

When the volunteers and board members hear people saying, “They should do this,” or “You know what they should do,” they step up to make it happen.

“We all have this desire to live in a more vibrant community, in a community that values its resources, and public parks just play such a pivotal role in access for all levels,” ORA vice president Jed Olson said.

It began nearly 20 years ago with people like Ralph Heath and Kurt Schroeder. The group, then known as the Human-Powered Trails, saw a piece of city-owned property that didn’t have a lot of attention in 2000 and thought someone ought to put in trails for hiking and biking.

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Western Signs Call To Action On Climate Change

Western Technical College joined 22 other colleges and universities earlier this month in signing a call to action, calling for accelerated equitable and just climate solutions in response to the growing urgency in addressing the impacts of climate change.

The call to action reaffirms the commitments and initiatives regarding climate change on college campuses, collaboration and engagement across communities, and incorporating justice and equality into climate-based solutions. Western President Roger Stanford signed the call to action at the 2019 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, an event hosted by Second Nature, an organization seeking to accelerate climate change action in higher education, and the Intentional Endowment Network, a non-profit network that seeks to enhance financial performance by aligning investments with sustainability goals.

“Our campus has made tremendous strides in the last several years addressing the impacts of climate change,” said Stanford. “By recommitting to this call to action, we are restating our responsibility to the growing challenges we face in the world, while preparing our students to be environmentally and economically resilient.”

Read More
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7 Rivers Alliance · 601 7th Street N #400 · La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601 · USA

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