Bringing building blocks to the community

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. To help care for the children of a growing city like Bottineau, it takes much more. Like many communities in North Dakota, Bottineau has seen an increasing demand for childcare and preschool services as new families move in to take advantage of opportunities in the state. According to Lindsey Guss, owner and director of Building Blocks Learning Center (BBLC), other changes in the community had further increased this need.

“Several home daycare providers have retired in the past few years,” said Guss. “Bottineau also used to have a Head Start and preschool, but no longer does, leaving a need for a preschool in the area.”

BBLC, which now has 13 employees and 65 enrolled children, is the product of cooperation between a host of different organizations in Bottineau and around the state. The Bottineau County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) constructed the building with funding assistance from the North Dakota Department of Commerce and used BND’s Flex Partnership in Assisting Community Expansion (PACE) Program. Building Blocks Learning Center leases the building from the Bottineau EDC.

The Flex PACE Program offers an interest buydown and requires community involvement, lowering the borrower’s payment.

“By using the Flex PACE program, along with other community and state support, Bottineau EDC was able to keep their overall building and operating costs down,” said Joel Erickson, the BND Business Banker who worked on the project. “Access to affordable daycare is vital to a growing community—this type of project is a perfect example of the Bank’s mission.”

The land that the building sits on is a gift from Dakota College at Bottineau, which shares utilities, maintenance and food service with BBLC.

“There were a lot of partners in this,” said Nicki Weissman, Director of the Bottineau EDC. “Without Ken Gross at Dakota College, Turtle Mountain Communications and local donors, this wouldn’t have happened. It takes huge dedication to get things like this done.”

Even so, the building was only part of the challenge.

“Besides the property and the building, it’s finding someone with the education and expertise [to run the center],” said Weissman.

Weissman said the daycare needed the expertise and education of Guss to make the whole thing work. Among the employees who work at the center, several are students from Dakota College at Bottineau in the Early Childhood field. The location right next to campus and opportunity to apply their skills makes it an easy fit.

Chuck Neubauer, Market President at Starion Financial and President of the Bottineau EDC, worked with BND to make the project happen.

“BND has always been a tremendous partner with strong lenders and a good vision of what it takes to keep rural North Dakota competitive,” said Neubauer. “We have a great relationship and I look forward to many more financing opportunities in the future.”

Today, even with the downturn in the state’s oil sector, Guss hasn’t seen a decline in the demand for childcare services.

“Except for part-time preschool, the center is at full capacity,” said Guss. “We’ve got a waiting list at this point.”

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