A consortium of regional businesses, early learning and health organizations, and the Bend Chamber focused on tackling Central Oregon’s shortage of childcare and has hired Megan Norris to begin work on creating more options for those looking for quality, affordable childcare options.
Norris recently relocated from the Sacramento, California area where she was involved in the development of utility-scale solar projects and a high-profile urban infill neighborhood, complete with more than 350 homes, five city parks and a community clubhouse. She has also managed campaigns for the Sierra Club California Clean Cars program, coordinated outreach for Housing California to increase affordable housing, and served on the staff of state and national election campaigns.
“The lack of quality childcare options in Central Oregon is unacceptable,” said Norris. “I’m excited to find ways to increase available childcare to help support our region’s families and workforce.” Norris will spearhead efforts to pilot new potential collaborative childcare programming and operations between Oregon State University-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College to be built and replicated throughout the region. To address the funding challenges of developing and expanding childcare facilities, Norris will work with employers, public sector organizations and private investors willing to help offset costs.
“The lack of quality childcare options in Central Oregon is unacceptable,” said Norris. “I’m excited to find ways to increase available childcare to help support our region’s families and workforce.”
As the Central Oregon Childcare Accelerator, Norris will also lead an effort to help broker collaborative projects that create additional quality and affordable childcare in Central Oregon while working with regional partners to assist childcare providers in understanding and navigating the permitting process to expand or build their own facilities.
There are openings for only one in three children under the age of five in registered Central Oregon childcare centers and in-home providers. “This is not only a crisis for families seeking affordable and high-quality childcare, it impacts employers who are struggling to attract and retain talent in a record low unemployment environment,” said Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber CEO and a member of the group overseeing the effort.
Working with a regional oversight group, the Childcare Accelerator position is housed with BendNEXT, the Bend Chamber of Commerce’s 501c3 workforce development nonprofit, until a new regional organization is formed. Funding for the position is still needed and can be donated to BendNEXT by contacting Bend Chamber