August 23, 2023, (Redwood Falls, Minnesota) – Redwood County Economic Development Authority and the City of Redwood Falls, in partnership with Snug as a Bug Childcare host Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Senator Amy Klobuchar in Redwood Falls.
Pictured: Governor Tim Walz, Aaron Harms, Maria Harms and Senator Amy Klobuchar
Following the Redwood Falls State Veterans Cemetery Dedication Saturday, August 19, 2023, Governor Walz and Senator Klobuchar visited Maria Harms, owner of the newly constructed business Snug as a Bug Childcare in Redwood Falls. The visit was arranged to showcase the unique childcare business model and allow Maria an opportunity to share her thoughts and concerns surrounding the childcare industry. Some of the brief topics of discussion were: stringent licensing rules, financing shortfalls, and programming disconnect. Along with Maria, were representatives from Redwood County, the City of Redwood Falls and the Southwest Initiative Foundation who underscored the importance of childcare availability with the dignitaries, emphasizing the value it brings to the community, and working economy.
Maria’s love for serving children started at a young age. She found herself always volunteering for various kid’s events, and church activities and even started Snug as a Bug Babysitting Adventures. After high school, she furthered her education with the desire to carry out her dream of owning and operating a child care center. Maria achieved a double major in Business Management and Human Development and Family Science, along with attaining a Master’s of Science, Education Administration and Leadership, Superintendent, Principal, and Community Education License. In addition to a robust educational background, Maria has served in several leadership roles in the childcare industry over the years; from owning her own family-based childcare business to serving private/public schools, and for-profit/non-profit organizations as an Early Childhood Director/Coordinator.
To support her lifelong goal, Maria spent many years researching and learning about the childcare industry and market in rural Minnesota. This included working with a variety of agencies such as First Children’s Finance - Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Small Business Development Center, State Fire Marshal, Minnesota Department of Health, along with the City of Redwood Falls and the Redwood County Economic Development Authority (EDA). Following this work, in partnership with her Father Craig Piette, they embarked on pursuing the development of a childcare center in Redwood Falls.
In 2021, Craig and Maria purchased an undeveloped property next to the City of Redwood Fall’s water tower off of Highway 71/19. Construction of the 5,400-square-foot building began in 2022 for the 74-capacity childcare center; Snug as a Bug Childcare, LLC. The facility will serve infants through school-age children and employ at least nine full-time employees. Construction of the building, site work, and installation of fixtures and inventory wrapped up in early August. Most recently, Maria secured a License from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, allowing her to begin operating the business as of September 6, 2023.
In order to successfully attract and retain individuals and families to the area, access to child care is essential. Redwood County is positioned similar to many other counties in the State with a shortage of childcare access. With an unprecedented labor shortage coupled with limited childcare access, Redwood County is challenged with identifying creative solutions to serve the needs of area employers. From large manufacturers to small businesses, they are all seeking employees to fill vacant job openings. These same employees need access to both a quality and safe place to bring their children while working towards a more productive economy.
The need for child care across Redwood County continues to grow, as Childcare Providers age out of the industry and not enough new Providers are entering into it. First Children’s Finance, a nonprofit organization that provides lending, legislative advocacy, and technical support to in-home Providers, Centers, and communities recently conducted a gap analysis to quantify the need. The analysis concluded that the county needs 250 licensed openings for children age five and under, with all parents in the workforce. As a comparison, 120 slots were needed in February 2019. The Redwood County EDA has been engaged in the childcare arena since 2017 and has focused efforts on supporting the recruitment of new Providers, and retention of the 47 in-home Providers and three Childcare Centers in Redwood County. The EDA provides local and state advocacy, community planning and convening, and coordination of facility feasibility assessments to determine the viability of existing structures to operate a childcare business; along with hosting educational and appreciation events for Providers. Further, the EDA conducts public outreach focused on changing the narrative that child care is not an issue for just families with children – rather the entire community. The EDA is grateful for the partnership with State Legislators, First Children’s Finance, Southwest Initiative Foundation, Southwest Health and Human Services, and Redwood County employers and municipalities to carry out these activities.
Snug as a Bug Childcare currently has openings for all age groups and is accepting applications for new enrollments. Those interested in learning more are encouraged to contact Maria at (507) 627-SNUG (7684), or by visiting the website at saabchildcare.com. The public is invited to attend an open house on Saturday, September 23rd from 10 a.m. to noon to tour the business located at 826 East Bridge Street, Redwood Falls. All are welcome to attend and connect with Maria and her team!
Submitted by Briana Mumme, Redwood County Economic Development Coordinator,
Keith Muetzel, City of Redwood Falls Administrator and Maria Harms, Snug as a Bug Childcare Owner