When 'bring your kid to work day' is every day: The perks of on-site child care at Boyne Highlands
Updated: Jul 10
This article first appeared in the Petoskey News-Review on November 26, 2021. I wrote this piece as an installment in the Petoskey Chamber's monthly Thriving Petoskey column.
The following column, written by Jessyca Stoepker, draws upon interviews with two employees of Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs: Amanda Bomers, director of human resources; and Mandy Gray, director of resort accommodations.
Northern Michigan’s child care situation has grown increasingly grim. According to a Networks Northwest report, in 2017 there were only 43 licensed child care providers in Emmet County, down from 48 in 2010. Experts from the research-based nonprofit say this has been a common trend, estimating that the Northwest Lower Michigan region has lost about 30% of its child care providers in the last decade or so despite population growth.
Amanda Bomers, director of human resources for Boyne Highlands, agrees that access to child care in the area is slim, and the facilities or in-home options that do exist are always full or very expensive.
“We pay wages that are competitive in the area, however when you factor in the cost of housing, transportation, and child care it almost defeats the team member,” says Bomers.
Even if parents are able to navigate a confusing child care system and locate options, it’s often unaffordable. Median household income in the region is less than $47,000 per year, while the cost of childcare for two kids (one infant and one preschooler) in the most affordable setting — home-based care — is about $14,000 a year ($1,160 a month). That’s about 30% of the household’s income, rivaling a mortgage payment or university tuition.
“At that point, many individuals question if leaving home to secure a job is even worth it.”
Bomers explains that was why, in 2019, Boyne Highlands decided to create its own solution: opening an on-site child care center to recruit and retain employees.
“Being a new mother at the time, I knew the challenges of getting signed up for daycare. Either places were full, there was a long waitlist, or they couldn’t give you an answer about an open spot until the week you needed it. It was very stressful,” she says. “By offering our own on-site childcare service, we were hoping to alleviate that stress for our team. That was the overall goal.”
The parent must be working on-site while the child is in the daycare. It’s a small facility, and, while not free, it has one of the lowest costs in the area.
“We believe it’s important to offer this to team members year-round. They don’t have to worry about who is watching their children, or if they can afford it or not,” Bomers says.
“We have a great crew that runs it, six staff total. Right now, we’re only open to team members and are full due to space and staffing. But when the world is back to normal, we typically offer this service to guests as well. It’s a nice perk.”
Research has shown that increasing childcare access not only reduces the likelihood of absenteeism from work, but it also increases the size of a region’s labor market.
“We’re operating in the pandemic and opened the facility right before, so it’s hard to measure outcomes or predict the future right now. But I believe, in the long term, we’ll see great things come from this. It is an amazing perk to be able to bring your child to work with you. If a situation comes up, you’re only a few minutes away. It gives our staff peace of mind.”
“Will it generate revenue? No, but it will generate long-lasting team members that are grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with their children,” Bomers says. “This is how we show our employees that we care about them and their families.”