Economists urge businesses to help Marathon County parents

Published: Feb. 10, 2016 at 9:51 AM CST
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Wausau, Wi. (WSAW) --

Community members, leaders, business owners and economists spoke Wednesday morning about ways to improve the lives of working parents and the Marathon County community over the next few years. At the UW Center for Civic Engagement, locals shared their worries and issues.

Parents being involved at a young age helps child development

Dr. Corrie Norrbom is a Family Physician and Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) Community Fellow. She says birth to three-years-old are prime years for child development. Children's minds need to be stimulated in order for their brains to fully develop. If not, their brain pathways will not develop the right way.

Dr. Norrbom says she sees that Marathon County parents have issues finding proper childcare. Many parents say that they have problems with accessibility or costs. Some childcare services in the Wausau area are more than $10,000 a year, which is about the same as a public university college tuition.

While physical health and development is important, in order to have a complete healthy community, Dr. Norrbom says all needs must be fulfilled in many tiers of society, which include government, education, and business. That's why groups are encouraging local businesses to better help new parents.

"Supported parents mean more productive workers, and also the children, zero to three-years-old, are the workforce of the future," Norrbom said. "To raise great kids means we also expecting these kids to be the workforce of the future."

How businesses can help working parents

Dean Dietrich is the Co-Chair of United Way Marathon County Early Years Coalition, and practices Employment Law at Ruder Ware, L.L.S.C. He spoke at the forum and believes when businesses help local parents, their children and the community will benefit too.

"The future of our community and the future of our country is based around our children," Dietrich said. "What we're trying to do is develop an important tool to make sure that those children in their very early years are successful and get the tools to be successful in school as the go forward."

The Early Year Coalition has been helping businesses provide more to parents. The group received a grant from the State to develop a package to help new parents, which teaches parents that interacting with their children at an early age during brain development will help them grow as individuals.

Some other suggestions he made to businesses is allowing more time off to parents, allowing a nursing station for new moms at the work place, and other parental needs.

Earlier learning means a successful community

Over the past few days and economy expert, Rob Grunewald, Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, has been in Marathon County speaking with different community representative like at school districts, community leaders, and specifically, the Hmong community.

Through research, Grunewald has found that proper child development has many benefits in the long run. When children have access for high quality child care, it will allow them to succeed more than others in grade school. But, it doesn't stop there. This development also helps the community as a whole. They may do better in school, get a better job, and ultimately pay more in taxes.

Grunewald said, after reviewing demographics in Marathon County, and Wisconsin as a whole, the working age population will have slow growth and actually may decline. In order to have a successful work force, children must succeed in school so that they can receive jobs that will give back. And he believes it all starts with child care and employers allowing parents to be involved at a young age.