BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Beckley treasurer Billie Trump said his city is growing.
Budget reports show a $10 million increase in construction, mostly renovations, between 2021 and 2022, and Trump reported new businesses are popping up. The city drew 18 percent more tourists in 2022 than the previous year, hotel and motel tax collections show.
But a housing shortage hampers growth, and, Trump said, another factor prevents professional couples from moving to Raleigh County.
“We have a real need for daycare in the Beckley, Raleigh County area,” he said on Tuesday, January 24, 2022.
Trump suggested quality daycare has an impact on city growth that is similar to that of police and fire department response.
The need for daycare is the same request New River Gorge Regional Development Authority Director Jina Belcher frequently hears from out-of-state businesses.
Belcher works to bring economic development to the area. She said on Thursday, January 26, 2023, that a lack of childcare availability turns some businesses away from southern West Virginia.
“That quality of place component that includes childcare is really a make-or-break situation,” said Belcher. “When we receive requests for information from companies that want to relocate in our region, they ask, what is your access to childcare within 15 miles.”
And her answer disappoints.
Belcher said there are only around 350 daycare providers in the entire state.
In the Beckley area, she says, most are in-home operators, which are family members who are paid to care for family and up to three more children.
“When you look at national data, West Virginia obviously is considered a childcare desert,” she noted. “The further south you get in West Virginia, obviously in the area we represent, there is minimal access to facilities and centers.”
Belcher said two recently introduced pieces of legislation in Charleston could help: A House bill that would enable the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to pay daycare operators based on enrollment, not attendance, and a Senate bill that could increase the number of daycare workers by offering free childcare subsidies to daycare staff.