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Child care key to worker development on Long Island, report says

Child care is a multimillion-dollar industry on Long Island that is crucial to the development of skilled workers for the future, according to a study released Friday.

The eight-page report is part of an industry campaign to garner more support from employers and government for nursery schools, day care centers and other child care programs. The Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, announced Friday that it would make quality child care a top priority.

The report, funded by the Garden City-based Rauch Foundation and the United Way of Long Island, estimates that $804 million is spent annually on child care in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The figure is based on tuition paid by parents and government support, particularly for low-income families, according to the report's author, LIA chief economist John A. Rizzo.

"This is a leading industry that leverages state and federal dollars," he told about 55 child-care industry leaders and business executives at an LIA meeting in Melville. "It also enables people to work, particularly young families."

Rizzo estimated the earnings of working parents on the Island at about $10.6 billion per year.

Two contributors to the report, trade groups Child Care Council of Nassau Inc. and Child Care Council of Suffolk Inc., found 1,825 full- and part-time child care programs locally, including Head Start and after-school programs. The figure doesn't include unregulated nannies, au pairs and centers that care for two or fewer kids.

The Island's child care workforce totals 8,750 people, who earn $27,700 per year, on average, according to the most recent data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The meeting's keynote speaker, Bill Millett, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based consultant to large corporations making location decisions, said his clients examine the child care options of states and regions when deciding where to locate offices or factories. "The more desirable a company is to Long Island, the more receptive they will be to quality child care," he said. "Child care is critical to the economic vitality of Long Island because it's part of workforce development."

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