The ceremonial shovels and hard hats for adult dignitaries went mostly unused Friday, replaced by preschoolers wielding plastic beach shovels as the Greene County Early Learning Center broke ground near its current site in Jefferson on a new, $2.01 million facility.

Once complete (see rendering below), the  9,484-square-foot building will face South Vine Street and will be able to care for 150 children — an increase in capacity of nearly 50 percent.

In its 16 years of existence, the nonprofit Early Learning Center has never owned a building of its own.

Friday’s groundbreaking was attended by Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, who called child care a workforce issue. The local project will benefit from a $469,941 state grant, awarded in March, to help expand the availability of child care in the area.

Sid Jones, CEO of Home State Bank and president of the Greene County Development Corp., said a remodel of the Early Learning Center was a goal of Vision 2020, a community visioning process that began in 2016.

Two other top priorities of Vision 2020 — improved school facilities and increased housing — have already become reality, with the opening of a new high school/career academy and the construction of new apartments.

The Early Learning Center board on Aug. 9 selected Harold Pike (HPC, LLC) of Ames as the contractor.

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