Childcare in Missoula: Work Perk?

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Maggie Collister

Childcare in Missoula: Work Perk?

Hyped as a premium benefit for parents, on-site childcare seems to be the wave of the future.

Missoula’s Childcare Problem

With kids ranging from just a fews weeks old to teenagers, the Sterling team is very familiar with the challenges of securing childcare. We know about Missoula’s lack of childcare availability. Gaps in childcare across Missoula have become more pronounced over the past decade and show few signs of improvement.

Google, Disney, Nike and other juggernauts have established on-site childcare for workers. In theory, it’s a great idea. Companies can attract and keep high caliber talent- and that workforce  is more focused and less harried.

In practice, only 9% of companies nationwide provide some type of on-site childcare for employees. In 2019, Missoula’s Submittable made headlines when they opened an employee daycare. The daycare was created specifically to address a workforce shortage, reported the Missoulian.

Challenges of Providing Childcare

Childcare isn’t as simple as hiring a few babysitters to watch kids while their parents work in the same building. Generating $100 billion in economic impact every year, childcare in the US is big business. In Montana, childcare facilities have to abide by nearly 40 pages of Montana Code Annotated (MCA). Daycare staff must also meet stringent education requirements.

Then, there’s the question of space. MCA 37.95.705 requires 35/sf per child of indoor space- and 75/sf per child of outdoor space. While that can include play areas, bathrooms, hallways, and utility spaces, a group of even a few children need a lot of space.

On the upside, Missoula’s plentiful parks provide opportunities for children in daycare facilities to experience the outdoors. Parks near a childcare facility can operate as part of the outdoor space requirement, as long as the space meets MCA guidelines.

If the Sterling team wanted a daycare for our combined 20 (!) children, we’d be looking at very specific properties to fit these criteria. (Not to mention several staffers to provide full time care). It’s a big commitment for a business of any size, but one that may help retain exceptional talent for the long-term.


As Montana companies fight the brain drain, the expense of an in-house childcare facility may start to outweigh the cost of employee turnover. While the Sterling team doesn’t need an on-site daycare just yet, we predict that Submittable is just the first of many to take the plunge across Montana.

Matt Mellott
Matt Mellott, CCIM/SIOR

Childcare in Missoula: Work Perk?