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'Employer of choice'

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For some employees at PGT Industries, one of the largest employers in the Sarasota-Bradenton region, finding child care can be difficult.

The impact-resistant window and door manufacturer headquartered in north Venice operates six days a week, 24 hours a day. For staff outside the traditional weekday, nine-to-five timeframe, daycare options are limited or nonexistent.

That's one reason why the company is embarking on a $1.8 million project to build its own daycare facility. “This has been a strategic initiative for us probably going back over 10 years, to provide benefits to our folks that go beyond just your typical medical benefits,” says Debbie LaPinska, PGT's vice president of human resources.

The company has added fitness and wellness centers to its campus over the years. But the timing for a daycare only worked out when the economy and housing market recovered from the crash. The company recently purchased 2.5 acres on Triple Diamond Boulevard, across from its glass plant, and plans to begin construction this summer.

The goal is for the 8,109-square-foot daycare facility to be up and operational in the first quarter of 2017. It will be run by Venice's Sky Family YMCA, which proved the best fit for PGT because it can take infants all the way up to pre-kindergartners. The Y will staff the facility, and provide meals and a curriculum.

“We don't know anything about running a daycare,” says LaPinska. “Basically, it will be like it's their daycare and the facility is owned by PGT. We're not going to charge them to lease the facility, and the tuition payments will go to the YMCA.”

The facility will have room for 135 to 150 children. The ages of the children using the daycare will play into that, for infants require different staff-to-children ratios than older kids.
LaPinska says the daycare will start operating under extended hours but will be set up so that it could offer services 24 hours a day, six days a week, depending on the need. So in addition to classrooms and a playground, there will also be sleeping areas.

To learn more about addressing nontraditional work schedules, PGT officials checked out the YMCA of Central Florida, which runs daycare services for Walt Disney World employees. “That was great insight for us,” says LaPinska. “We learned the do's and don'ts and how to get set up.”

Interest in child care from PGT's 1,950 employees is high. “We do quarterly town hall meetings here, and we get lots of questions about the daycare and who gets to use it, when's it going to open, and what the cost is going to be,” says LaPinska. “So there is definitely a need.”

PGT is working with the YMCA to make costs as affordable as possible, and will also reach out to organizations such as the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to discuss possible scholarships and subsidies.

PGT expects the daycare to have enough slots to meet current employee need. But the company expects to grow to more than 2,000 employees in Venice by the end of this year. “So there could potentially be the need to put some criteria around who gets served first and why,” says LaPinska.

If there are still openings after all PGT employees are accommodated, the company will open the daycare to other nearby businesses. It's already gotten inquiries from drinkware manufacturer Tervis and the Sarasota County Sherriff's Office.

“But first and foremost it's about serving PGT team members,” says LaPinska. “Not a lot of companies offer that type of service or benefit to their employees. We want to be recognized by our folks as an employer of choice.”


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