Championing Child Care as Economic Development

article by Skye Ten Eyck | Program & Events Manager, Onward Eugene

If you have a child while in the workforce, it’s no secret that quality care is critical to your success. Access to care is a core component to economic development as parents go to work to create, innovate, and engage in building a better community, relying on safe, stable, and affordable care at all stages of childhood. Even so, this important industry’s role in making this possible has historically been overlooked.

Holly Mar-Conte, the Child Care Sector Strategist for Lane County, is reshaping this narrative. As a key figure at Onward Eugene, Mar-Conte is spearheading initiatives to integrate child care efforts as infrastructure crucial to the greater economic development agenda in our region.

Mar-Conte’s dedication to improving child care systems stems from the simple fact that care work is the foundation upon which all other work thrives. Her career thus far has been marked by a core belief that all children deserve safe and nurturing environments in which to thrive. Recognizing this, she has steadily worked to convene stakeholders from government organizations, nonprofits, and the private sector to collectively design solutions that benefit our entire community. Together, they are proving that investing in child care is not only essential for families but also for overall economic prosperity.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. On March 1st, Mar-Conte was honored as the Minalee Saks Champion of Children at Parenting Now’s auction and gala—a Night of Hope. Parenting Now, a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting and educating parents, bestowed this prestigious award upon Mar-Conte in recognition of her unwavering commitment to the welfare of children and families throughout her career.

“There are so many folks passionately dedicated to stabilizing and enriching the lives of families and children in Lane County – and Holly is among the most impactful. Her influence and leadership over the past 15 years have successfully centered early childhood as a priority in our community. I am inspired by the work she has done, and excited to see what is yet to come. It is truly an honor to call Holly our 2024 Champion of Children,” said Parenting Now Executive Director Theya Joslin

Parenting Now stands as a testament to the power of nurturing communities. Founded in 1978 as Birth To Three, the organization has benefited over 110,000 local parents and their children. By bringing families together to share experiences, enhance their understanding of early childhood development, and forge supportive networks,  Parenting Now has become a model for parenting organizations nationwide. Their evidence-based curricula has been utilized at over 900 sites across the United States and internationally. With its finger on the pulse of family needs for decades, Parenting Now relished the opportunity to elevate the crucial work Mar-Conte is doing to embed child care needs with economic needs.

Mar-Conte’s journey as a champion for children began long before her tenure at Onward Eugene. Her impactful contributions during her years with United Way laid the groundwork for her current endeavors. At Onward Eugene, Mar-Conte has led groundbreaking initiatives to address child care accessibility in Lane County–a severe child care desert. One such initiative is the partnership forged with Lane SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and QCC (Quality Care Connections) to launch child care accelerators. This innovative program provides aspiring childcare entrepreneurs with the necessary resources to establish successful and sustainable childcare businesses at no cost, thereby simultaneously bolstering the workforce and increasing the availability of child care slots in the county. 

Furthermore, Mar-Conte has been instrumental in raising awareness about the emergent child care needs in Oregon through a statewide media campaign. Her efforts extend beyond advocacy, as she played a pivotal role in the development of a toolkit aimed at assisting employers in supporting employees with child care needs. By bridging the gap between employers and child care solutions, Mar-Conte is fostering a more supportive and conducive environment for working parents.

Additionally, Mar-Conte has facilitated local child care businesses’ access to grant funding and other resources essential for scaling and expansion. Her strategic guidance and support have empowered these businesses to grow sustainably, further enhancing child care accessibility and quality in the area.

In essence, Holly Mar-Conte’s relentless advocacy and innovative initiatives exemplify the intersection of child care and economic development. By recognizing child care as a cornerstone of thriving communities, Mar-Conte is not only championing children’s welfare but also laying the groundwork for a more prosperous and inclusive future for our region. 

The Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and Onward Eugene are grateful to see a well-deserving team member recognized, and are excited to see her using this platform to elevate the critical infrastructure gap that exists within Lane County to support working parents. All children deserve safe and nurturing environments in which to grow, and all parents and caregivers need support to make that happen.

Published On: March 6, 2024
Email Sign Up
Join Chamber
Go to Top