Don Barbieri asked IBM, one of his biggest tenants, to move over for a bunch of babies.
Goodale & Barbieri Cos. became the first for-profit business in Spokane to open a day-care center for the children of employees.
The bottom floor of the IBM Building on North River Drive now is toddler heaven, officially known as G&B; ABC Day Care. Brand new Little Tikes climbing structures, slides and tricycles fill the office space, which normally leases for $50,000 a year.
Monday, G&B; joined the ranks of a handful of private American companies that run day-care centers for their workers.
G&B; employees can enroll their children, from 4 weeks to 5 years old, for $75-$80 a week - about a 25 percent discount on the going rates for day care in Spokane.
The center is licensed for 51 children, including seven babies and seven kids 12 months to 30 months old. Five spots are open to outsiders for higher fees. So far, seven children have been enrolled.
“Businesses are going to have to take a very aggressive role at creating job satisfaction if they want to keep good employees,” said Barbieri, G&B; president. “Day care becomes a very big issue in that satisfaction for working parents.”
The company employs more than 1,300 people in more than a half-dozen businesses, including hotels, caterers, restaurants, a dairy, real estate management, entertainment and a ticket outlet.
More than three-fourths of those workers are in the service industry making hourly wages.
Barbieri said that providing a top-notch day-care facility at reduced prices and extended hours should pay off for him in happier employees.
“I love my job, but it was really awkward because I couldn’t find anything that satisfied me as day care,” said Lindy Hanford, who had her first baby a year ago.
She came back to her marketing job at G&B; Presents, which is the entertainment arm of the corporation, when her son was 3 months old. Like most new parents, she wanted the best care available for her son.
But the day-care centers that had space available either were in inconvenient locations or charged outrageous prices, she said. She eventually hired a woman to come into her home.
“It’s so nice having my little guy right here,” she said of the new arrangement. “I don’t even have to go visit him because people constantly give me reports about what he’s up to.”
The bulk of G&B;’s Spokane employees work in the corridor along the north bank of the river where the company owns most of the property and businesses.
Having the day-care center close by was crucial, said Hanford.
She is one of a group of employees who formed a non-profit board to run the center, in part to insulate G&B; from legal liability.
Opening the day-care center wasn’t cheap.
G&B; first had to find a ground-floor location in order to comply with state laws. Eventually Barbieri convinced IBM to vacate the first floor of the IBM building.
G&B; paid approximately $35,000 to renovate the office space and buy the toys and other supplies. Barbieri figures it will cost his company another $10,000 before enough children are enrolled to pay the salaries of the employees.
Barbieri and Director Christianne DeMarco have big plans for the children at the center.
DeMarco is working on getting the facility accredited as a pre-school.
From learning computer skills to taking field trips to various G&B; businesses, the children will get a first-rate cultural education, she said.
Kiddie meals are catered by the chef at Cavanaugh’s Inn.
DeMarco also hopes to provide swimming lessons for the preschoolers at the Cavanaugh’s Inn pool. Daily jaunts into Riverfront Park are on the schedule, weather permitting, she said.
For the rest of the G&B; corporation, just having children in the building is uplifting, Hanford said.
“We see them going outside, or playing,” she said. “It’s so good for morale.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo