Canton builds community with child care, dining, focus on housing

Dec. 20, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by the Lincoln County Economic Development Association.

Early next year, the former elementary school in Canton will start to be filled with kids again.

Travis and Sarah Hendrix, who own Tiger Tots Preschool & Child Care Center Inc. in Harrisburg, are expanding and opening Canton Area Preschool and Childcare in mid-January.

“We’re going to be able to care for about 180 kids,” Travis Hendrix said. “We’ll have from 4 weeks (old) up to a school-age program for kids up to age 12. I could end up with as many as 40 or 45 employees if we’re at capacity.”

They’re also extensively renovating the building, which was last used as a school in the 1990s. It includes a large gym, art and music rooms.

Before and after shots of the former elementary school as it’s being renovated

“It’s a learning-based preschool. We base all our learning off the kindergarten assessment,” Hendrix said. “We’ll have cameras throughout the center, and parents can log in and check out as the kids are learning and playing. We use an application that sends videos of the kids learning, sends notes home on how the day was, what they had for lunch and lesson plans.”

As they talked with friends in the area, the new business owners learned child care was in short supply. Other than in-home providers, there were no options.

“We’ve already started signing up kids,” Hendrix said. “I’ve gotten a lot of people from (Canton manufacturer) Adams Thermal where they have a 5 p.m. shift and nowhere to take their kids, so we’re looking into that. We’ve handed out quite a few applications and have a director and four employees hired.”

It also will offer before- and after-school care.

“This will be a huge asset to our community and our surrounding communities,” said Scott Larson, CEO of Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Center and the volunteer chair of the Canton Economic Development Corp.

“It’s very critical. We have quite a few people out here that have kids that need day care. We just don’t have enough providers.”

For Canton, with a population just over 3,100, landing the child care center is a significant step toward encouraging a greater residential population.

Places to eat and be entertained are helping create a sense of community too.

Sioux Valley Grille opened on Canton’s main street across from the Lincoln County Courthouse almost one year ago.

It’s owned by Peter Cobb and his stepbrother, Ken O’Brien, who wanted to offer the community a place to enjoy a home-cooked meal.

“We love Canton and all the surrounding communities,” Cobb said, adding local business and service organizations have been helpful in getting the word out and helping the restaurant gain customers.

“The town of Canton is overall very supportive. I think our customers appreciate the extra lengths we go through to prepare quality fresh food, provide excellent customer service and offer a clean, inviting atmosphere.”

The restaurant recently adjusted its hours to stay open between lunch and dinner, and there are plans to expand the special event and wedding catering business.

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Cobb said.

A new performing arts center also is helping bring the community together and attract visitors. The $12 million project held its first event on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

“For the school district, it provides a facility that can actually house our activities, whether it’s the musical or a band or choir performance,” Superintendent Terry Gerber said. “Our enrollment is stable, but we’re hoping this might attract more students to the district.”

The center also is available for rent and community events. A recent concert held by a fine arts group sold close to 750 tickets for a Sunday late-afternoon performance.

“After the concert, I went to get supper, and downtown and the Pizza Ranch were full, the Black Angus Steakhouse was full, I heard they had people at The Canton Barn, so it’s generating local business, which generates sales tax,” Gerber said.

Preparing for the future

Generating more students also will require more housing opportunities – a goal for community leaders in Canton.

The city and the economic development corporation are working with architecture and engineering firm ISG in Sioux Falls to create a housing strategy starting in early 2019.

“We’ve identified locations for potential expansion of housing, so we’ll put that together, have them map it out and give us some preliminary drawings and then take it to developers in Iowa and South Dakota and see if we can start filling some homes,” Larson said.

“We’d like to get more entry-level homes, so maybe we can get people in as they step up or step down in housing. I think there’s a lot of potential.”

The community also formed Empower Canton in 2017 to focus on quality-of-life improvements such as a new city pool and single-track course.

“And we’ve been looking at a sports complex for baseball, football and soccer fields and ways to enhance the summer rec program,” Larson said. “I think we have any opportunity to do some things down here. We’re on our way and making headway.”

Canton builds community with child care, dining, focus on housing

Canton is a community on the rise — with new places to eat, be entertained and a major boost for childcare coming early next year.

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