Austin is a rural community in Southeastern Minnesota with a population of 24,000, and rapidly changing demographics. In 2002, Austin was a predominately white community while today the diversity has grown as a result of new immigrants and refugees moving to the area. There are over 46 languages spoken in the Austin schools. The unemployment rate is at 2%, and the poverty rate is 20% in the Austin area.
Child care is a critical component to the economic development of the Austin community. Currently, Austin is experiencing a shortage of approximately 810 full-time child care slots. A child care shortage of this size has a significant impact on the families, and the local economy. Through the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, the community is working towards creating sustainable solutions that increase the supply of affordable and high quality child care.