Leo Augusta, Akkerman join forces

Published 7:42 pm Friday, May 13, 2022

Center slated to open early June

In just about a months time, the Leo Augusta Children’s Academy, in Blooming Prairie will open its doors with a soft opening.

However, prior to that the academy has struck an important partnership that administrators hope will be a sign of things to come.

Leo Augusta and Akkerman Inc. in Brownsdale recently entered into a three-year deal that will let  Akkerman adopt the academy’s STEAM room.

“We had great discussions of a mutually beneficial association,” said Amy Hinzmann, academy president. “They will be adopting the STEAM room for a three-year period. There will be marketing toward Akkerman and they will display a bunch of stuff in the room.”

With Akkerman showing interest in the STEAM room, it opens up  an educational opportunity for the students that will soon be attending the academy.

“This is a great opportunity for Akkerman to market themselves and also be able to give our kids at the academy the opportunity to ask questions and get a better understanding of manufacturing,” Hinzmann said. “That’s our strong suit. It’s a good opportunity.”

It’s also a model for other companies to possibly step up to offer the same opportunities throughout the school.

“We want other companies to come on board,” Hinzmann said. “I would love an agriculture room so we can highlight agriculture.”

Construction is currently in the final stages with a target for that soft opening set in the first part of June.

Hinzmann said she hopes that all construction is finished by the end of this month, however, staff are already on site and preparing for the year ahead.

At its full capacity, Leo Augusta hopes to have 144 kids on site, though Hinzmann recognizes that’s probably not going to be the case for the next three years, something those involved with the academy have been aware of since the beginning.

“Projects like this takes time for people to want to make a change and decide to do it,” Hinzmann said. “We’re not expecting maximum capacity for another three years. We’re only going to have one classroom for each age group to stand point.”

Leo Augusta was originally conceived in a hope to meet a need for child daycare shortages.

In particular, the academy has come to realize that several businesses in the area have been struggling to fulfill an adequate workforce, with some parents choosing to stay home rather than work because of adequate child care options.

“We know we have a need,” Hinzmann said, noting the results of a survey taken in 2021. “Draw a circle around Blooming Prairie of 20 miles and there are 660 children looking for adequate child care.”

“We think we have the solution to take on 144 children,” she added.