Andre Correa already has 60 Squamish babies waiting for a spot in his childcare centre, and it hasn't even opened yet.
Correa, owner and director of Eaglekids Learning centre, which is slated to open at the bottom of the Jumar building (38380 Buckley Ave.) on April 1, said he has a total of 74 spots in the centre: 24 spots for infants and toddlers; 54 for three to five-year-olds.
Squamish has long had a childcare shortage. Recently, the YMCA Platypus Playcentre announced it was closing its doors in June, exacerbating the situation.
"I am sold out for infant and toddler," Correa told The Chief.
He has enough space for 100 kids, eventually, as the centre is more than 1,486 square metres (16,000 square feet), he said.
"Help is coming," he said, of his message to Squamish families in need of childcare.
The Eaglekids centre includes the usual daycare necessities, including a playground, sleeping area, craft and play areas, but also barbecue and gardening areas.
"To teach them how to be sustainable," he said.
Childcare isn't new to Correa, as he opened a centre in Aldergrove in 2018.
Correa, a lawyer by trade, plans to open another centre in Squamish in October, he said.
Since 2008, he has heard that it is hard to hire and maintain staff for daycares in the Sea to Sky, but he said he has already filled the 16 positions by offering competitive wages, benefits, and some perks, such as grocery and Amazon gift cards.
"Benefits help a lot," he said, adding he will help pay a portion of any post-secondary education his staff wants.
"I am going to give them a good wage, so it can be affordable for them to live here."
Correa, who has an eight-month-old, just moved into Jumar two weeks ago.
He is originally from Brazil but prefers the cooler temps of a mountain town.
He moved to Canada in 2016.
His parents are in the U.S., and haven't seen his baby yet, he noted, due to the pandemic.
While he is trained as a lawyer, he turned to the childcare business because he wanted to do something more.
"I wasn't born to do the same thing," he said, adding he volunteered with the Salvation Army for years when he first arrived in Canada and realized he wanted to focus on children.
The pandemic slowed down the centre's completion, noting that he signed the contract for the space in 2018, expecting to be open in September 2020.
Then the pandemic slowed down everything.
"I postponed it two times," he said, of the childcare centre's opening in town. "And those parents, they need this. Right now, I am here and pushing all my team."
He aims to hold an open house with the mayor for parents two days before the April 1 opening day, he said.