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Updated: January 17, 2024

Jackson Lab opens $4.5M on-site child care center in Bar Harbor

inside a room with chair and shelves and window Courtesy / Jackson Laboratory The center has three primary classrooms and large indoor and outdoor playgrounds.

A newly constructed child care center on the Jackson Laboratory’s Bar Harbor campus is seen as an important draw for employees that also fills a shortage in the local community.

“Child care resources on MDI are very limited and we view this project as an investment in our employees and their families today and a critical recruitment and retention tool,” Catherine Longley, the lab’s executive vice president and COO, said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held last week. “This center will provide quality child care for families at JAX and in our community for many years to come.” 

building exterior and bike
Courtesy / The Jackson Laboratory
The center is viewed as a critical employee recruitment and retention tool.

Planning for the project began in 2018. The facility, called Island of Imagination Early Learning Center, will be operated by the Ellsworth-based Down East Family YMCA and will serve both lab employees and members of the community. More than 20 children are enrolled. The center will accommodate up to 50 at full capacity.      

The ceremony was attended by lab employees, representatives of the Down East Family YMCA, Gov. Janet Mills and other state leaders.

“My administration will continue to work with innovative businesses and organizations like JAX to deliver high-quality early childhood education and care to Maine children and families,” Mills said.

4 people standing in a line
Courtesy / Tiffany Laufer
From left, Down East Family YMCA CEO Matthew Montgomery, Gov. Janet Mills, with Jackson Laboratory President and CEO Lon Cardon and Executive Vice President and COO Katy Longley.

The 6,800 square-foot center broke ground in October 2022 and started construction in early 2023. 

It has three primary classrooms — one for infants, one for toddlers and another for pre-school-age children — along with large indoor and outdoor playgrounds. There are also a kitchen, staff offices and a dedicated room for one-to-one support services such as speech therapy. 

shelves and play objeccts
Courtesy / Jackson Laboratory
Twenty children are already enrolled. At full capacity, the center will increase the number of licensed child care spots on Mount Desert Island by more than 30%.

The center was supported by a $250,000 grant from the Maine Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program, part of a $15 million state investment into the construction or expansion of workforce child care programs. 

Design and construction were managed by TAC Architectural Group in Bangor, Bowman Constructors in Newport, Woodard and Curran in Portland and Cordjia Capital Projects Group in Camden.

At full capacity, the center will increase the number of licensed child care spots on Mount Desert Island by more than 30%, from 162 to 212.

The debut of the center comes five years after the opening of the Beechland Road Early Learning Center in Ellsworth, in a building renovated by JAX and also operated by the Down East Family YMCA.

“YMCAs are one of the largest providers of child care across the nation and youth development is at the core of our mission,” Matt Montgomery, CEO of the Down East Family YMCA. “Safe, high-quality, and education-based child care are all critical factors that help parents return to work, ensure social and emotional development, and lead to better outcomes in learning and child development.”

Jackson Laboratory, located on Route 3 on the outskirts of Bar Harbor’s downtown and adjacent to Acadia National Park, is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and nearly 3,000 employees in Maine, Connecticut, California and Japan, as well as a joint venture in China. 

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