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Why Michigan Businesses Are Investing in Early Childhood Development

When children are healthy they perform better in school and are more likely to succeed. Making the investment in early childhood development key to sustaining the workforce of the future. The session “Increasing the Bottom Line: Why Michigan Businesses are Investing in Early Childhood Development” captured this message with an insightful and dynamic conversation on why focusing on the pre-kindergarten population is so important.

Moderator Chastity Pratt Dawsey of Bridge Magazine started off the discussion explaining that early childhood development is key to the health and education of the youngest children – ages zero to five. By investing in this segment of the population, she said businesses will be able to see economic benefits, while helping the communities in Michigan move forward.

Understanding the significant need for businesses to invest in the early childhood development arena at this moment in time, Kenyatta Brame, executive vice president for Cascade Engineering stated: “We need to be understanding what business’ needs for talent are, and making sure we have those 20 years, 10 years from now. So if we don’t start doing something now, those needs won’t be met.”

“It’s about coming together with the resolve that there is no child in the city of Detroit that we are not going to at least open the door of opportunity to,” said Joe Scantlebury, vice president program strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as he continued the conversation discussing that their founder started the Foundation with a goal of investing in people and they plan to continue that by investing in the people in Michigan, and Detroit.

“We are triple bottom-line businesses. Profit is important, but so are people and the planet as equally,” Brame added.

Understanding the difficulties to creating a system for this, Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation stated: “I think if we are to signal to at least the Detroit community you can actually thread those issues together and start a system for support and you can begin modeling for the PNC’s of the world and the Cascades of the world, by leading with coherence.”

Some businesses are also starting to provide better benefits to parents of young children such as paternity leave, breastfeeding facilities and emergency daycare. Seeing the value in this for attaining and attracting talent, Richard DeVore, regional president of Detroit and Southeast Michigan for PNC Bank stated: “When you offer benefits to your staff you are a more attractive place to work, period. I also say that this next-generation is more socially aware than my generation. These benefits are much more important to them than any other generation before.”

Touching on policy gaps the panelists continued to address the need for housing, commercial corridor development, early childhood rules, and overall equity for all children.

“We don’t believe that government fixes all the problems, the community is what fixes problems of this nature,” Brame stated.

The panel was co-hosted by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.