One of my web searches came across a recent blog post from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) about early childhood education. SMIF states its vision as follows:
“Since 1986, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation has been a catalyst for economic growth in 20 Minnesota counties. We work to build a prosperous region with vibrant communities, innovative businesses and a skilled and valued workforce.
To accomplish this, we invest in emerging businesses and the emerging workforce. We help businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations find common ground, pool resources and achieve more.”
This includes investments in biobusiness, emerging businesses, and minority-owned businesses. It also includes investments in early childhood education.
In the recent blog post, SMIF President Tim Penney (a former Congressman from Minnesota) states the reasons behind the Foundation’s support of early childhood education:
“I’m occasionally asked why SMIF invests in early childhood programs when, at first blush, it seems disconnected from our “economic development” vision. My response has always been that early childhood is a long-term investment in a quality workforce that translates into vitality for our businesses and communities. SMIF believes that a strong workforce starts at the beginning—with young children who understand they are appreciated and have something valuable to give, even at an early age. Over the past eight years, we have invested about $1 million annually to support organizations and communities who are working to ensure that every child has a good start to life.”
This is a good statement of the case for early childhood programs as local economic development. In this case, it doesn’t come from a policy wonk like me. This statement comes from an organization that also actively promotes local economic development in more conventional ways focused on immediate business needs.
Both well-designed services to businesses, and cost-effective ways of promoting job skills, are essential to a balanced local economic development strategy.