|Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development News Release|
|Friday, January 13, 2006
|News Media Contact
Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Roberta Gassman today announced the success of the Strongest Links “Economic Development and Early Childhood” conference held in Madison. DWD was the lead sponsor for the conference through DWD’s Head Start Collaboration Office.
The conference, which focused on early childhood investment as an economic development strategy, brought together close to 200 representatives from community agencies, business leaders, policy makers and consumers who are committed to improving the lives of young children and families in Wisconsin. The conference’s objectives to raise the awareness that childhood investment enhances economic development are key priorities of Governor Jim Doyle and the heart of DWD’s mission to build a quality workforce.
Said Gassman, “We are pleased that so many conference sponsors joined us in recognizing that providing for our children early makes good business sense. Governor Doyle KidsFirst initiatives strives to provide a nurturing and healthy environment for Wisconsin’ children. Overwhelming evidence confirms that giving children the best start in life pays dividends later. The support of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), the Alliance of Cities, and Wisconsin Economic Development Association illustrates the vital link between investments in the very young and a healthy future state economy”
The luncheon keynote speaker was one of the world’s leading social theorists and public intellectuals, Dr. Richard Florida. Dr. Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, emphasized that human creativity is the engine of economic growth and that every person is creative. Dr. Florida affirmed that our economic growth depends on the further development of a wide spectrum of human capabilities. His research centers on the critical importance of nurturing and growing human creativity to insure a future healthy economy.
The link between quality early childhood experiences and a strong future economy was addressed by the day’s speakers:
Tom Still, President of the Wisconsin Technology Council, and moderator of the conference is a strong proponent of quality early education. His recent column from “Inside Wisconsin” titled “Reaping the dividends of early childhood education: Why it’s good business” is an example of a growing recognition that we must invest more in the early years.
James Heckman, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and Economist from the University of Chicago opened the conference via a taped message. His research concludes that “The real question is how to use available funds wisely. The best evidence supports the policy prescription: invest in the very young.”
Dr. Mildred Warner, Director of the Child Care and Economic Development Project and a noted economist from Cornell University, delivered the morning keynote, and addressed the increasing recognition of the economic importance of child care. Dr. Warner demonstrated that early care and education services are a critical component of the social infrastructure that supports children's development and facilitates parents' employment.
A panel of state economic experts including Dennis Winters of Northstar Economics, Terry Ludeman, Chief Labor Economist from DWD, and Roger Nacker, President of the Wisconsin Economic Development Institute provided perspectives on how investment in early childhood programs are so vitally important in Wisconsin.
Conference sponsor, Rich Eggleston of the Alliance of Cities, underscored the importance of strengthening our early childhood development systems, “Early childhood education is one antidote to a toxic economic mix on Wisconsin’s horizon: a brain drain of bright college graduates, an aging workforce and the migration of two few new workers into the state.”
Content Contact: Rose Lynch