Feb 02, 2017Vermont Business Magazine
About 56 Vermont employers, representing nearly 20,000 employees from across the state, gathered at the Capital Plaza Hotel yesterday for the launch of Vermont’s Early Childhood Business Council. The event, which included remarks by Governor Phil Scott, was emceed by Emerson Lynn, editor and co-publisher of the St. Albans Messenger, and featured presentations by business leaders who believe that high-quality, affordable child care is an economic driver.
The Vermont Early Childhood Business Council is a coalition of employers and business leaders who recognize the importance of high-quality, affordable child care to Vermont’s economic health and prosperity. Members include CEOs from several of Vermont’s largest businesses and employers, such as UVM Medical Center, National Life Group, Cox Automotive/Dealer.com, Casella Waste Management, Green Mountain Power, People’s United Bank, and the Brattleboro Retreat.
Attendees at yesterday’s launch event got a sneak peek at findings from a new report called “Vermont’s Early Care and Learning Dividend,” which details the Vermont-specific return on investment the state stands to gain by increasing public funding for high-quality early care and learning programs.
Governor Scott, whose budget proposal included $9.6 million in increased funding for early childhood, told the room of business leaders that Vermont needs “to create a culture of learning that carries kids from cradle to career.”
The governor said he’s heard from countless businesses and working families affected by Vermont’s shortage of high-quality, affordable child care. Vermont’s working-age population continues to rapidly decline and we need to reverse that trend by making our state a more affordable place to live, work and raise a family, he said.
“We need to support Vermont’s current workforce with significant investments to make child care more affordable, while supporting our future workforce to reach their maximum potential,” Scott said.
Emerson Lynn said Vermont’s child care shortage is particularly acute for St. Alban’s Messenger readers who live in Franklin County, where a shocking 98% of infants likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality child care programs.
“This is a problem for us trying to recruit new employees,” Lynn said. The longtime newspaper editor said the need for high-quality, affordable child care can’t be argued. He said Vermont has the capacity to solve this problem and concluded, “We don’t have an alternative.”
Scott acknowledged that some of the details in his budget proposal have met resistance in the Legislature but he hopes legislators will recognize the importance of making significant investments in early care and learning even if they disagree with him on how to get there.
“I feel these investments are critical and crucial,” Scott said. “As leaders, we need to be brave.”
Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable, presented key findings from “Vermont’s Early Care and Learning Dividend” report, which will be officially released on Monday, Feb. 6 by the Vermont Business Roundtable’s Research & Education Foundation. Ventriss said the report was informed by the work of Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care.
“Our report found that enacting the Blue Ribbon Commission’s vision of a high-quality, affordable early care and learning system for children birth to five who are likely to need care would yield a return on investment of $3.08 for every dollar invested,” Ventriss said.
These investments, Ventriss said, would yield net benefits to Vermont’s economy of $1.3 billion over the next 60 years. The benefits would come in many forms – from decreased spending on special education to increased parent participation and productivity in the workforce to higher earning potential and better health outcomes over each child’s lifetime, Ventriss said.
Employers at the event talked about the various ways businesses are impacted by Vermont’s child care challenge and brainstormed ways they can be part of the solution.
Mark Curran, co-founder of Black River Produce, based in Springfield, said he’s witnessed a concerning demographic shift since he moved to Vermont 20 years ago: There are fewer and fewer young people and it’s challenging for businesses like his to attract and retain skilled workers. Curran said that modern-day jobs increasingly require well-developed cognitive, social-emotional and executive functioning skills (the ability to manage priorities, work toward future goals, multitask, regulate emotional reactions and adapt to a changing environment). These skills develop early, in the first five years of life, Curran said. He quoted a New York Times article titled, “Why what you learned in preschool is crucial at work,” to emphasize his point.
Other speakers at the event included Eileen Whalen, president of the University of Vermont Medical Center; Denise Leopoldino, director of culture, people strategies at Dealer.com; Charlotte Ancel, VP of power supply and general counsel at Green Mountain Power; Aly Richards, CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children; and Kyle Dodson, president and CEO of the Greater Burlington YMCA.
Find out more on our website at www.ecbcvermont.org.