Early Learning Summit for Economic Development Highlights the Impact of Early Childhood Education on Workforce

November 7th, 2019

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Today, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and statewide partners hosted the 2019 Indiana Early Learning Summit for Economic Development. The annual event brought together regional business leaders and members from community, higher-education and non-profit organizations in an effort to better understand the business case for investment in quality early childhood education and how to support Indiana’s workforce. 

This year’s summit focused on engaging more business leaders to attend and learn how the lack of access to high-quality early education directly impacts the economy. On average, Indiana employers lose $1.8 billion annually in costs associated to employee absences or turnover related to lack of access to quality early education support. In Northeast Indiana alone, employers lose an average of $200 million annually.

The summit featured keynote speaker Jim Spurlino, president and owner of Spurlino Materials, a construction materials company with concrete plants in the Midwest and throughout the United States. Spurlino has been active in the promotion of early childhood issues for more than a decade.  

The event included thought leadership and panel discussions with leading state experts, including presentations explaining the science and research behind the importance of quality early childhood education. Business leaders led breakout sessions to share best practices on supporting early learning education resources in the workplace.

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, provided context on the impact of quality early education centers on the region’s economy and workforce.

Regarding Northeast Indiana specifically, Sampson said the loss of engaged employee time and contribution is equivalent to all of the new job commitments announced by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) in 2018 for all business attraction and expansion projects.

“Caring for our children is not a burden; a mere inconvenience leading to absenteeism and an unnecessary business expense. We cannot overlook or underestimate the benefits of supporting employees to assure that they are able to fulfill the critical needs of our youth and future workforce,” Sampson said. “In an age where the national talent shortage is at a critical stage, how can we afford to not engage and confront this issue? For our region, solving this challenge could offset the equivalent of over 3,000 full-time employees.”

For Northeast Indiana business leaders working to attract and retain their workforce, addressing this economic challenge is a top priority.

Regional President for Northern Indiana PNC Corinna Ladd and Chief Operating Officer at Early Childhood Alliance Madeleine Baker co-chaired the event. The PNC Foundation has supported the Early Learning Summit since its inception in 2016.

“As companies are increasingly challenged to find talent, the availability of quality early learning is an important component in efforts to attract employees and ultimately keeping them,” said Ladd. “As business leaders, we recognize the important role our companies play in ensuring that children and families have the support they need to succeed in school and in life.”

Baker said recent medical research reports that the most significant brain development occurs during the first five years of a child’s life, affirming that early opportunities are key to the development of social and emotional skills.

“As a parent of two adult children and now privileged to experience grandparenting four young granddaughters, I see every day how early experiences – and in some cases early intervention – are key to future talents, some that will be seen in our future leaders,” Baker said. “While we are talking about children’s development before they enter kindergarten, we should all be mindful that quality early foundations are significant.”

During the event, Ladd and Baker awarded the Community Early Learning Champion Award to Julie Garber with the Community Foundation of Wabash County and to ArcelorMittal, an Indiana steel and mining company.

This was the fourth Early Learning Economic Summit in the state, and the first time the event was hosted in Fort Wayne.

Sponsors of the event included:

  • Ambassador Enterprises
  • Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
  • Early Learning Indiana
  • FSSA: Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning
  • Parkview Health
  • The Dekko Foundation
  • PNC Bank
  • Business People Magazine
  • Rea Magnet Wire
  • United Ways of Northeast Indiana
  • Ivy Tech Community College
  • Pathfinder Services
  • Wells County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development

To learn more, visit the website at www.indianaearlylearningsummit.org or to download photos from the event click here

About the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s mission is to build, market and sell Northeast Indiana to increase business investment. Founded in 2006, the public-private partnership strives to build a globally competitive region. The Partnership’s Vision 2030 framework supports collaborative regional efforts to increase per capita income, population growth and educational attainment by focusing on business attraction, talent attraction and talent development. The Partnership represents 11 member counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley. For more information, visit www.neindiana.com.


Kate Virag
Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Communications
Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership

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