Friday, April 23, 2010

First 5 success tied to county success

By Michael Ammann
April 22nd, 2010

One of Solano Economic Development Corporation's most important long-term partnerships exists with First 5 Solano -- a countywide organization that devotes its efforts to early childhood development.

In today's convoluted economic world, it may be difficult to fully appreciate the importance of EDC's support in this long-term approach toward making Solano future's bright. Some may argue that the pressures of today's economic challenges need to be the sole focus of EDC's efforts. While it is indeed true that the pressures of today's financial world require most of EDC's attention, we cannot overlook the importance of planning for the future.

Simply stated, the current economic situation will improve in the coming months and years -- and we in Solano County must be ready to pounce on the opportunities to bring new industry, business and jobs into our communities. In the changing industrial world we must have a workforce ready to fulfill the demands of business that is projected for the future.

The EDC Economic Index research study said that in 2006 more than 1,100 people with bachelor's degrees moved into Solano County. This is good news, since they bring with them higher paying salaries. And, those with college educations are more inclined to want their kids attending great schools, realizing that knowledge leads to success through higher-skilled jobs that pay well. We need to encourage these “new” residents to become active voices for better education in our schools.

Our high school dropout rates are rising at a time when the Bay Area economy demands higher skills from the local workforce. The best way to turn this trend around is to devote more energy and resources toward our young people -- particularly those in early childhood.

Thus, the importance of First 5 Solano becomes evident.

Research and statistics have demonstrated just how important the first five years of a child's life are. Research has demonstrated that investments in early childhood development, child care and education help determine which communities attract and retain businesses.

Solano County is below the norm in many early childhood benchmarks. For example, 13 percent of Solano children below the age of 5 live below the poverty line. Only 38 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, compared to the state average of 48 percent.

A lack of preschool education is a major factor that contributes to lower high school graduation rates.

Clearly, Solano County's economic success depends in part on early childhood investments.

Solano EDC and its members recognize this simple truth and are therefore forging partnerships and collaborations with First 5 Solano, which will prepare children for formal education.

Children in kindergarten think pretty much in magical terms. Their world is open to new ideas and learning. They have tremendous capabilities to use their energies. And, it has been demonstrated that those youngsters who enter kindergarten with a sound foundation -- physical health, social skills and cognitive skills -- enjoy a more successful education experience. This translates into a more successful work skills and opportunities in their adult life.

First 5 Solano is our first line of offense to assure our young people enter schools prepared.

A child, by the age of 4 is already asking himself (or herself) “why?” and “how?” Parents, family, friends and communities can all play a role in helping the child develop these born-given traits to seek learn and discover.

The task of serving children and their families during these first five years of life is one that requires the resources, funding and support of government, private and community organizations.

Solano EDC and First 5 have conducted numerous focus groups with business leaders to help prioritize the basic needs for workers with small children.

Here's a short list:

  • Affordable and convenient health care
  • Quality child care
  • Flexibility for a family's needs
  • Effective education (beginning with preschool)
  • Ongoing training opportunities
  • Reliable transportation
It would be difficult to find anyone who did not believe that “Solano's future is in our youth.”

That being said, it is easy to see why Solano EDC supports and invites others to join First 5 Solano.

Michael Ammann is president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation. He can be reached at