Hosted by the Solano Economic Development Corporation and held at the Hilton Garden Inn, the talk focused around the theme of, "Closing the Achievement Gap: How Investments in Early Learning Increase the Bottom Line." Speaking to the crowd were Matt Regan, vice president of governmental affairs for the Bay Area Council, and Lisette Estrella-Henderson, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Solano County Office of Education.

The idea is that children are the county's best investment for the future and a well educated and trained workforce not only benefits existing employers, but can attract other businesses to the region.

It's a competitiveness issue, according to Regan, who applauded Solano County for leading the state in terms of advocating for early childhood education.

"You will be rewarded for it in growth and economic expansion in years to come," he said.

For that to work, children must begin their education before kindergarten, and it takes everyone, from parents and family members, acting as teachers themselves. For business, it means support for working families by offering or subsidizing child care and providing the flexibility for employees to participate in their child's school or in the community.

Estrella-Henderson implored the audience not to think of their role in early learning as being limited to just their own children, but to all children in the county.

"It really is about our children throughout Solano County and the economic vitality and economic future of Solano County," she said.

The challenge is preparing current and future generations of children to be able to solve problems and perform jobs that don't yet exist, according to Estrella-Henderson.

"That is why we must invest in early learning opportunities. Education is the key," Estrella-Henderson said.

"Folks, it doesn't start in high school, it doesn't start in middle school, it doesn't start in elementary school. We're talking about starting before they get to elementary school," she added.

Helping to promote the notion of early learning is First 5 Solano and on Wednesday, First 5 Solano representatives honored six local businesses for being family friendly.

First 5 Solano offered six ideas for connecting business and children in Solano County. They include: join First 5 Solano's Alliance of Business for Children; assist employees with high quality early childcare and education; provide paid time for employees to volunteer at schools and child care facilities; hold or sponsor organizational family events; provide flexible scheduling; and support family-friendly legislation and regulations.

For more information contact the First 5 Solano Children and Families Commission at 784-1332.