The things most vital to economic stability
Forty-six years of experience with the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce — 33 of them as President & CEO — have taught me what’s most vital to economic stability and productivity.
Child care and early childhood programs easily make that list. They provide indispensable support for working parents, and thus employers. And high-quality programs also help instill skills in young children, our future workforce.
Yet, locally, this must-have assistance often cannot be had. Our county is home to nearly 600 young children lacking access to early care and education services — a “slot gap” challenge that has not improved during the COVID pandemic.
This is not just a crisis for kids and families. It’s an emergency for our entire workforce.
In fact, a ReadyNation report revealed that Illinois’ economy annually loses nearly $2.5 billion due to the lack of infant/toddler child care — a price tag that would be far higher if it also reflected the dearth of care for children older than 3.
That’s why I’m proud that, at the local level, a number of community leaders have stepped-up in recent years to plan important efforts at filling these Effingham County gaps. At the state level, I’m encouraged that a bipartisan commission is issuing recommendations for a multi-year approach to strengthening the reach and quality of early childhood programs throughout Illinois.
This is significant momentum; let’s keep it going and treat these issues with the priority attention they demand and deserve.
Norma Lansing, President & CEO Effingham County Chamber