The Business Case

Achieving Great Futures

The Regional Impacts of Investments in Young Children


Investing in early childhood is a key strategy for achieving long term economic success in our five-county region which includes Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties.

That was the key finding in a recent landmark study “Dividends of a Great Start: Regional Economic Impacts of Conditions Affecting Children Birth to Five Years.”

The benefits of focusing on the early years are detailed in the report which includes in-depth analysis and findings that describe investment returns the region could expect annually.  Paper copies of the executive summary are available by contacting the Collaborative coordinator.

The study was commissioned by the Great Start Collaborative Traverse Bay using a grant from Michigan’s Early Childhood Investment Corporation.

There is a clear path to a brighter economic future, and it depends on how we raise our youngest children.


This graphic shows side-by-side MRI images of brain activity. Environmental and emotional stress and lack of stimulation can prevent children from developing as many neural connections compared to children living in healthy, stimulating environments.


The early years from birth to five comprise a critical time in the life of a child.

The brain has the capacity to form more new neurological connections at this time than at any other phase of development. 90% of the brain’s architecture is built and most of the foundation for language, social behavior, problem solving ability and emotional health is created in the first five years.

Young minds grow, mature and develop under the right set of conditions. With positive stimulation, healthy learning experiences, stable family and social environments, and other positive inputs, children grow up with greater capacity to learn and succeed. If the conditions are wrong, these minds stagnate.

Although education and the acquisition of skills is a lifelong process, starting early in life is crucial. – Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Board Chairman


SOURCE: RAND Corporation. Brain development curve Figure 2.4 in D. Purves, Body and Brain, Harvard University Press; Table 1 in R. Haverman and B. Wolfe, “Determinants of Children’s Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings,” Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 33, December 1995

When we “get it right” for young children, we set them up for lifetime success. If we don’t, a lifetime of fixes can still lead to poor results. Parents, educators, and communities can spend time, energy and tax dollars in steadily increasing amounts without being able to recreate what was possible in the first years of life. There are no “do-overs” when it comes to early childhood. However, we tend to devote relatively few resources to these early, critical years.

I used to see this strictly as an education or social welfare issue. I now have come to understand early childhood programs in terms of the economic benefit we all gain in future years. Societal issues, law enforcement, the prosperity of the state and the region…these are all at stake. – Derek Bailey, Former Chairman Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

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