MERCER COUNTY —
The United Way of Mercer County’s Economic Summit, held Oct. 24 at Sharon’s Case Avenue Elementary School, provided a forum for area business leaders to better understand that high quality early-learning programs result in substantial economic development benefits to our region.
Nancy Lukasko, “Success By 6” Community Liaison for United Way of Mercer County, welcomed roughly seventy attendees, then introduced State Rep. Mark Longietti, a native of Sharpsville.
Longietti detailed the spending of $36,000 per year to incarcerate a single inmate, and this is an expense for which we gain no returns. On the other hand, the annual cost of educating a young child is one-third that, and offers a $7 return in savings from the cost of future remedial education, social dependence and incarceration costs for each dollar spent teaching children now. Educating a child is an investment, Longietti told the crowd, not an expense.
Randy Seitz, executive director, of Penn-Northwest Development Corp., the next speaker of the evening, said that his organization measures its successes using indicators like population growth, unemployment rate, and educational attainment – all of which are affected by a region’s current workforce.
Seitz deals with corporations that are interested in opening facilities locally and need trained, educated workers to be available here. Early education now will ensure that Mercer County can provide a solid workforce ten years down the road. This same environment will help retain sharp college graduates who have traditionally left Mercer County to accept gainful employment elsewhere, he said.
Dr. William Gathers, superintendent of Mercer Area School District, presented his five-year longitudinal study of “Success By 6” students.
These pre-school learners maintained close to, or better than, the state’s average grade level, five years beyond their “Success By 6” training, a notable accomplishment for those previously recognized as being “at risk” for poor academic performance.
≈Dr. Barbara Minzenberg, Deputy Secretary of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, gave a presentation was about the disparity between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) positions available in the US and the number of Americans that are qualified to fill them.
In terms of global competitiveness, by the year 2030, China will have 200 million college graduates – which is more than othe entire US workforce.
Diane Halstead, Director of Business Partnerships with Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, was recognized for her guidance and support of United Way’s first three economic summit events.
Three local businesses were recognized for their support of Early Childhood Education in Mercer County through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
Honorees were Quaker Steak & Lube, Synergy Comp Insurance Company, Inc., and Keystone Health Plan West, a subsidiary of Highmark Health Insurance Group. The EITC awards were presented by UWMC Executive Director Jim Micsky.
The EITC provides companies with a 75% tax credit for donations to a non-profit scholarship or educational improvement organization. The tax credit increases to 90% if the company commits to making the same donations for two consecutive years.
A business paying taxes in Pennsylvania can receive up to $300,000 in tax credits annually. More importantly, the money directly benefits our local early education programs. This year’s honorees made it possible for UWMC to add three classrooms to the 2013 “Success By 6” program.
For more information on the EITC program, please contact United Way of Mercer County at 724-981-1884.