Yesterday, Long Island business leaders learned about an investment strategy that, implemented statewide, would yield an 80% return on investment, create tens of thousands of jobs, and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Sounds good, right?

That high-yielding investment is in early childhood education.

The facts were presented at a breakfast meeting Thursday for Long Island business leaders. Hosting the event was an impressive and unusual coalition of business groups and not-for-profit organizations: the Long Island Association, Committee for Economic Development, United Way of Long Island, and two prominent early childhood groups, Winning Beginning New York, and the Early Years Institute. The event was made possible in part thanks to the vision and leadership of the Hagedorn Foundation.

The involvement of the LIA and the Committee for Economic Development reflects the growing role business leaders are taking in publicizing the economic benefits of early childhood education. The Committee for Economic Development is a national organization led by senior corporate executives and university leaders which provides research and public information on major economic and social issues.

Last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for a Competitive Workforce released a report Ready, Set, Go! Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education.

The economic benefits are detailed in a report by America’s Edge, another nationwide, business leaders organization. And those benefits are enormous.

That’s because the fastest and most important brain development occurs in the first years of life. So when you reach kids early, you change the trajectory of their lives. Longitudinal studies show that quality programs dramatically reduce remedial education, grade repetition, dropout rates, crime and incarceration, and dependence on public assistance, while increasing lifetime incomes and home ownership. Programs end up strengthening the workforce, reducing the drain on community resources, and actually saving taxpayers up to $16 for every dollar spent.

Business people know a good investment when they see it, and hopefully yesterday’s meeting will spur Long Island’s leaders to get involved in moving New York and the country to a smarter investment in our human resources.

Other countries around the world--our economic competitors--are light years ahead of us in investing in the first years of life. To spur our economy now and sustain our growth in the future, we need to catch up fast.