Workforce participation a priority for Excel by Eight business coalition

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Jan. 30, 2024) – A statewide business coalition tasked with tackling Arkansas’s child care crisis convened for the first time on Friday, Jan. 26, at the Supply Chain Hall of Fame in Rogers. Since 2020, Excel by Eight (E8) has mobilized Arkansas businesses to identify workable solutions that address the three critical elements of the child care crisis – accessibility, affordability, and quality – and its impact on the state’s current and future workforce. The formalized business coalition will meet quarterly to discuss policy goals ahead of the Arkansas State Legislature’s 2025 general session. 

“Quality child care is essential to a thriving Arkansas economy,” said Angela Duran, Excel by Eight executive director. “Working parents need safe, reliable, and affordable child care to build successful careers, remain contributing members of the workforce, and support their families. Business has long been overlooked as a key component of solving the child care challenges in Arkansas. We’re thrilled about the momentum this group has to create real change for Arkansas families.” 

E8’s Business Coalition comprises representatives from more than 30 businesses, nonprofits, and chambers of commerce across the state: 

  • Excel by Eight
  • Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • Arkansas Business Publishing Group
  • Arkansas Community Foundation
  • Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance
  • Arkansas Impact Philanthropy
  • Arkansas State Chamber / Associated Industries of Arkansas
  • Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Big Oak Tree Media
  • El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce
  • Education Partners
  • Excellerate Foundation
  • Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce
  • Fifty for the Future
  • Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Jackson Law Firm
  • Little Rock Regional Chamber
  • Mississippi County Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Northwest Arkansas Council
  • Pilgrim’s Pride
  • Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects
  • Red Head Farm LLC
  • Rockwater Village
  • Rogers Lowell Chamber
  • Springdale Chamber of Commerce
  • St. Bernard’s Healthcare
  • UA Cossatot
  • United Way of Northwest Arkansas
  • University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College
  • Walton Personal Philanthropy Group
  • Wilson & Associates, PLLC
  • Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
  • Women’s Foundation of Arkansas

“Early childhood education plays a vital role in maintaining and growing the existing and future labor force of our community. Rising costs and lack of childcare centers are impacting the region’s economy and workforce,” said Steve Cox, senior vice president of economic development at Rogers Lowell Chamber. “These issues are forcing parents to change careers or leave the workforce entirely, resulting in labor shortages in our area. The Rogers Lowell Chamber fully supports this coalition’s efforts to create lasting change in Northwest Arkansas and across the state to help our business community and parents.” 

“Beyond its impact on the workforce and economy today, if not addressed soon, the infant-toddler child care crisis has the potential to damage the future workforce by depriving children of nurturing, stimulating environments that support healthy brain development while their parents work,” said Crystal Johnson, president and CEO of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t see a downside to supporting these programs and initiatives because studies show high-quality early education provides a 13% return on investment. These programs boost parents’ employment prospects and equip our future workforce with the skills needed for real-world success.”

About Excel by Eight

Excel by Eight is a network of hundreds of individuals and organizations focused on increasing Arkansas children’s health and education outcomes. It is committed to strengthening resource grids statewide by building local models for change, identifying and resolving policy barriers, and enhancing public understanding of early childhood development.