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Southern Business Leadership Council

Southern Business Leadership Council Formed to Address Issues Affecting Low-Income Children and Families in the South

Many challenges that impede the ability of lower-income parents to obtain and keep stable employment also have direct negative consequences for the businesses that employ them. For example, parents missing work due to unreliable child care or transportation may have that time deducted from their wages, which can lead to an impaired ability to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, utilities, safe, affordable child care or health coverage. At the same time, high rates of absenteeism sacrifice the productivity and profitability of the businesses where they work. It is critical for both business and community leaders to address the connection between the well-being of lower-income workers and their children and the capability of businesses to operate efficiently.

The Southern Institute on Children and Families understands the relationship between child and family well-being and the stability of the lower-income workforce. We also believe it is essential for the business community to be at the table to develop strategies and lead the movement of public and private sector collaboration toward achievement of significant progress. In 2002 the Southern Institute established the Southern Business Leadership Council (SBLC) to create an environment for employers to identify and promote strategies that improve child and family well-being and increase the stability of southern workers.

The SBLC is chaired by former US Secretary of Education and former Governor of South Carolina Richard W. Riley and is composed of key business leaders of various industries and public policy leaders who will develop and lead bold actions that are mutually beneficial to families, employers and communities. At a meeting of the SBLC convened in August 2004 in Atlanta, SBLC members engaged in discussion of the status of their current work agenda and development of future activities. The SBLC plans to hold open dialogue sessions with employers from selected southern communities to gain their front line perspective on issues that impede the stability of lower-income workers. A major goal of these local dialogue sessions is to collect information that will inform the SBLC's development of an action plan to promote employment stability in the lower-income workforce. This action plan will serve as a roadmap for business, community and public policy leaders in 17 southern states and the District of Columbia to remove barriers to the stable employment of today's lower-income workforce.

The 2004 SBLC meeting was the venue for release of the Southern Institute's third edition of the Chartbook of Major Indicators: Conditions Placing Children in the South at Risk. During a press conference in which SBLC members participated, data from the 2004 Chartbook of Major Indicators were presented to illustrate the condition of child and family well-being in the South based on five key categories: economic status, child care, child abuse and neglect, education, health coverage and health care. Information on programs that are addressing the needs of children and families also is presented in the publication. The 2004 Chartbook of Major Indicators includes state-by-state information for the South and data for states outside the southern region. State-by-state data may be accessed on the Southern Institute Web site at http://www.thesoutherninstitute.org/2004chartbook.asp.

In addition to focusing on lower-income workforce stability, the SBLC is committed to providing leadership that promotes greater opportunities for child development across the South. There are known strategies that improve the potential for children to developmentally thrive and succeed in school, and will ultimately prepare them to become future contributors to a vigorous southern economy.

Participation of business leaders elevates the goals of removing barriers faced by lower-wage employees, improving their opportunities to be gainfully employed and increasing their abilities to meet the basic needs of their families. The Southern Institute is grateful for the leaders who serve on the SBLC and their willingness to work diligently towards these goals. With their leadership and involvement we can guide the South towards a more competitive position, both in terms of our workforce and the conditions in which our children and families live and work.

For more information about the SBLC call the Southern Institute at (803) 779-2607.