Community members from Marquette and Alger counties gathered in Marquette Friday for the inaugural Invest Early event.

The event is designed to educate the public on the importance of early childhood initiatives.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley was the keynote speaker.  He discussed the correlation between investing in early childhood education and economic development.

“Over the course of the last few years we’ve started massive investment in early childhood education and in order for that to work the very best way it can, it means that communities need to come together around those resources to provide kids everything they need, and the Great Start Collaborative effort is really going to make a difference long term for every citizen in the state of Michigan,” Calley said.

“The intention here today is to demonstrate the relationship from the state, from the local community, from parents, educators, service providers, and really the wonderful partnership we have here in Marquette and Alger Counties to ensure that all children have a great start in life,” Marquette Alger Great Start Collaborative director Evi Lindquist said.

The Great Start organization was honored with the Setting a Great Example Award for helping a parent group build an indoor playground in Munising.

“We wanted to have this indoor playground because we have such long winters and there’s nowhere for our children to be able to play outside so it was important for us to have an area for parents to be able to get together for their kids to get together and socialize and also to just be able to bring resources to an indoor space,” GSC Alger County liasion Rae Bowerman said.

Cliffs Natural Resources was also honored for donating $20,000 to the Marquette-Alger Great Start Collaborative.