Corridors of Opportunity – Leveraging Anchor Institutions

By Funders Collaborative

November 22, 2011

The role of Anchor Institutions in local economies is having a resurgence of sorts according to research done by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner-City (ICIC), which focuses attention on the natural competiveness of location and infrastructure provided by our nation’s inner cities. With the Central Corridor under construction, the Twin Cities offers a platform to explore the role of local anchors – especially in relation to the aligned efforts of the “Corridors of Opportunity”.  On November 3, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and other collaborating partners including the Met Council explored how the educational and health care institutions (“eds” and “meds”) located along and near the Central Corridor can work together in a more coordinated way to enhance their self-interest while benefiting the neighborhoods along the corridor. (Program materials available here.)

At the event, Mary Kay Leonard, president and CEO of Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), presented the idea of “creating shared value”, or the blending of anchor competitiveness and community vitality, as a way anchor institutions can positively impact cities across the country. The way in which medical and educational campuses and arts/cultural institutions are often geographically clustered offers the ability to collaboratively develop common workforce, purchase goods and services, and build community.

The big question for the Central Corridor, according to Leonard, is threefold: what are the anchor institutions, what do they do currently, and how can we leverage their location and attributes? An Environmental Scan of the corridor commissioned by the McKnight Foundation addressed these questions. The approach of the Environmental Scan was to concentrate on “the three Ps;” Placemaking, Personnel and Procurement. Perhaps most striking was a simple map of the Twin Cities illustrating the proximity of its anchor institutions to transit, which highlights nine medical facilities (“meds”) and seven college campuses (“eds”) along the Central Corridor alone, accounting for 67,000 jobs and 111,500 students overall.

The 100 capital projects worth $5 billion presently underway or planned at the anchor institutions along the Central Corridor, as well as construction of light rail itself, represents a significant placemaking opportunity. Additional opportunities along the corridor include:

  • More housing construction and “last mile” connections (the distance from the platform to the final destination), such as pedestrian improvements and shuttle buses.
  • A cooperative program to provide academic financial assistance, internships and mentoring, and training for the various health care institutions along the line, perhaps targeting the youth and low-income populations in the surrounding community to find career-oriented work.
  • Common purchasing by anchor institutions of goods and services preferably sourced locally.

A combination of responses by Kate Wolford of the McKnight Foundation, Donna Zimmerman of HealthPartners, and Dr. Robert Jones of the University of Minnesota, along with a breakout session provided a chance for attendees to provide local reaction and brainstorming for solutions. A prominent theme was procurement, as the ability to buy local and use local vendors for supplies and services is an excellent way to save resources and grow local jobs. The example provided by several health care institutions in Cleveland was oft cited. In addition, relationships with local banks could be explored as a means of keeping investment dollars in the local economy, and educational institutions could work together on more student-led community initiatives.

Most notably, Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner, pointed out the need for top leadership to be on board and hold each other and public officials accountable for progress and implementation on any potential initiatives among anchors. The successful example of the Phillips Partnership in Minneapolis was cited. Looking forward, the idea of top leadership working to create shared value using the “three Ps” presents significant opportunities for the corridor.  

The Corridors of Opportunity framework provides an extremely rich mix of committed public sector leadership, non-profit focus, and funder interest in exploring a collective way to engage anchors and yield results that creates new shared value to the anchors, people and neighborhoods along the line. 

Related Event:

In full coordination with the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative anchor convening, the previous day the executive leadership from all of the Anchor institutions on the Central Corridor were brought together by The McKnight Foundation, Augsburg College, and HealthPartners for a similar learning event (find meeting materials here.)