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(Re)Defining Successful Anchor Strategies

Beth Dever, Omar Blaik, George Smith, and George McCarthy

December 2014, English

Universities, hospitals, and large non-profit organizations are often referred to as “anchor institutions” because of their permanence and their physical and social ties to surrounding communities. Anchor institutions have the capacity to shape their surroundings, enhance the quality of life for residents, and drive regional economic performance as a result of their size and relative importance to the local economy. In theory, the value of engaging anchor institutions to achieve beneficial neighborhood or community outcomes is self-evident: there are benefits to all involved, and it’s a smart way to do business. However, in practice, manifesting all of the benefits of closer engagement with anchors is a complicated undertaking, and it rarely occurs. Understanding why requires a consideration of the full context in which anchor strategies occur. In this paper, we seek to redefine anchor strategies by introducing a framework for classifying and describing them and their outcomes. We seek to distinguish a tactic a city or municipality might use to manifest the benefits of having an anchor within its borders from a strategy that animates and leverages the symbiotic relationship between the corporate goals of the anchor institution and the economic and social development goals of the municipality.