The Anchor Concept
The anchor institutions concept originated in the 1990’s, and it was Harvard Professor Michael Porter, a leading economic development theorist and placemaking advocate, who demonstrated the win-win relationship when large employers sought to improve the economic and social landscape in their respective downtowns. His Initiative for a Competitive Inner City has demonstrated that when downtowns benefit from investment and support from large anchor organizations, these large anchors benefit as well with improved conditions that directly address their core business operations.
Anchor institutions participate in seven aspects of community and economic vitality. In four of these, the anchors are Actors, conducting the activities of their businesses including: (1) innovating their products, services and processes, (2) developing their real estate, (3) purchasing goods and services and (4) employing local residents. However, in conducting these activities, these anchors simultaneously benefit the community and its economy.
In two areas, anchors work as Leaders, joining with others to improve the economic and competitive conditions that help them succeed including providing direction for workforce development and stimulating clusters related businesses and institutions.
Finally, anchors act as Collaborators, leveraging their resources and influence with any other stakeholders to build a better community.
Anchors realize their greatest potential when they can aggregate and leverage their respective needs. The aggregated purchasing and employee skill requirements of several anchors, as examples, allows scale to be realized that would not otherwise be achievable with just individual needs. Similarly, anchors working together will magnify the impact they collectively make in all seven roles they play in the community.