Anchor Institutions in Community Revitalization

Posted by Center for American Progress on November 10, 2014

Eds, Meds, and the Feds
How the Federal Government Can Foster the Role of Anchor Institutions in Community Revitalization

The growth of U.S. cities is largely rooted in the nation’s industrial past. As industry boomed, local governments constructed roads, sewers, and water systems, making it easier to live and work in densely populated areas. An increasing number of factories opened, public transportation expanded, and workers formed neighborhoods nearby. In short, cities grew alongside their businesses, and these firms employed workers, paid taxes, and purchased goods and services from other businesses. Not only did businesses make economic contributions to these cities, their owners and management teams provided civic leadership that, in some cases, served as a powerful enabler for taking on visionary projects.

The role of businesses in cities has become markedly different over the past few decades. Suburbanization, technological innovations, and globalization have each shifted the idea that businesses are rooted in communities. Communities across the country continue to experience the devastating effects of factory closings, and many of the jobs lost during the 2007 Great Recession will not return as businesses are forced to adapt to a new economic climate. Furthermore, only about one-quarter of low- and middle-skill jobs are accessible within a 90 minute-commute in metropolitan areas.

However, some institutions—including colleges, universities, and hospitals—maintain and foster strong connections to the places where they are located and serve many of the same functions as early industry leaders. They participate in local and national markets, employ hundreds—if not thousands—of workers, and purchase from other businesses. These institutions are often referred to collectively as “Eds and Meds,” or anchor institutions, as they are rooted in the communities where they are located.
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