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Small Illinois Businesses Benefit from Big Partnerships

Anchor Staffing on Chicago's South Side has benefited from a partnership between large and small businesses. (Joyce Johnson)
Anchor Staffing on Chicago's South Side has benefited from a partnership between large and small businesses. (Joyce Johnson)
September 25, 2017

CHICAGO -- They’re called anchor institutions: organizations like hospitals and universities that have developed deep roots in their communities. And they’re finding new ways to improve local economies and create opportunities for more low-income residents, according to a new report by the Funders Network.

Nitika Nautiyal, executive director at the group Chicago Anchors for a Stronger Economy, or CASE, said the idea is to connect large corporations with small, local businesses. She cites BMO and Com Ed as examples of big businesses that can help communities by focusing on local products and employees.

"We really think that it's potential for them to localize their supply chain here and give opportunities to smaller businesses, who we really think are the engines of job creation for the communities where these jobs are needed,” Nautiyal said.

Since CASE formed in 2014, Nautiyal said, they've worked with 450 businesses and creating 180 new jobs, including many in minority- and women-owned businesses. She said that's just scratching the surface.

Charles Rutheiser, senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Civic Sites and Community Change, said when the core business aspects of universities and hospitals can be deployed in partnership with communities, there are better outcomes in health and education.

"Anchor institutions are a new and important chapter in the long history of approaches to community development in the United States,” Rutheiser said. "These institutions can partner, invest and act in new and different ways, without sacrificing their bottom line."

He added the Casey Foundation is exploring ways to expand the anchor category to include other types of businesses with community connections - from for-profit companies and sports teams, to libraries and museums. Rutheiser said the next step is to translate these best practices into policy, so that more places can support anchor-based community development.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL