“Anchor institutions” are organizations with a stable commitment in the community; they have major investments where they are located and are not readily moved. Economic development that involves anchor institutions as foundational to its success is a strategy that has been utilized in urban communities to foster collaboration among and between education, health, business and government sectors. Such collaboration maximizes the impact of economic development initiatives. The anchor convening, “Anchor Institutions and the New Economy in Buffalo” was an outgrowth of the Economic Opportunity Panel (EOP) Report project. Led by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and as a result of EOP Partner discussions, several EOP partners agreed on the need for facilitating a city-wide discussion about an anchor institution strategy that could expand upon and enrich the workforce and economic development goals inherent in recommendation one of the EOP Report. A city-wide convening was held in February 2015 to provide a forum for national foundations and other leaders in this movement to begin exchanging information about this approach with local community leaders. National co-sponsors included the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the F.B. Heron Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.
The first recommendation in the report, “Opening Economic Opportunity Around UB’s Growing Downtown Presence: Report of the University at Buffalo and St. John Baptist Church Economic Opportunity Panel,” (EOP report), requested that pathways to economic opportunity among UB and its partners be “illuminated.” In response, the Office of Educational Collaboration & Engagement (ECE) created a network of EOP partner agencies and individuals offering employment, education and/or training relevant to workforce opportunities in the downtown medical corridor. Working together with EOP partners, ECE hosted a workshop on the Downtown Campus where leaders from the health care sector, joined by one of the principal architects of the Buffalo Billion initiative, shared information specific to growth plans and employment needs for the region. A follow-up health careers forum provided opportunities for community members to talk with employers who had job openings. As a result of these efforts, a broader workforce plan was initiated that would bring a city-wide workforce strategy that emphasized the involvement of anchor institutions.