‘Taking the Blinders Off’

Welcome to the latest ‘Core Values’ update on the Anchor Revitalization Program, engaging Indy’s major non-profit institutions in ‘Live,’ ‘Hire’ and ‘Buy’ initiatives to spur homeownership, create nearby employment and homegrown business opportunities, and strengthen urban neighborhoods across Marion County.

In the second year of the Anchor Program, we’re welcoming new institutional partners like IU Health, the Indianapolis-based health system that boasts more than 30,000 employees across the state and a unique relationship with another anchor – IUPUI – through its affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine.

There are also new faces associated with the anchor partnership: Tedd Grain has officially taken the reins as the Indianapolis Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Executive Director; Grain’s tenure with the group, along with Bill Taft’s continued engagement in Indianapolis, ensures that LISC’s efforts in ‘Buy,’ ‘Hire,’ and building the broader community development ecosystem supporting the anchor strategy won’t miss a beat.

The Indy Chamber’s Vice-President of Indianapolis Economic Development, Ian Nicolini, is also stepping into a more active role overseeing day-to-day implementation of anchor programs.  Nicolini notes that the initiative fits into the Chamber’s strategic push to “rethink economic development” and reorient its focus to encompass homegrown business success and emphasize inclusive growth.

“There’s always been a blind spot in traditional economic development,” Nicolini said recently.  “We miss out on significant local employment and investment if it doesn’t come from a ‘traded sector’ company as part of an attraction or relocation project we’re competing for…enlisting our anchor institutions is one way to take the blinders off and recognize that economic development and community development are symbiotic strategies.”

For perspective, Develop Indy – also overseen by Nicolini – pursued 83 successful projects accounting for roughly $500 million in capital investment in 2017.  If the city’s largest anchor institutions increased local procurement spending to half their total annual budgets (from current levels of approximately 36 percent), it would mean $300 million to the Marion County economy by boosting Indy-based suppliers.  Progress is being made – like Eskenazi Health’s momentum on food sourcing – but there’s more to be done.

A new study and strategy for systematically helping anchors meet these goals is in the works, to realize this broad and positive economic impact in a way that’s fiscally responsible for the institutions involved.


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