(Chapel Hill, N.C., May 27, 2021) The economic crisis driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit distressed communities particularly hard, many of which will not be able to recover without focused, long-term planning. A new initiative, Anchor Institutions Create Economic Resilience (AICER), seeks to prevent additional short-term economic damage and support sustainable long-term recovery through the power of “anchor” institutions. The initiative will be bolstered by $325,000 in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.
AICER was developed by CREATE, an initiative of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. AICER’s goal is to help anchor institutions significantly increase the proportion of procurement spending on goods and services from businesses in their service region, particularly those small- and medium-sized businesses located in communities most negatively affected by the pandemic. Anchor institutions are defined as geographically immobile large employers, such as hospitals, universities, and tribal governments, who have significant procurement needs.
“The United States is experiencing the greatest level of income and wealth inequality since the 1920s, and the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges for workers trying to improve their economic futures,” said Mark Little, executive director of CREATE. “We believe that intentional procurement policies and practices will enable anchor institutions to support a robust economic recovery, more resilient supply chains and long-term sustainable economic development across North Carolina and beyond.”
The two-year project will review partners’ procurement practices, identify local sourcing opportunities, match anchor institutions with local businesses, guide local businesses through the procurement process and improve local capacity and assets. The goal is to stimulate employment opportunities and new business formation by dramatically increasing local sourcing.
The project will prioritize communities with high African American, Latino or Native American populations, groups who have experienced disproportionate levels of both negative health outcomes and economic damages due to COVID-19.
AICER’s current anchor institution partners include UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Pembroke and Elizabeth City State University, with whom CREATE will work closely to review existing procurement practices and policies. An additional key partner is the Institute for Innovation at the UNC School of Law, which will help guide small businesses through the legal aspects of the contract process.
UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said, “At UNC-Chapel Hill, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to redouble our efforts to close the gap in economic outcomes across our state. Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve said we want to come out of this as a reimagined university — the university for North Carolina, not just the University of North Carolina. AICER exemplifies the ways Carolina can work with communities to rebuild after the pandemic and be more economically resilient well into the future.”
The project will also create a national AICER Partners Network, which will convene semiannually to share resources, feedback and lessons learned among its partners. Additionally, AICER will work with institutional, local, state and federal policymakers to help diversify supply chains and encourage publicly-funded anchor institutions to redirect spending on goods and services to businesses in regional communities most severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
For more information, visit createprosperity.unc.edu.
CREATE is an economic development center at UNC Chapel Hill that creates shared economic prosperity through thought leadership, real interventions, and policy development. CREATE envisions a community, state, nation and world where the economy works to equitably distribute resources and wealth; where individuals and communities are empowered to achieve their goals; and where all have opportunities to prosper. CREATE works towards this vision by generating innovative research and new data; delivering on-the-ground applied technical assistance; and informing local, state, national and international policy. Learn more at createprosperity.unc.edu.
About the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise develops and promotes innovative, market-based solutions to vital economic issues. With the belief that private enterprise is the cornerstone of a prosperous and free society, the institute fosters the entrepreneurial spirit to stimulate economic prosperity and improve the lives of people in North Carolina, across the country and around the world. Learn more at kenaninstitute.unc.edu.