The Anchor Initiative is Jackson Michigan’s private sector effort focused on transforming its downtown; and, in doing so, making the entire community a more vibrant and valued place to live, learn and work. Downtown Jackson is located at the center of Jackson County, Michigan, a self-contained metropolitan area of 160,000. The downtown is both the geographic and economic center of this metropolitan area and improvements to this core will resonate through the entire community.
The anchor concept was inspired by Harvard economist Michael Porter challenging a community’s “anchors” (the established and imbedded businesses and universities) to collectively take more responsibility for the plight of their urban downtown. Our Anchor Initiative’s objective is to take on this challenge to make downtown Jackson a more desirable place to live, learn and work by creating and sustaining a more vibrant core -- downtown Jackson, the physical, social and economic hub of the community.
The Anchor Initiative will include elements of placemaking (creating a desirable physical environment), social capital (providing for increased social interaction and civic participation by Jackson residents) and community/economic development (reversing urban decline and creating opportunities for new jobs and livelihoods).
The Anchor Initiative will follow successful models employed elsewhere with a focus on Live Local, Invest/Buy Local, and Innovate Local. Live Local aims to grow a new downtown residential base of young adults with creative ideas and the means to provide bring financial stability to both the private sector and the municipal government. Invest/Buy Local efforts will focus on the interdependence of Jackson area businesses and the advantages of procuring goods and services from local firms including creating new enterprises, expanding commerce and increased job opportunities. Innovate Local will be a natural outcome of young creative people living and interacting in a vibrant urban setting where there are opportunities to launch careers and create new sustainable enterprises.
Organization and Governance:
The Anchor Initiative is a consortium of larger Jackson-based employers and our local colleges. In terms of governance, the Board of Directors includes a representative from each anchor organization committed to supporting the effort. From this board, an Executive Committee is elected for active management and oversight of the initiative. The Board and Executive Committee oversee the initiative’s work plan, budget and the duties and performance of its executive director.
The commitments the Initiative asks of its anchor organizations are as follows:
- A three year pledge to financially support implementation of the project’s objectives,
- A willingness to evaluate and aggregate purchasing to support the “Invest/Buy Local” effort,
- Active in engaging their millennial generation workers in a young professionals group,
- Rent incentives for employees to live downtown,
- A commitment to co-op style business internships that can help support a young, year around, talent-based population in the downtown.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
1. Challenge anchor institutions (the local businesses, hospitals and universities) to accept more of the responsibility for the prosperity of their downtowns.
2. Encourage these anchor institutions to take the opportunity to build and shape the type of thriving downtown “place” that attracts and retains young talented workers.