New Initiative for a Competitive Inner City Report Examines How For-Profit Companies Can Act as Anchor Institutions to Advance Social Impact in Lower-Income Communities

Research explores motivations and strategies of corporate engagement in four smaller U.S. cities
Sep 20, 2021 3:00 PM ET

BOSTON, September 20, 2021 /3BL Media/ - A new report from Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) explores how for-profit corporations can serve as anchor institutions by fostering strategic partnerships and social impact efforts that benefit residents of lower-income communities where their companies are rooted. Large or otherwise influential organizations that have deep roots in their local communities and participate in activities meant to benefit those communities are commonly referred to as anchor institutions.

The New Anchors: Corporate Engagement with Lower-Income Communities in Smaller Cities uses cases studies in four smaller U.S. cities – Amarillo, TX; Fort Wayne, IN; Richmond, VA; and Syracuse, NY – to present new information and detailed findings about companies’ motivations and strategies in engaging with lower-income communities that are either home to or located near their facilities.

“For-profit companies have strong potential to play more meaningful roles and increase their impact as anchor institutions in the communities they call home,” said Steve Grossman, Chief Executive Officer of ICIC. “Through strategic engagement and partnerships with local government and community organizations, for-profit companies will be better positioned to confront the economic and social challenges facing lower-income communities and help contribute to their prosperity.”

Over the last two decades, public policymakers, and economic development and other community-focused organizations have looked primarily to nonprofit entities, such as hospitals and universities, to shape and lead their cities’ and lower-income communities’ economic, social and physical development. However, this report argues that for-profit companies have an important role to fill in supporting nearby lower-income communities and presents numerous examples of strategies that companies can use to do so.

“Corporate leaders are recognizing that there is a connection between community prosperity and long-term business success that is motivating some companies to consider, or reconsider, their civic engagement in the places where they operate; yet policymakers, researchers and practitioners have paid little attention to for-profit organizations as anchor institutions,” said Howard Wial, Senior Vice President and Director of Research for ICIC and co-author of the report. “This report helps fill the gap in those constituencies’ understanding of the potential of for-profit anchors.”

ICIC suggests ways in which corporate leaders, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders can encourage for-profit companies to initiate, expand, or deepen their work with lower-income communities to spur inclusive economic development and build stronger, healthier communities. The recommendations focus on encouraging collaboration among for-profit anchors because collaboration may enable anchors to pool their resources and support larger, more innovative, or riskier initiatives than they could individually support and potentially increase the community impacts of their initiatives.

Select recommendations include:

  • Companies should recognize that they have a stake in the prosperity and health of lower-income communities where they do business and from which they draw workers. Acting on that awareness, they should undertake community engagement activities to benefit those communities.
  • Companies should emphasize shared value approaches that align with their core business in engaging with lower-income communities. These approaches aim to create a profit for the business and benefits for stakeholders such as residents of lower-income communities.
  • Companies should look to partner with community organizations, nonprofits, and/or local government to engage with lower-income communities.
  • Citywide and regional nonprofits and governments should often take the lead in encouraging for-profit companies to collaborate on lower-income community issues.
  • Local governments, foundations, and other influential organizations should help incentivize and support collaboration among for-profits on lower-income community issues.

To download The New Anchors: Corporate Engagement with Lower-Income Communities in Smaller Cities, and view the report’s full findings and recommendations visit:

For more information or to speak with an ICIC subject matter expert, please contact Beth Bresnahan at or (781) 789-6281.

About Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC)

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) was founded by renowned Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter in 1994 as a research and strategy organization that today is widely recognized as the preeminent authority on urban economic growth. ICIC drives inclusive economic prosperity in under-resourced communities through innovative research and programs to create jobs, income, and wealth for local residents. 

Learn more at or @icicorg

Support for ICIC’s research was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; however, the views expressed in the report do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.