For CU Denver’s 40th Anniversary celebration two years ago, I was honored to moderate a panel on how universities help drive urban economic development, which included (SPA MPA alum) Mayor Hancock, Chancellor Don Elliman and Dr. Robert Lang from UNLV/Brookings West. They discussed the role of CU Denver in Denver, and we talked a great deal about the terms of art for what universities provide – an “anchor institution” and “Eds and Meds.”
An interesting new national report suggests some new ways of intentional thinking about cities and university collaboration: Eds and Meds better integrated into economic and talent development. The argument is that universities are more important now than ever, especially with a more dynamic and global business sector, which moves business people around more from place to place, while university talent stays as “an anchor” (in a good way).
The Atlantic/City Lab article, written by Richard Florida, prominent urban economic development thinker, notes: “Around one in eight colleges and universities are based in inner cities, as are about one in 15 of the nation’s largest hospitals. Overall, anchor institutions are the largest employer in about 66 percent of U.S. cities.” CU Denver, as part of the Auraria campus, fits this model, as does the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, though it is more in the Aurora geography.
Florida also writes: “Moreover, anchor institutions are often the largest holders of real estate and the largest developers in town, and a key actor (for better or worse) in urban transformations in many cities. While in the past, too many of them were bound up with urban renewal schemes and walled themselves off from their communities, newer partnerships between universities and cities are creating new more integrative, mixed-use approaches for urban revitalization.” CU Denver’s “neighborhood” push, across Speer and into the heart of downtown, is a great example of this approach.
Another quote from Florida bears on some of the things the School of Public Affairs is trying to do, via our Buechner Institute, public events and leadership programs. Florida writes: “This centers around better and more structured networks between the two groups. For one, cities and anchor institutions can forge joint forums where local leaders can stay connected. Joint leadership training programs can be used to develop a better mutual understanding of the other’s roles and responsibilities and of the benefits of working together. In addition, local colleges and universities can develop executive training programs for local officials and businesses to further deepen ties. And of course, universities have vast expertise that can be useful to local government non-profits and myriad policy areas.”