Anchor institutions – hospitals, universities, municipal governments, and cultural institutions – represent a firm root in the community. These institutions are often located in communities that would benefit from deeper engagement – from job opportunities to purchasing from local businesses. The goal of this partnership between the neighborhood residents and its institutions is to build a resilient community that recognizes the long-term investment and economic power that the anchor holds.
Since 2015, Mile High Connects, in partnership with the Denver Foundation, has engaged local anchor institutions in a broader conversation around their role in community economic development within prioritized geographic areas. The result was the development of a regional anchor institution learning cohort, launched in late 2016. This emerging network is based on the framework that, through meaningful community engagement, local institutions can work hand in hand to expand local hire and procurement opportunities in communities surrounding their institution. Institutions actively participating in the learning cohort include the University of Colorado – Denver, Regis University, the University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus, Kaiser Permanente, and others.
The Metro Denver region is experiencing a robust demand for middle skilled workers in industries ranging from health to construction. While individuals hold the education required, a gap exists between the employers and the most qualified candidates to secure the on-the-job training that allows them to move from economic insecurity to stability.
Since 2015 Mile High Connects has partnered with the Colorado Construction Institute and Community College of Denver – Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) to train youth and adults for middle skilled construction work at transit oriented development sites across the country. The partnership also produced an evaluation of three Denver community workforce development programs at transit oriented development sites and outlines recommendations about their effectiveness.
While ensuring that housing is affordable and that communities have appropriate services is important, even more critical is ensuring that individuals and families have the opportunities to work and to make wages that enable them to afford housing, transportation, food and other needs. This can sometimes be achieved through traditional employment, but a new movement is also underway in the Denver metro region to explore other community wealth building strategies such as worker cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans. Cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans allow profits to remain in their respective community. These models connect residents and businesses, while allowing individuals to take control of their economic future.
Mile High Connects participates on Community Wealth Building Network’s design team, a group charged with developing the vision for the first phase of work, as well as the Urban Cooperative Center Advisory Council. To further connect residents to economic opportunities, Mile High Connects is investing in exploration of cooperative development in specific geographic areas, to test and expand access to this kind of economic opportunity for low-income communities throughout the region.
While we often think of housing prices being higher near transit stations, it is equally true that affordability of commercial and retail space is in jeopardy. This can reinforce gentrification pressures, reducing the availability of much needed goods and services that once served local residents. Not only are local for-profit and nonprofits displaced as a result of rising rental costs, but, once profitable businesses may now find themselves shuttering their doors.
Mile High Connects is working with community partners such as Denver Shared Spaces and others to ensure that those most vulnerable to increasing commercial costs are able to exist in their neighborhoods. MHC is working work partner to develop financial tools to ease some burden and make it possible for these businesses to locate near transit.
Mile High Connects is engaged in conversations with local residents to ensure that the right services are located within their community. MHC and its partners are developing a pipeline of possible tenants to help developers find the right match when they prioritize having commercial and retail tenants that meet the community’s expressed needs.