By Rick Sullivan
The Western Massachusetts Anchor Collaborative (WMAC), founded by the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC) in partnership with Baystate Health, provides comprehensive, systemic, and locally led solutions to regional women- and minority- owned businesses and workforce challenges. The WMAC was initiated to propel hiring and career pathways for BIPOC and marginalized populations.
The WMAC has successfully established multi-year targets to increase local procurement opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, and are developing an ‘Anchor-ready accelerator’ that will cultivate a resilient local supplier pipeline for targeted goods and services. The accelerator will provide wrap-around services and resources to prepare and scale vendors for contracts with Anchor institutions.
WMAC institutions seek to address inequities that have resulted from historic patterns of disinvestment and bias related to neighborhood, race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status in Western Mass. These institutions have more than 18,000 employees, with nearly 3,000 residing in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Western Mass.
Collectively, Anchor Collaborative institutions currently spend more than $2 billion in goods and services and have committed to annually increasing the percentage of spending toward local and diverse businesses. Bridging the gap between Anchor institutions and the local community is a key ingredient to successful and positive economic impact.
The Anchor Collaborative aims to foster equitable communities and strong local economies, pilot career-pathway programs, align support for entry-level and low-wage employees from disadvantaged neighborhoods, cultivate jobs and promote healthier employees and residents, and leverage each institution’s purchasing and hiring power
The WMAC chooses smaller businesses that have historically not had the opportunity to enter supply chains, or get capitalized, underwritten, etc. It coordinates workforce-development strategies with Springfield WORKS, an EDC community initiative, to create training opportunities for career pathways to living-wage jobs. WMAC institutions provide a mentorship role to smaller businesses to allow them to scale up and help them grow. Big Y has been an influential leader in this initiative, supporting local greenhouses and farmers. It even offers a reusable food-wrap product, Z-Wrap, on its shelves.
Data will be regularly collected and analyzed to set effective targets and monitor progress. The goal is to design an internal process that allows for accessible professional development and growth, leading to promotions and careers within each institution. We aim to enhance our impact and drive regional economic equity and financial vitality for our communities.
Rick Sullivan is president and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council;