CASE – Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) is a network of Chicago’s leading “anchor” institutions – hospitals, universities, cultural institutions, corporations, and others – committed to putting their purchasing power to work to accelerate growth. CASE will create economic opportunities for local suppliers by fostering strategic relationships with anchor institutions and equipping them with the necessary tools to successfully compete for contracts where needed.

Chicago is home to many major institutions and corporations that require a strong base of goods and service suppliers, from paper and pens to legal services and technology. Creating a strong business-to-business supplier network locally not only supports the success of these institutions, but also strengthens the economy, making the region a more attractive place to do business. Firms providing business goods and services are located throughout the Chicago-area’s neighborhoods. Focusing on the high volume of business-to-business transactions at major institutions can help strengthen local firms, increase community and neighborhood vitality, generate jobs, and help grow the regional economy. 

Apply to CASE

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CASE Members*:

  • Advocate Health Care
  • BMO Harris Bank
  • City of Chicago
  • Cook County
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Rush University Medical Center
  • The University of Chicago
  • The University of Chicago Medical Center
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Commonwealth Edison

*Other institutions are encouraged to join, please see FAQs below on how to get involved.

How CASE Operates

Participating anchors analyze their “spend” to see whether some portion of it can be redirected to competitive local firms.  They make information about these opportunities available through CASE, which helps connect local firms that supply these goods and services to individual anchors’ procurement processes.

Some of these firms could benefit from business consulting and technical assistance to increase their competitiveness. To provide these services, CASE has contracted with Next Street, a merchant bank nationally recognized for its success with anchor institutions and providing specialized business advisory services including access to capital and business expertise.

Next Street will offer these services to 100 businesses over the next year, in five groups of 20.  These groups may be designed around a specific type of supplier or industry cluster, a common stage in business development, or some other common opportunities to organize businesses together to help them strengthen and grow. These businesses may already be supplying goods and services to one or more of the anchors or they may be seeking the opportunity to do so. Businesses may apply directly or be nominated by one of the anchors for participation in CASE’s capacity building program.

Benefits of CASE

Anchors 

  • Access to competitive firms in their supply chain
  • Increased economic activity and vitality in local communities

Local firms

  • Introduction to opportunities to compete for contracts with anchors
  • Increased growth new business represents
  • Diversification of revenue if they successfully compete for business with multiple anchors
  • Increased business and technical expertise (with participation in capacity building program)

Local communities

  • Stronger firms
  • Greater economic activity
  • Increased jobs

Chicago, Cook County and the region

  • A stronger business-to-business platform
  • Greater ability to attract, retain and grow businesses and institutions
  • Increased economic activity reflected in gross regional product

Frequently Asked Questions

What are anchor institutions?

Anchors are typically large organizations with deep roots in - and concern for - their community or city.  They include universities and hospitals, cultural institutions, public utilities, professional sports franchises, corporations, local governments and others. Some are located in communities that could benefit from stronger economic vitality and connection to the larger economy.  Others have a citywide consumer base or responsibility for fostering high quality of life.  Still others hold a special place in the city or region’s cultural life. 

What is World Business Chicago and how is it related to CASE?

World Business Chicago (WBC) is a not-for-profit economic development organization that fosters economic vitality, private sector growth and jobs.  One of its primary efforts is to guide the implementation of the Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs.  The Plan provides a set of goals, a framework for research and analysis, and strategies which are currently being implemented to foster regional growth.  One of the ten strategies is designed to strengthen community and neighborhood assets (people, businesses, land, entrepreneurs, etc.) and help them to both contribute to and benefit from a stronger local and regional economy.  CASE is one of that strategy’s initiatives.

How is CASE funded?

CASE is made possible by contributions from member anchor institutions, and a grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation.

What are “local” firms?

Local firms are businesses in communities where anchors are located, and, if no firms that do or could supply identified goods and services are located in these communities, then in the broader city and region. 

What is the relationship between anchor institutions, WBC, and CASE?

Participating anchor institutions make up the CASE network; these institutions provide strategic direction and funding for the business advisory services program.  The network gathers regularly to guide the program, share best practices, set goals, and measure success of the overall effort.  World Business Chicago drives the network and provides staff and implementation support.  The network will continue to grow as additional anchors join.

Are businesses guaranteed a contract if they apply through CASE?

CASE provides opportunities for businesses.  Firms that participate in CASE are not guaranteed a contract with any of the participating anchors. All firms, including those that are ready to compete for anchors’ procurement opportunities and those that are enrolled in Next Street’s capacity building services, must proceed through an anchor’s standard procurement process.

What are the minimum qualifications to participate?

Initially, all applying businesses must have:

  • A local presence
  • A product or service within an industry sector identified as priority spend by one of the participating anchors

For the first 20 firms to participate in CASE’s capacity building and matchmaking, additional criteria include:

  • At least 3 full- or part-time employees
  • Previous experience working successfully with large institutions
  • Minimum of three years in business
  • $1.5 million or more in annual revenues
  • CEO commitment to participate in the program (CEO only program)

How is CASE different from supplier diversity programs?

Most anchors have robust supplier diversity programs, which focus primarily on opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses.  CASE is a locally-focused program that includes these firms but aims to provide opportunities to a broader array of local businesses.  Anchors see CASE as complementary to their diversity programs, because it provides another avenue to invest in competitive, local businesses, and to support their growth.

Will anchors be redirecting existing spend to local firms?

Yes. The intent is to target procurement opportunities that currently are being satisfied by firms located outside of Chicago and the Chicagoland region.

Why is CASE providing capacity building/business advisory services to some firms?

Large institutions often have unique needs and complicated bidding processes. CASE’s capacity building component includes a comprehensive assessment of anchors’ procurement practices so that participating firms receive tailored training that will help them compete more effectively. 

Are specific industries targeted?

This program is demand-driven.  Anchors will identify priority industry and service areas that offer likely opportunities for local bidders.  These may include:

  • Architecture & Engineering
  • Commodities
  • Construction
  • Consulting and Professional Service (incl. legal and accounting services)
  • Equipment Lease/Rental
  • Food and Catering Services and social activities
  • Office and Medical Supplies
  • Plant and Maintenance Services
  • Shop Supplies and Equipment
  • Signage
  • Space Lease/Rental
  • Supplies and Equipment (non- shop)
  • Transportation and Livery Services
  • Vehicles & Heavy Equipment

Is CASE leveraging existing business support service organizations?

Yes. CASE will be partnering with a group of business support and community based organizations to maximize the effectiveness of the CASE program.

Are other institutions able to get involved and join as anchors in CASE?

Anchor institutions that share CASE’s goals are welcome to join the effort. For more information about participating as an anchor, email: CASE@worldbusinesschicago.com

Questions for Interested Businesses

Am I guaranteed a contract if I go through this program?

Firms that participate in CASE are not guaranteed a contract with any of the participating anchors. All firms, including those that are ready to compete for anchors’ procurement opportunities and those that are enrolled in Next Street’s business advisory services, must proceed through an anchor’s standard procurement process.

What new business will I get from this?

Firms benefit from the program by introduction to opportunities to compete for contracts with anchors, from the increased growth new business represents, from diversification of their revenue if they successfully compete for business with multiple anchors or other buyers, and, if they participate in the capacity building program, they benefit from the increased business and technical expertise that promotes competitiveness.

Can I apply if I am a current or was a previous vendor of an anchor institution?

Yes. An application to CASE is a completely separate process from your vendor relationship with any institution.

If I am a current vendor and apply for CASE, will acceptance or denial affect my current or future contracts?

No. Your application is a completely separate process from your vendor relationship with any institution.

If I am a current vendor of a participating anchor and am interested in the capacity building program, will I be required to apply for the program?

Yes. All businesses are required to officially apply if they want access to the targeted training and additional connections provided through CASE.

What if I have multiple locations and one is outside of Chicago?

If your primary/headquarters is in Chicago or Cook County you qualify as having a local presence.  

How does the capacity building component of CASE work and who can apply?

As part of its approach to increasing opportunities for local supplier firms, CASE is partnering with Next Street to deliver a program for selected businesses focused on best practices in seeking and winning bids, strategic planning processes, growth strategies, seeking growth capital, leadership and managerial skills to maximize employee performance, enhancing marketing and sales initiatives, and executing on strategies to effectively deliver on contracts.  This program will be offered to 5 groups of 20 local CEOs each over the course of 2014.  Each program is the equivalent of three full days, in addition to pre-work and homework. Next Street will manage the selection process based on criteria set in partnership with participating anchor institutions and will be facilitating the capacity building sessions.  All businesses which meet the minimum criteria are encouraged to apply.

Do I have an opportunity to participate if I am not chosen for the first capacity building cohort?

Yes. Applicants that meet the criteria but are not selected for the first cohort will be placed in a pool for selection into subsequent cohorts.

Who should you contact for questions?

If you have questions about CASE, contact Jessica Turner at CASE@worldbusinesschicago.com

2014 Dates for CASE
Capacity Building

Cohort #1

  • Tuesday, May 20th
  • Wednesday, June 4th
  • Thursday, June 12th

Cohort #2

  • Tuesday, June 10th
  • Tuesday, June 24th
  • Tuesday, July 8th

Cohort #3

  • Tuesday, September 9th
  • Tuesday, September 23rd
  • Tuesday, October 7th

Cohort #4

  • Wednesday, September 24th
  • Thursday, October 9th
  • Wednesday, October 22nd

Cohort #5

  • Wednesday, October 8th
  • Thursday, October 23rd
  • Thursday, November 13th