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.

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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.


Overview of the Business Placement Process

Businesses interested in participating in CASE may apply directly online or be nominated for participation by one of the anchors or partnering community organizations. Next Street will manage the selection process based on criteria set in partnership with participating anchor institutions. All businesses which meet the minimum criteria are encouraged to apply. 

As businesses apply online, each application is reviewed and applicants are placed in the appropriate CASE program tier:

  1. Capacity Building
  2. Direct to Matching, or
  3. External Resource Connections.


Capacity Building

Applicants may be selected for capacity building if their businesses size and tenure position them as potential suppliers to large anchors, but they would benefit from additional support in core competencies in order to promote continued growth.

CASE’s capacity building program is 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.  Experienced Next Street consultants facilitate this program and sessions are offered to 5 groups of 20 local CEOs each over the course of 2014.  Each workshop is the equivalent of three full days, in addition to pre-work and homework. 

A key benefit of capacity building is the opportunity for participants to meet and pitch their business to senior procurement officers from the CASE member institutions.


Direct to Matching

Applicants may be mature enough in size, tenure, and capabilities that they are suited to provide services/products to large anchors without additional support or capacity building.

Businesses selected to be directly matched with CASE anchors, will first have the opportunity to practice their business pitches with Next Street consultants.


External Resource Connections

Applicants that need additional experience before work with large anchors can be considered will be provided information about other local organizations and programs that offer business support services.



Benefits of CASE


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)

Opportunity to network directly with procurement officers ( with participation in capacity building program or directly matched)


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?

Required criteria:

  • A local presence in Chicago or Cook County
  • Minimum of three years in business
  • A product or service within an industry sector identified as priority spend by one of the participating anchors
  • CEO commitment to participate in the program (if selected for capacity building, it is a CEO only program)

 Preferred Criteria:

  • >$500K  in annual revenue
  • At least 3 employees (FT or PT)


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:


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 capacity building, 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. 


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

2015 Cohort Dates and Focus

Cohort 6: Professional Services:
March 26, April 9 & April 23

Cohort 7: All Industries:
May 28, June 11 & June 25

Cohort 8: Manufacturing:
July 16, July 30 & August 13

Cohort 9: All Industries:
September 3, September 17 & October 1

Cohort 10: Food-Related:
October 8, October 22 & November 5

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