This article was provided courtesy of Christina Helmick, Director of Communications for Prosper Waco.
Over the last decade, the City of Waco has developed an increasingly strategic approach to addressing local issues related to economic development, poverty, and quality of life. A key part of this strategy is the Prosper Waco initiative, a community-wide effort to improve education, health, and financial security outcomes in Waco/McLennan County. In response to the Prosper Waco initiative, the City of Waco received a sizable investment in 2015 from the National Resource Network (NRN), a federal organization which partners with American cities that are rounding the corner from major economic challenges to help them identify and implement new and practical solutions to facilitate their path to economic recovery and growth. Insights from the NRN’s work across the country are captured in a report by New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Urban Institute about how cities can benefit from relationships with local “anchor institutions,” such as universities and healthcare systems. The study, Striking A (Local) Grand Bargain, spurred action in Waco. Baylor University and the City of Waco initiated conversations about how Baylor plays a vital role in Waco as a key community institution.
Part of the anchor institution framework involves city and university leaders building on each entity’s existing visions in order to create a shared and mutually-beneficial vision for the community’s future. From these conversations, Baylor University and the City of Waco have purposefully collaborated on various projects intended to improve the quality of life for not only students and faculty, but for all Waco-area residents.
One example of a mutually-beneficial effort that the City of Waco and Baylor University jointly fund is the CampusTown Waco initiative. CampusTown Waco is a talent retention initiative that focuses on connecting current college students and recent graduates to recreational activities, internships and full-time jobs. Since its inception, about $1.6 million in annual wages have been retained in the local economy through CampusTown Waco efforts to facilitate local job placement for college graduates. Strategic partners involved in the CampusTown Waco initiative include the
Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, City of Waco, Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, and Texas Tech-Waco. CampusTown Waco is one example of how the City of Waco and Baylor University alignedvisions and partnered to jointly fund an initiative that is mutually beneficial and will ultimately spur growth and economic development.
Other Baylor investments in Waco include a partnership to develop Waco’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and Baylor’s participation in Waco ISD’s summer internship program for rising high school seniors. As the city-university partnership develops, more collaborative projects are being identified that both the City of Waco and Baylor University can support and implement. Working together purposefully to enhance quality of life and economic development in Waco is a win-win proposition for both the City and Baylor.
To learn more about Prosper Waco and the CampusTown Initiative, visit their website here.