(Chapel Hill, N.C., Oct. 20, 2021) – Today, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced new programming that will transform economically distressed communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on powerful partnerships, the programs will help build resilient local economies with more job opportunities and business growth in North Carolina and across the country.
A $2 million grant from the Truist Foundation will fund the Anchor Institutions Create Economic Resilience program, or AICER, housed at CREATE, an economic development center at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. The AICER program works with anchor institutions – such as universities, tribal and local governments, and hospitals – to source their goods and services from minority-owned firms, rural businesses and local suppliers in COVID-impacted communities.
“Carolina’s mission is to use our scholarship, research and expertise to work alongside communities in our state and beyond to improve lives,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “This grant from the Truist Foundation enables the AICER program to do that by putting Carolina expertise to work and helping shape more resilient local economies, starting here in North Carolina.”
Funding from the Truist Foundation will enable experts at Carolina to work alongside six anchor institutions from across the country to assess their current procurement practices and identify opportunities for purchasing goods and services from targeted businesses. AICER will offer local businesses guidance and technical assistance to work through the procurement process while connecting business owners to resources as needed to help ensure success. This grant also continues the AICER program’s ongoing work with two anchor institutions within the UNC System: UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Pembroke.
“The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been significant, particularly for historically overlooked communities,” said Lynette Bell, president of the Truist Foundation. “Truist Foundation is committed to not only helping these communities rebuild but also to building wealth, institutional and economic power. This grant to UNC-Chapel Hill will ensure their resiliency and sustainability.”
Additionally, the program will facilitate connections with the Institute for Innovation at the UNC School of Law to help guide small businesses and nonprofit organizations through the legal aspects of the contract process. The project will also create a national AICER Partners Network to share resources, feedback and lessons learned among partners.
“The United States is experiencing the greatest level of income and wealth inequality since the 1920s, and the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges for workers trying to improve their economic futures,” said Mark Little, executive director of CREATE. “We believe that intentional procurement policies and practices will enable anchor institutions to support a robust economic recovery, more resilient supply chains and long-term sustainable economic development across the nation.”
Funding from the Truist Foundation also continues support of SmartUp, a place-based equitable economic development program. In 2019, SmartUp launched to accelerate growing companies and create jobs for diverse populations in North Carolina’s Elizabeth City and Triad regions along with South Carolina’s Lowcountry. The AICER and SmartUp programs prioritize communities with high African American, Latino or Native American populations, as these groups have experienced disproportionately negative economic outcomes due to COVID-19.
“This is an investment in the AICER program, as well as the anchor institutions and the small and minority-owned businesses that will benefit from the guidance, expertise and business growth that this grant will help unlock,” said Chris Bell, Triangle regional president for Truist, speaking on behalf of the Truist Foundation. “Truist is committed to inspire and build better lives and communities, and AICER will help provide economic stability and opportunity to individuals and communities in North Carolina and across the U.S.”
To learn more about the AICER program, visit the CREATE website at createprosperity.unc.edu.
This gift from the Truist Foundation counts toward the Campaign For Carolina, the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by December 2022.
Housed within the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, CREATE is an economic development center that drives shared economic prosperity through thought leadership, real interventions and policy development. CREATE envisions a community, state, nation and world where the economy works to equitably distribute resources and wealth; where individuals and communities are empowered to achieve their goals; and where all have opportunities to prosper. CREATE works to bring this vision to life by generating innovative research and new data; delivering on-the-ground applied technical assistance; and informing local, state, national and international policy. CREATE operates six major programs: NCGrowth; SmartUp; CREATE Prosperity Research Network; Homegrown Tools; Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration; and AICER. Learn more at createprosperity.unc.edu.
About the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise develops and promotes innovative, market-based solutions to vital economic issues. With the belief that private enterprise is the cornerstone of a prosperous and free society, the institute fosters the entrepreneurial spirit to stimulate economic prosperity and improve the lives of people in North Carolina, across the country and around the world. Learn more at kenaninstitute.unc.edu.
About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 107 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools, including the College of Arts & Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 340,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and 159 countries. More than 185,000 live in North Carolina.
About Truist Foundation
The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on building career pathways to economic mobility and strengthening small businesses. Learn more at Truist.com/Foundation.