World Business Chicago recently helped launch the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, a nonprofit organization that brings together the region’s food & beverage leaders to collaborate and drive economic growth within the industry.
“We believe that a growing, innovative food & beverage industry is vital to a prosperous Chicago metro area. We are launching with a clear focus on fostering innovation, collaboration and growth among Chicagoland’s diverse group of food & beverage industry companies,” said Alan Reed, Executive Director of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network.
To launch the network, industry leaders and innovators gathered at Kendall College to discuss the future of this food and beverage cluster organization. Hosted by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and World Business Chicago, the group discussed business and economic development opportunities in areas including: workforce development, food safety, innovation, and business services.
The event featured keynote speaker Giacomo Fallucca, CEO of Palermo’s Pizza and a founding member of FaB Wisconsin, the state’s food & beverage cluster organization. Fallucca discussed how FaB Wisconsin drives Wisconsin’s local food economy and helps its companies innovate to meet the changing needs of consumers.
With approximately 4,500 companies, 130,000 employees and $32B in annual sales, Chicago area’s food & beverage industry represents a significant part of the regional economy. Chicago’s food and beverage industry is the second largest economic cluster of its kind in the U.S.
“Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network brings a strategic mission to a key sector of our regional economy,” said Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Theresa E. Mintle. “Chicago has been a hub for food production and distribution in three centuries. This new vision for collaboration across the modern supply chain, plus stakeholders from colleges to city neighborhoods, could help create the next great era in innovation and opportunity.
“In terms of economic development, Chicago’s food & beverage industry is uniquely positioned for inclusive job growth,” said World Business Chicago President & CEO Jeff Malehorn. “Chicago has historically been a leading city in the food industry. So, whether it’s in urban agriculture or distribution and logistics, we want that innovation to continue.”
The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is now accepting member applications. Membership is available to enterprises ranging from early-stage food & beverage entrepreneurs to large, established companies. Membership benefits include access to industry events, affiliate discounts, Network Concierge Services, and support services designed to guide innovation and accelerate company growth.
With initial funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network’s founding industry partners include: World Business Chicago, The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Cook County, Family Farmed, Industrial Corridor of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), Instituto del Progreso Latino, and the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Institute for Food Safety & Health, the Chicago section of the Institute of Food Technologists, as well as leadership from a cross section of food & beverage companies in the region.