CRE N Illinois

Food and tech buzz in downtown Chicago, city breaks ground on food business incubator

Food and tech buzz in downtown Chicago, city breaks ground on food business,ph01

Do you look at InstaCart or Blue Apron and think you’ve got a better idea? Well, Chicago is the place to grow that into a business. The city broke ground on The Hatchery, a new food and beverage business incubator opening next year that is supported by a partnership between local non-profits, Accion Chicago, ICNC and IFF, the Kellogg Company and Conagra Brands.

The 67,000-square-foot facility in Chicago’s East Garfield Park plans to support local food and beverage entrepreneurs by providing them with tools, resources and networking opportunities that will encourage success, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. The $34 million facility is expected to create about 150 jobs in the first year as well. The new facility will be built on a vacant lot near the Kedzie Green Line station. Construction is expected to finish in 2018.

There are a number of food industry leaders with headquarters in Chicago and the addition of the Hatchery will continue to strengthen the city’s position at the forefront of the food industry, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. Some industry leaders with new headquarters in Chicago include McDonald’s, Conagra Brands, ADM, Mead Johnson, Beam Suntory, Kraft Heinz, Oscar Mayer and most recently Peapod.

Chicago’s food and beverage industry, which is currently second largest in the nation with 4,500 companies, 130,000 employees and $32 billion in sales, the mayor said. Food manufacturing accounts for the majority of the industry’s regional employment and over a third of sales.

The Hatchery aims to provide a variety of services and space for food businesses including food grade space for about 100 startup or early stage businesses, shared kitchens, storage, office space and areas for training sessions and community meetings, according to a statement. Members will also have access to loan capital from Accion, which is planning to relocate within the facility. Through a partnership with Garfield Park Community Council access to many of these services will be offered to West Side residents at a significantly discounted rate.

“Accion Chicago is thrilled to help bring the Hatchery to Garfield Park so that we can better serve Chicago’s food and beverage entrepreneurs,” Brad McConnell, CEO of Accion Chicago said in a statement. “From the west side, Accion Chicago will continue to provide the capital, coaching, and connections to help entrepreneurs grow throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana in a multitude of industries.”

Other community benefits for West Side neighbors include one-one-on technical assistance from Accion to entrepreneurs, job readiness programs that prepare community members to work for The Hatchery tenant companies, free classes on industry topics, consulting services to local businesses and referrals to relevant industry experts, discounted Hatchery memberships and use of the shared kitchen. The Hatchery will also host Garfield Park’s neighborhood market.

Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Lena Brava) will also use the shared space for his culinary training program offered to low-income high school and college-age students on the West Side who would not be able to afford it otherwise.

“I believe our city is rich with untapped resources. If we can develop a way to cultivate them, both our restaurants and our community will be the better for it." Bayless said in a statement.

Over five years the Hatchery is expected to support up to 900 jobs. The project was made possible by $8 million in city funding plus support through the New Markets Tax Credit. The Hatchery is also receiving support from the Kellogg Company, Conagra Brands, Griffith Foods, The Lukas Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation, The Pritzker Traubert Foundation and The Coleman Foundation among others.

“Conagra Brands is excited to drive food innovation in Chicago and beyond, and developing deeper connections with local entrepreneurs through The Hatchery is a key component of our success,” Darren Serrao, Chief Growth Officer of Conagra Brands said in a statement. “With startups operating in more than 50 private food-grade production spaces under one roof, we’ll have the opportunity to more efficiently collaborate and fuel the city’s thought-leadership in food.”