Chicago is already a magnet for food company headquarters with Conagra, Kraft Heinz, Archer Daniels Midland, Beam Suntory and Mead Johnson downtown and McDonalds coming to the West Loop.
On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to share the wealth with Chicago neighborhoods and maybe cultivate even more food companies.
The Hatchery, a $30 million food and beverage incubator with shared kitchens, storage and office space for roughly 100 start-ups, will be built in time to open next year on a vacant lot near the Kedzie Green Line station in East Garfield Park.
The idea originated in the Near West Side community and “could not be stopped,” Emanuel said.
The 67,000-square-foot Hatchery is a partnership between Accion and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago.
Accion will move its headquarters there and provide food and beverage entrepreneurs with access to sorely needed capital.
“That space between your family that won’t talk to you anymore, your spouse or partner [who] says, `Get that thing out of the kitchen’ and the bank that says, `We don’t do loans that size’ — that’s what Accion is for,” Emanuel said.
The city will provide some of the land for $1; its total contribution is $8 million, including tax-increment-financing.
Conagra and Kellogg will serve as corporate partners.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) was so excited about the project and other development in his ward, he gave Chicago’s first Jewish mayor an awkward verbal embrace.
“This mayor is my partner. I call him my Hebrew homie. … He’s constantly helping me to build up our ward,” Burnett said.
Emanuel joked about how well Burnett is doing in his Hebrew classes. Turning serious, the mayor noted that it’s one thing to ask Whole Foods to put local products on their shelves. It’s quite another to create a continuous pipeline of local products.
“That’s what this will be about: linking community, creative entrepreneurs and companies in a virtual circle of economic growth and job creation. First year, 150 jobs. Within the next five years, nearly 1,000 jobs just coming out of the Hatchery. And countless businesses,” Emanuel told a news conference Tuesday at Beidler Elementary, 3151 W. Walnut, near the site.
The mayor praised Conagra and Kellogg for contributing to the venture, but noted that it’s not entirely benevolent.
“To stay ahead with their customers — to be on the cutting edge — they have to be at a place called the Hatchery. … If they’re not part of this, they ain’t seeing what’s coming next.”
Steve DeBretto, executive director of the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, said it’s hard to run any business and “especially hard” to run a food business.
“We constantly see smart entrepreneurs with very good products who are ready and able to rent a location and grow their business. But they can’t afford the tens of thousands of dollars that it costs to turn a small industrial space into a kitchen. Now, they don’t have to,” DeBretto said.
Anthony Waller, an Accion board member, will serve as Hatchery board chairman. He’s also the CEO of his own full-service catering company that would have benefited from a food and beverage incubator.
“I was one who was in the garage with shelving and product everywhere, refrigerators. I had a dream … but I didn’t have the resources. … I had to re-invest money because I had the wrong piping or I had the wrong electrical connections or I had the wrong flooring,” he said.
“I spent over $50,000 of my own savings to develop the wrong space to get where I am today. If I had known about a Hatchery at that time, it would have been so much more beneficial in terms of being able to get to the next level.”