Chicago, Illinois should be food innovation leaders

            Chicago and Illinois should strive to be a global center for food innovation, building upon historical strengths and industry assets, Chicago’s deputy mayor told agriculture industry leaders last week.

            “This is an opportunity we should seize,” said Steven Koch, during the Illinois Food and Agriculture Summit in the University of Illinois Chicago Forum. Koch oversees Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s economic council. 

            Koch acknowledged his mindset changed from his first reaction of “Chicago has got enough to focus on” and “food and agriculture are doing fine.”

            The food industry has a long history and important role in Chicago’s and the state’s economies, Koch noted. The city and state should draw on that legacy and “lead a revolution in food production,” he said.

            Koch encouraged the use of research and development to spur innovation and attract innovative food companies to move to Illinois.

            He encouraged the integration of food science into Illinois science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

            A key component will be cooperation among government, academia and private industry on critical issues, Koch noted. “Government can play a key role, but you people need to buy in ... This will not be driven by government,” he said.

            “We have the assets to make it reality. We need a concentrated plan,” Koch said.