Allies for Community Business (A4CB, formerly Accion Chicago) is the region’s largest nonprofit microlender. It is also, along with the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), one of the visionaries behind The Hatchery, an innovative food business incubator launched in 2019 in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. With a grant from the Trust’s Pre-Development Fund, A4CB, ICNC, and their partners are currently engaging the community to map out a new concept for a second development next door to the original building. Before the partners proceed with the development, they want to determine how the new facility can help meet community needs while also contributing to the ongoing revitalization of the Kinzie Industrial Corridor.
Located just off the Kedzie Green Line stop, The Hatchery has created a welcoming and supportive environment for West Side food start-ups, prioritizing entrepreneurs of color, women entrepreneurs, and residents who live in the five adjacent community areas. Fifty-four rentable kitchen spaces, the Rick Bayless Culinary Training Institute, and easy access to A4CB’s coaching and financial services are just some of the amenities it offers. In its first five years of operations, The Hatchery aspires to create or maintain 900 jobs that will generate $25 million in pre-tax wages for West Side communities.
Since launching The Hatchery, A4CB and ICNC have learned more about the challenges faced by food startups when they reach a certain level of growth. Specifically, when companies surpass one million dollars in annual revenue, they often struggle to partner successfully with contract manufacturers and distributors. Keeping production in-house means incurring the substantial costs of renting or purchasing a company’s own facilities when it outgrows The Hatchery. However, paying someone else to make larger quantities of its product until the company gets bigger can be costly too.
One potential use of the vacant land next to The Hatchery’s current space is a co-packing and warehousing facility to address this challenge. The new building could provide food businesses with the manufacturing and storage space they need to affordably scale their operations as they begin to outgrow The Hatchery.
“A complimentary facility would allow us to continue serving our entrepreneurs as they grow,” said Brad McConnell, CEO of AC4B. “The land’s proximity to our current facility and public transit makes it ideal for a connected use that builds on our vision of helping West Siders grow their own businesses and create wealth for their communities.” The project also supports the objectives of two pre-existing community plans: the Elevated Chicago Kedzie Green Line EHub Plan and the East Garfield Park Quality of Life Plan.
The $100,000 Trust pre-development grant will support the land survey, market research, appraisal, and other preliminary costs. A4CB, ICNC, and its partners will conduct an intentional design process alongside community members to create a shared vision and plan for the potential new space. This collaborative process will ensure the land is developed in a way that responds to the community’s interests, particularly in creating good-paying jobs and keeping the wealth generated by the project in the community.