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December 3, 2018 60 min

Cultivating an ecosystem is extremely important in any industry. The most common example of this is Silicon Valley in the Bay Area. When everyone thrives in one place, and they all work together to build some amazing things

I’m always curious how great ecosystems can be built, living in Phoenix and Sacramento, where the ecosystem is at its infancy, I was curious on how to grow these types of functions. As I found out interviewing Alan, it does indeed take a village, or perhaps a city, but it also takes a mediator.

Alan is in charge of bridging food companies, big and small, in Chicago and heads the non-profit, the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network. This non-profit hosts events and discussions to get the already thriving food industry in Chicago together with a  common theme that helps these different food companies understand each other. For example, a big company can learn innovation from a small company,and a small company can learn corporate structure, from a big company.

Alan’s history is also pretty amazing. We get into the details in his 14 year stint at Dairy Management including sage advice on how to network and how to learn, and how knowing the whole process, can set you up for success.


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About Alan Reed Alan Reed. Executive Director of Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network. Prior to this role, Alan was Executive Vice President, Strategy & Innovation at Dairy Management, Inc. He was responsible for creating and driving innovative strategies to grow dairy demand.  Alan has a degree in Telecommunications from Indiana University and an MBA in Management & Strategy from Northwestern University. About Chicagoland Food and Beverage   The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network (CFBN) launched in 2017 to bring industry players together, to provide a forum for collaboration and support, and to better connect the 4,500 companies in the industry across Chicagoland to drive innovation and growth in the region. Our Mission is to drive inclusive economic growth in Chicagoland by bringing together the region’s food and beverage industry stakeholders to pursue collaborative opportunities.

Show Notes

Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network Who’s all in Chicago Kraft Hinez Mars Wrigley Mondelez Tyson ConAgra McDonald's and many more! The History of Chicago’s food industry At least 100 years ago. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is based in Chicago Advantaged in terms of transportation Advantaged in terms of agriculture Easy access by air and train. It’s the significant middle of of the country It’s in the center of the North America region O’hare Airport Midway Airport What do you prefer? O’hare or Midway?: O’hare has international flights. Midway lands in better flight paths When someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you tell them?: I bring together the food and beverage industry of Chicagoland and grow the economy, industry and jobs. We’re a next generation trade association. History of the non-profit: We started 18 months ago, so we’re relatively new. We have 75 corporate members with members like Kraft Wrigley, Mars, etc. We launched with the idea to foster innovation. We’re the mediators to get big companies and small companies together. One program is the Food Manufacturing Workforce Development Program which trains potential employees to work in manufacturing jobs. Young people and manufacturing: Before, you could see a career path with manufacturing. College made a gap in the manufacturing industry. However, many of the jobs are very technical and digitally enabled. You can still get paid a good middle-class wage. About $58,000 a year + benefits. High performing companies help employees in the manufacturing area to go to college and excel in their career. We are trying to tell those stories. SAFE+FAIR What do these events look like?: Sometimes they’re topical discussions. Other times, we bring them to cool restaurants or incubators One example: have a startup come in and tell large companies how to innovate. Large companies also share their interested. Another example of a topic: 5th and 6th generation companies. We have to reinvent themselves for every generation Chicago: The silicon valley of food and beverage What was your career path?: Indiana University: Telecommunication, English Literature, Spanish, and Business. I spent 8 years working in Advertising in an agency. Got a masters in Northwestern which put me on a different path. I ended up getting a job with the Got Milk people (Dairy Management). I spent 14 years and did their long term business management. The MacArthur Foundation reached out and recruited me to launch this organization with them. After 14 years in Got Milk, what did you learn?: The people that you work with today will always come back. The people with whom you do a great job they’ll be your boss or employee later on in life. Never burn a bridge. Learn as much as you can. Find a mentor and be a mentor. Why does your food job rock?: We are growing something nobody else is able to do How do you deal with the weather in Chicago?: Wear a coat and telecommute Most people I know telecommute a day or two a week. There are specific things when coming into the office What type of food trends and technologies are exciting you right now?: What is transparency? How much is enough? How much is too much? Who is doing a good job about transparency?: In Chicago: Simple Mills, RX Bar, Farmer’s Fridge Blockchain Anti-trend: Really good high fat, artisianal butters Dicotomous trends: Plants and Meat are both growing upwards, but not fighting against each other. Flexitarian Drone technology Microfertilization Favorite Kitchen Item: Pizza Stone Chicago Deep Dish Cauliflower crust pizza What’s the weirdest thing you ate on a pizza stone?: Brussel sprouts. They turned out awesome. Girl and Goat Tanta Purple Pig Fat Rice Alan’s choices: AlineaRick Bayless Topololabamba Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to go in the food industry?: Work hard, learn a lot, be serious about it. Those who learn their craft then to do the best. Really invest in your career and learning. Where can we find you for advice?: You can reach out to any of us. especially moving to Chicago or working in Chicago.

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