CHICAGO - In an effort to help stimulate more foreign trade opportunities for Illinois businesses, Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced that the state would be escorting seven food companies on a foreign trade mission to Canada. The Illinois Food and Beverage Trade Mission to Toronto, Canada gets underway on February 20 and runs through February 22, and comes as a part of Opportunity Returns, the Governor’s economic development strategy designed to create jobs and spur economic growth throughout the state.
“Illinois is the national leader in selling food processing products, and it’s important to market the products we produce and showcase them for the world. If we support Illinois companies and increase their exports, we can invigorate our state’s economy and create more new jobs,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “This is an incredible time in history, and I’m encouraged by our state’s economic upturn and possibilities for even more business growth. By sending trade delegations to market our products aboard, we are helping these companies improve their growth potential and heighten our position in the global marketplace.”
The Illinois Food and Beverage Trade Mission offers each of the seven Illinois export-ready companies a three-day itinerary of individual business appointments, as well as exhibition space at Canada’s largest foodsevice trade show to increase exposure for Illinois food products. Each company will have at least eight, pre-qualified, individual business appointments while in Toronto. To increase business growth potential, the companies will also benefit from a full-range of business services, including market research, business briefings, networking events and logistical support. The Food and Beverage Trade Mission to Canada is scheduled to coincide with the 2005 Canadian Food and Beverage Trade Show, Canada’s largest foodservice trade event targeted to restaurant, hotel and institutional food and beverage users. The Canadian Food and Beverage Trade Show occupies more than 250,000 square feet and features nearly 700 exhibitors. At least 9,500 food and beverage industry decision makers attend this show and rely on the event to learn about essential products and services to support Canada’s $43.3 billion foodservice industry.
Companies participating in the trade mission include E. Formella & Sons, Inc. in Bridgeview; Enjoy Life Natural Brands, LLC in Chicago; Columbus Foods Company in Chicago; Schafer Fisheries, Inc. in Thomson; Schy-Town, Inc. in Northbrook; Select Brands, LLC in Chicago; and Woodland Foods, Ltd. in Gurnee.
“Expanding our markets and increasing our exposure to Canada businesses is a natural way to support the food and beverage industry and help our businesses grow,” said Kathy Formella from E. Formella & Sons, Inc. “Gov. Blagojevich understands that the best way to create jobs in our state is to seek new business for Illinois companies.”
“We’re excited about expanding our business to our closest international neighbors and develop new markets. When Gov. Blagojevich supports these foreign trade missions, he’s giving our industry the tools we need to succeed,” said Kathryn Miller, director of export sales for Columbus Foods Co. “It means he’s pro-actively looking for new business for our state instead of waiting for new business to come to us.”
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Trade and Investment (OTI) is partnering with the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service (USFAS) in Toronto to stage the Illinois Food and Beverage Trade Mission to Canada. Canada is the state’s largest trading partner, with Illinois exports totaling $8.56 billion in 2003, or 32 percent of all exports.
“When the state provides these trade missions, we create business connections that can be difficult for individual companies to form on their own. Companies most often return with tangible results from these trips that lead to new markets and increased sales that boost output and productivity, and spurs new hiring,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said. “The recent job growth numbers speak volumes about how Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns strategy is working for Illinois.”
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.