BURR RIDGE – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns program held the “Market Opportunities in Food Security” forum today, the first in a series of homeland security business development forums to identify market opportunities to grow and support businesses in the homeland security industry. Experts in food security and homeland defense highlighted current and emerging needs for products, as well as strategies to protect our food supply. Gov. Blagojevich made a commitment to building the Illinois homeland security industry in his State of the State address in February. Illinois is already a national leader in homeland security, and it is only natural to develop, promote and expand this industry and create more jobs across the state.
“I’m committed to leveraging Illinois’ history of industrial and technological innovation to meet today’s security-conscious market demands in our ongoing efforts to protect the people in our state, nation and world. By teaming our resources, we can meet urgent homeland defense needs and grow Illinois businesses by providing cutting-edge products and services to the global marketplace,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The “Market Opportunities in Food Security” forum was held in partnership with the Illinois Center for Food Safety and Technology to discuss factors currently inhibiting homeland defense and to explore solutions that are being developed by inventors, entrepreneurs and large companies. More than 175 attendees, including food producers, businesses in the food supply chain, distributors and companies that protect our nation’s food supply, were on hand, and each sector learned new ways to compete in today’s security-conscious world.
Attendees learned from national and state experts and leaders, including Dr. Frank Busta, Director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense; Col. Randall Larsen, Director for The Institute for Homeland Security; Bradley Tusk, Deputy Governor for the State of Illinois; Dr. Martin Cole, Director of the National Center for Food Safety and Technology; Matthew Botos, Director of the Illinois Center for Food Safety and Technology; and Matthew Summy, Deputy Director of Illinois Homeland Security Market Development Bureau.
In addition to food security, the homeland security forums across Illinois will provide an important venue to nurture various industries, including information technology, advanced manufacturing and communication, and bio-tech and public health. Recently, DCEO opened the Bureau of Homeland Security Market Development to attract and support businesses engaged in the homeland security industry. The bureau offers incentive, finance and grant programs to attract businesses to Illinois and help existing Illinois companies expand operations.
Also today, Gov. Blagojevich signed House Bill 211, which authorizes DCEO to form the Illinois Food Systems Policy Council. The Council will provide a critical advisory panel to develop policies on food access and security, improve health and well-being, and to promote economic incentives for Illinois farmers and agri-businesses.
“Even as public and private experts continue to evaluate the safety of our food supply, the Food Systems Policy Council will provide important guidance to determine steps we can take to secure both the crops our farmers grow and the food that Illinois companies manufacture,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The Council will be led by DCEO’s Bureau of Homeland Security Market Development and will consult with the business community and the agricultural industry, as well as community organizations that are involved in the food and agricultural industries. HB 211 was sponsored by State Representative William Delgado (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).
“When we discuss food policy to help keep Illinoisans safe, its important to have a cross section of experts that we can turn to for answers. This policy group will also provide proactive initiatives to keep our food supply safe,” said State Representative Delgado.
“The State of Illinois provides food to people around the world, and the Food Systems Policy Council will provide an additional assurance to buyers that we’re taking every measure necessary to keep our food supply free from contaminants,” State Senator Hunter said.
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.