Every year, our friends at the Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA) run a fun and cool contest called “Makers Madness.” The bracket-style competition, patterned on the NCAA college basketball tournament, seeks to name the “coolest thing made in Illinois.” They start by seeking nominations from across the state, then create a wide open field of products upon which people are asked to vote. After an initial whittling down to sixteen cool products, the remaining selections are pitted head-to-head until a winner is crowned. Last year, Caterpillar’s 797F Mining Truck was crowned the winner. While this machine is made in Decatur, we like to point out that much of it was designed right here in Greater Peoria.
The competition helps IMA highlight the importance of manufacturing to Illinois. Check out some of these statistics: The average manufacturing job pays over $88,000 in average wages and benefits. There are an estimated 555,000 individuals employed in the industry in Illinois. And the annual economic output tops $304 billion.
I always look forward to the competition for a few reasons. First, it’s just fun to be reminded of how many different things are made in Illinois. The products range from footwear to football helmets to Ford Explorers. Even better, I use the initial round of the competition to be amazed at the role Greater Peoria manufacturers play in this industry. I enjoy combing through the nominations to pick our local businesses. (Of course, not everyone chooses to nominate themselves, so it is never a complete list.) Our region is a microcosm of the state, and the products range from giant to miniscule. This year’s competition includes the products we have come to associate with Greater Peoria manufacturing, like the Caterpillar D11 Dozer, Komatsu 980E-5 Electric Drive Truck and Philippi-Hagenbuch’s Rear Eject Body. But it also includes lesser known, but equally interesting, products like Onken’s custom fire pits out of Easton (Mason County) and the “Drain Weasel,” a home plumbing product made by Flexisnake in Chillicothe. We have food manufacturers like Kitchen Cooked chips and Butch’s Pizza and even products of the future like Natural Fiber Welding’s Mirum.
We know that the coolest things in Illinois, and in fact the nation and world, are made here in Greater Peoria. But we are only going to have one of our products win if we show up and vote. Between now and February 28, you are invited to vote for your five favorite items (you can cast a new set of votes each day). Then starting next week you’ll have the chance to vote in the head-to-head battles. If we do our jobs and help Greater Peoria products get out of the first round, there will be more opportunities for you to help us be champions. You can follow along and vote at www.makersmadnessil.com. Below is a complete list of nominated products from our area. Choose your favorite five and vote!
- 980E-5 Electric Drive Truck – Komatsu (Peoria)
- Custom Cheesecake – Triple Dipple’s (Chillicothe)
- Custom Fire Pits – Onken’s (Easton)
- D11 Dozer – Caterpillar (East Peoria)
- Engine Block – Caterpillar (Mapleton)
- Ethanol – ADM (Peoria)
- Frozen Pizza – Butch’s Pizza (Morton)
- KoolBoss Crowd Misting – BossTek (Peoria)
- Lime Green Drainage Tile – River Valley Pipe (Chillicothe)
- Mirum Vegan Leather – NFW (Peoria)
- Modular Buildings – Eagle Modular Buildings (Mossville)
- Potato Chips – Kitchen Cooked (Farmington)
- Rear Eject Body – Philippi-Hagenbuch (Peoria County)
- Recycling Trailers – Onken’s (Easton)
- Ten Player Quiz System – Novel Electronic Design (Chillicothe)
- The Drain Weasel – FlexiSnake (Chillicothe)
- Volumetric LIDAR Scanner – Walz (East Peoria)