Manufacturing group launches tournament to find coolest product made in Illinois

(The Center Square) — A new online contest to find “the coolest stuff made in Illinois” is going on all during March.

The first “Makers Madness” is off to a rousing start, said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

More than 256 products have been nominated and people are going to the website,, to vote for their favorites.

“It’s very exciting to see companies pushing this on social media. It’s really caught on,” Denzler said.

The idea is to let people know about some of the amazing products that are manufactured in Illinois, he said.

From Beer Nuts and Libman brooms to iconic brands like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Caterpillar, manufacturing generates more than $304 billion in economic output and contributes 12% to Illinois’ GDP, Denzler said.

The contest is not limited to the big and the famous, Denzler said. Some of the nominees are “the smallest of the small,” he said, including candle makers, beauty product companies and food items.

One of the less well-known products literally is “cool.” It’s called 40 Below Joe from the company that makes Dippin’ Dots. Instead of a mundane “cup of joe” in the morning, you get a cup of frozen coffee and creamer beads. You can eat the beads with a spoon for your caffeine fix, or you can heat them up and drink them.

Danzler said he believes that the world is a better place because of the manufacturing industry in Illinois.

“Our products feed the world, save lives and invent the future,” Danzler said.

He said he hopes Makers Madness will help get the word out that the great careers are available in manufacturing from product designers and robotics specialists to cybersecurity experts and human resources professionals.

Manufacturers employ 592,200 people in Illinois at an average salary of $88,691. Manufacturers provide $52 billion in wages and benefits in Illinois, Danzler said.

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