Voters Narrow Field to Top 8 Coolest Products Made in Illinois

“Makers Madness” Contest Lets Public Decide The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois

April 12, 2022 – The field of contenders vying for the 2022 title of The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois has been narrowed further, with voters choosing the Top 8 products to move ahead in the third annual “Makers Madness” contest. Hosted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, “Makers Madness” is a bracket-style tournament in which voters across the state will decide which product is The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.

Presented by Comcast Business, the competition celebrates the incredible work of manufacturers across Illinois, which have long served as the backbone of our state’s economy and is helping lead our recovery from the pandemic. Illinois manufacturers produce everything from life-saving vaccines and medical treatments to boundary-breaking electric vehicles and components used for space exploration. Our manufacturers keep store shelves stocked with nutritious food and delectable snacks, as well as create sporting equipment used everywhere from neighborhood fields to professional leagues. They make core structural products from steel, rebar and motors to chemicals and flavorings, and even create high-tech gadgets used for national defense and energy to power our homes and businesses.

Over the past week, voters chose their favorites in eight head-to-head matchups between individual products, with 60,000 votes cast in this round. The original field of more than 400 nominees for The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois has now been whittled down to the Top 8. The Top 8 products selected by voters are the TCFW375 Series Ice Rink Chiller made by Thermal Care, Inc., in Niles; Fruit by the Foot made by General Mills in Belvidere; TexWalk Print Media manufactured by Jessup Manufacturing Company in McHenry County; the R1T all-electric car manufactured by Rivian Inc., in Normal; the Orion Spacecraft Capsule’s Aft Bulkhead, Barrel and Tunnel made by Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc., in Rockford; Rapid Freeze Flake Ice Maker – 1000 – RLE made by Howe Corporation in Chicago; Custom Semi-Trailer Bar made by Onken’s Incorporated in Easton; and Custom Blazed Diffraction Gratings manufactured by Inprentus Precision Optics in Champaign.

“Makers Madness is a celebration of our state’s great manufacturing industry, and it’s exciting to see people from every corner of Illinois vote for their favorite items made right here at home. These Top 8 products demonstrate the wide impact manufacturers have on our everyday lives, which is made possible by the hardworking men and women on our factory floors,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “As underscored by supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to invest in Illinois and American manufacturing.”

The Makers Madness Top 8 matchups are as follows:

Bracket A:

  • TCFW375 Series Ice Rink Chiller (Thermal Care, Inc., Niles) v. (3) Fruit by the Foot (General Mills, Belvidere)

Bracket B:

  • TexWalk Print Media (Jessup Manufacturing Company, McHenry) v. (2) R1T (Rivian, Normal)

Bracket C:

  • Orion Spacecraft Capsule’s Aft Bulkhead, Barrel and Tunnel (Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc., Rockford) v. (3) Rapid Freeze Flake Ice Maker – 1000 – RLE (Howe Corporation, Chicago)

Bracket D:

(4) Custom Semi-Trailer Bar (Onken’s Incorporated, Easton) v. (3) Custom Blazed Diffraction Gratings (Inprentus Precision Optics, Champaign)

Voting for this round is now open and will take place at through 11:59 p.m. on April 17. Voters may cast one vote per day in each of the four head-to-head matchups between individual products. Consecutive rounds of voting will take place each week, with vote totals reset to zero at the beginning of each round. The contest will culminate with an awards ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion on April 27 when The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois will be named.

“Congratulations and best of luck to the Top 8,” said Sean McCarthy, Comcast’s Regional Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives. “Comcast Business is proud to be part of the Makers Madness contest and support manufacturing in the state.”

Statewide, manufacturing generates more than $304 billion in economic output, contributing 12 percent to the state’s Gross Domestic Product – the largest share of any industry in Illinois. Manufacturers employ 562,000 women and men in Illinois at an average salary of $88,691, providing $52 billion in wages and benefits.

To ensure the state’s manufacturing sector remains dynamic and strong, the IMA successfully pushed for the passage of several measures to grow manufacturing in Illinois during the spring legislative session. This includes the MICRO Act, which would create tax incentives for companies to produce semiconductors and microchips in Illinois. Increasing production of these vital components in Illinois would help ease supply chain issues by ensuring access is not controlled by a handful of oversees providers.

The IMA also partnered with lawmakers and the governor’s office to fund a $7 million statewide marketing campaign to attract people to manufacturing careers and promote the production of electric vehicles. As workforce shortages continue to plague nearly every manufacturing sector, the marketing campaign will help introduce manufacturing careers to a wider audience.

Timeline of events:

March 2 – March 20: Nominations accepted at

March 22 – April 3: Voting on nominations to determine Top 16

April 5 – April 10: First round of voting to determine Top 8

April 12 – April 17: Second round of voting to determine Top 4

April 19 – April 24: Final round of voting

April 27:   Winner of The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois announced during awards ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion

About the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA)

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is the only statewide association dedicated exclusively to advocating, promoting and strengthening the manufacturing sector in Illinois. The IMA is the oldest and largest state manufacturing trade association in the United States, representing nearly 4,000 companies and facilities. For more information, visit


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