Rivian 20The Illinois’ Manufacturers Association has begun its fourth annual Makers Madness Contest, a state-wide tournament where the public can vote for their favorite product made in Illinois.

The contest consists of a bracket styled tournament, which begins with a public nomination period that ends Feb. 19. Once nominations are complete, voters will be able to select their 16 favorite products, which will go head-to-head until a winner is decided.

Last year’s winner was Normal Illinois’ very own all-electric truck, the Rivian R1T. The truck received the majority of over 200,000 votes last year, winning the title of “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.” Rivian Automotive is based in Normal, and have produced over 14,000 electric vehicles since they opened their doors.

Nominations are accepted through Feb. 19. The winner will be announced on March 29.

People can nominate a product here

2023 Schedule:
Nominations Accepted: February 2 – 19
Nomination Voting: February 21 – March 5
First Round (Top 16): March 7 – 12
Second Round (Top 8): March 14 – 19
Final Round (Top 4): March 21 – 26
Winner Announced: March 29

jimmyOn Jan. 13, the famed Jimmy John’s store known for delivering its sub sandwiches at the speed of light celebrated its opening 40 years ago in Charleston. The original owner, Jimmy John Liautaud, began the franchise as a hot dog stand originally. The Arlington Heights native quickly realized, however, that hot dogs were not selling well and had to turn to other options if he wanted to be successful and pay back his father for helping him out.

After some research into Chicago hot dog stands, Liautaud realized that it would be too expensive to continue that route and switched to sub sandwiches. His reasoning for picking sub sandwiches was the fact that he could get deli meat for cheap, as he was struggling to pay back his father for the loan he got from him to originally start the hot dog stand right after he graduated from high school. He felt he could easily turn a profit from having more options to provide to cater to more people. His next step would be perfecting his bread recipe, and from there he decided to venture out and start advertising his products.

After long, grueling hours and even handing out free sandwiches to dorm rooms at nearby colleges, Jimmy John's finally opened on Jan. 13, 1983. The original building was a two-car garage turned into pizza store that happened to fail so he got it for a fair price. Today, Jimmy John's is headquartered in Champaign-Urbana and has almost 3,000 locations across 43 states. After many freaky fast deliveries, Jimmy John’s continues to be another example of successful businesses flourishing from Illinois.

lagoIn the northwestern part of Illinois known as the Quad Cities lies a little bit of sweet history – Lagomarcino’s, one of the last soda-candy confectioneries in the nation. Since 1908, Lagomarcino’s has been a staple to Moline. From their own homemade ice cream to the famous soda fountain follies, it’s no wonder this place is so well loved that it opened their second location right across the river in Davenport, Iowa.

For more than 110 years, the confectionery has been making chocolates, candy, and homemade ice cream. Currently, the store has been passed down four generations within the Lagomarcino family and is still using the same original copper kettle kitchen at the original Moline location.

The story begins with Angelo Lagomarcino emigrating from Italy in the late 1800s. After getting married, he worked in Burlington, Iowa, with his brother Carl, and in 1908 Angelo decided Moline was the best location to have his own business. He created a wide array of fine chocolates, sundaes, and malts that are still on the menu to this day.

The family run store has also won a number of awards, including the prestigious James Beard Foundation America’s Classic Award in 2006. This award is given out to only a handful of owned restaurants that have a “timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” Since the creation of the institution, they have gone on to serve more than just sweet treats and have a whole menu of classic American food.

According to their website, they plan to keep going on for at least another 100 years or more. A little piece of Americana that is still prevalent to this day is a feat on its own. Every major holiday has specialty themed sweets and items crafted upon the day of celebration – from candy apples to deliciously made Christmas tree chocolates, this spot is definitely one to check out in Illinois!

giftsBreak out the eggnog and Mariah Carey, the holiday season is approaching. Shopping for friends and loved ones can be daunting, and ideas might be hard to come by. However, stumped shoppers need worry no more! The 2022 Illinois Made Holiday Gift Guide has been released, and contains many special and wonderful gift ideas, which were made right here in Illinois. Gift givers can get ready for the holiday season while also shopping locally and supporting Illinois businesses. The Gift Guide showcases unique gifts, organizes them by categories, such as gifts for him or her, and includes links to where the items can be bought, making it an easy and simple tool for shoppers. Gifts on the list include a range of prices and themes, so anyone can find something within their price range that will suit the person they are shopping for.

Those shopping for people with a sweet tooth can find such items as the Ultimate S’mores Kit from Swoon Living in Chicago or gourmet chocolates from Cocoa Blue Chocolates in Rochester. Friends of coffee lovers can get seasonal roasts from Brewpoint Coffee in Elmhurst. Shoppers looking for gifts for relaxation and self-care can buy things such as handcrafted soy candles from Bright Endeavors in Chicago. Gift givers who want a more personal or artistic touch can buy framed prints, puzzles or snow globes from River Bend Gallery in Galena.

If you are interested in the full list of one-of-a-kind gift ideas from Illinois, visit here.

Ferrero ChocolateThis week, the North American chocolate company Ferrero announced an expansion of its chocolate plant in Bloomington. Ferrero will invest up to $214.4 million in expanding its chocolate processing and production right here in Illinois.

The chocolate company announced its new expansion that will add 169,000 square feet to its current plant and is dedicated to producing Kinder Bueno, a popular Ferrero premium chocolate bar. This expansion hopes to bring more than 200 jobs to Bloomington within the next four years. Construction on the new plant will begin this fall and is expected to be complete in 2024.   

Ferrero, a business operating since 1946, has had a long history of producing sweets in the United States. Ferrero is famously known for their hazelnut spread Nutella. Throughout its years of operation, it has acquired companies and brands from Fannie May in Chicago, to Nestle plants for Baby Ruth and Butterfinger, and several others.

The new Kinder Bueno production facility is an expansion of the existing plant in the Ferrero Bloomington manufacturing center, which is also under an expansion process for the chocolate Crunch, 100Grand, Raisinets, and other Ferrero products.

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