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Wisconsin Makes the Coolest Things

By Robert “Bob” Kamphuis
Chairman – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
Chairman, President & CEO – Mayville Engineering Company, Inc.
I wager that if you stopped most Wisconsinites on the street and asked them to name the state’s largest business sector a majority would say agriculture. But manufacturing is by far Wisconsin’s top economic sector accounting for nearly 20 percent of gross state production and about 470,000 jobs.
Wisconsin companies make an impressive and incredibly diverse list of products from ping pong paddles made in Madison, riding mowers made in Horicon, race cars made in Twin Lakes, American flags made in Oak Creek, trolley buses made in Crandon, snow blowers made in Brillion, beef jerky made in Minong, military vehicles made in Oshkosh, outboard motors made in Fond du Lac and there may even be a few clay target machines made in Mayville.
There should be a lot of local, state and national pride over what we make right here in Wisconsin. The problem is that too few people are aware of what’s being made in their own community and state. Many of us drive by a manufacturing facility in the local industrial park and have no idea what’s going on inside.
As a manufacturer and the Board Chairman of Wisconsin’s combined Manufacturers’ Association and State Chamber, WMC, I want to change that. WMC has partnered with Johnson Financial Group to create the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest. It is designed to celebrate and promote Wisconsin’s manufacturing prowess by educating the public about all the cool things made right here.
Here’s how the contest works. Anyone can begin nominating products starting August 1 at through September 1 at midnight. The first round of voting to whittle the total list of nominees down to 16 will start on Labor Day and end September 11. Those 16 products will then be placed in a tournament bracket with seeding based on total number of votes received in the first round. You’ve heard of March Madness, this is Manufacturing Madness.
The second round of voting will begin on September 18 and end September 25. The third round will be October 2 through October 6. The fourth and all important final round will begin October 10 and end October 16. People can vote once per day in each round.
The 2017 winner of the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin Contest will be announced at the State of Wisconsin Business and Industry Luncheon on October 16 at Monona Terrace in Madison.
To win the contest, manufacturers will have to get as many votes as possible. Last year, Johnsonville Sausage enlisted the help of Green Bay Packer standout Clay Matthews to plug them on social media. The Marinette Menomonie Eagle Herald Newspaper ran an editorial encouraging its readers to vote for the Littoral Combat Ship built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine. Several state lawmakers plugged their hometown favorite in columns. Other nominees did radio interviews and some sent emails asking their employees, customers and vendors to vote.
Our winner last year – Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee-Eight engine – is out of the running, so this competition is truly wide open. Any product made in Wisconsin has the chance to win, and we think this could be a Cinderella story in the making.
The goal of this contest is to highlight Wisconsin’s biggest industry and the rewarding careers available. We are proud of our manufacturing heritage and its bright future. We are proud of every cool thing made right here in Wisconsin.
The only question is: Who makes the Coolest?
Visit to nominate a product for Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin.




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