Matchmaking manufacturers for supply chain success

Manufacturing matchmaking has been on the forefront of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center’s event calendar continuing now into its second year.  IMEC has been reaching out to a diverse group of partners throughout the state in an effort for manufacturing representatives to meet with potential new customers and suppliers.  IMEC is positioned to help manufacturers increase sales opportunities and gain a footing in regional and global supply chains.

Manufacturing MatchmakingThe matchmaking and networking events  have a structured opportunity to network with potential customers and suppliers by sharing information, samples and more; similar to “speed-dating” but for suppliers and end users.

Made in Illinois Featured Company: Safe Sheds, Inc.

Safe ShedsSafe Sheds, Inc. has manufactured above ground concrete storm shelters that are delivered across the United States since 2002. Able to withstand winds in excess of 250 mph, these shelters have saved lives and provided steady employment for Illinois residents.

Special Capabilities: We use custom designed concrete form and specialized delivery equipment to manufacture and install 24,000 lb. precast monolithic storm shelters.

Contact Safe Sheds, Inc.:

1003 S Maple Ave
Salem, IL 62881
Phone (888)556-1531

Interested in joining Made in Illinois? Click here to begin promoting your business today!

IMEC Made in Illinois program logo

Welcome the newest IMEC team members: Gretchen Clifton and Ashley Beaudoin

IMECGretchen Clifton – Located in central Illinois, Gretchen has over 35 years of experience in manufacturing. She challenges her clients to enhance their knowledge and skills to continually improve their operations themselves. Gretchen provides management skills in auditing, quality, continual improvement, problem solving, coaching/training and manufacturing trouble shooting and she is experienced in implementing, auditing and certifying quality systems as well as mentoring project teams while finding problem resolutions.

As part of IMEC’s Quality Team, Gretchen has worked on projects such as QS/ISO support/implementation, vendor certification programs, regulatory/compliance audits, laboratory methods and quality control,/manufacturing troubleshooting and Management/Supervisory training. She also brings experience in the food industry, automotive, injection molding and machine shops.

Read more in Gretchen’s bio

IMECAshley Beaudoin – Based in Chicago, Ashley focuses on the people aspect of the people, process, product model and brings her diverse experience as a human resources professional to IMEC where she is responsible for aiding Illinois manufacturers in all of their human resource needs by delivering customized HR solutions. She provides human capital management advisory services and helps companies develop and communicate policies, train employees and implement a recruitment process.

Ashley can also provide consultation and guidance to senior management and organizational partner in the interpretation of HR management policies, procedures, programs and applications of laws and regulations.

Read more in Ashley’s bio

Chicago manufacturers focus on a Demand-Driven Workforce

On July 23rd, IMEC President David Boulay facilitated a panel discussion on innovative solutions for a demand-driven workforce that highlighted the future of workforce and the importance of building an employer-led system.

1000 Jobs Campaign WorkforceAs part of the 1000 Jobs Campaign for Chicagoland manufacturers, the interactive event focused on digital manufacturing and the development of a highly-skilled workforce that will prepare employees for factories of the future. 

Made in Illinois Featured Company: Char Crust, Inc.

Char Crust, Inc.

Char Crust, Inc. makes premium dry-rub seasonings that are known for their trademark “Seals in the Juices”. Made by the same family since 1957, Char Crust rubs come in many flavors and are sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels. Factory is kosher certified by the cRc.

Top Products: Char Crust brand dry-rub seasonings, including national gold-metal winning Southwest Chipotle.

Contact Char Crust, Inc.:

3017 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Phone (773)528-0600

Interested in joining Made in Illinois? Click here to begin promoting your business today!

IMEC Made in Illinois program logo

Made in Illinois Featured Company: Muir Omni Graphics

Muir Omni GraphicsFor more than forty years, Muir Omni Graphics has been providing some of the world’s leading manufacturers, utility companies and service organizations with turn-key decal production and management solutions.

Our top products include: safety signs, OEM markings and decals, fleet and corporate vehicle markings, corporate identity, control panels and fascias, warning labels and signage, and specialty graphics. We serve the off-highway, construction, agriculture, transportation and utilities markets.

Every Muir project is driven by our Total Program Management Services process and begins with a step-by-step review and execution of the specific requirements, performance, production, and application needs in order to determine maximum efficiencies and value.

Our comprehensive approach encompasses: design, rapid prototyping, inventory management and installation.
For more information and to sign up for our Best Practices E-newsletter, visit our website at

Contact Muir Omni Graphics:

908 W. Main
Peoria, IL 61606
Phone (309)673-7034

Interested in joining Made in Illinois? Click here to begin promoting your business today!

IMEC Made in Illinois program logo

Made in Illinois Featured Company: Sterling Multi Products

Sterling Multi

As a contract manufacturer of metal products we offer quality stamping, precision components, machining, turning, forming, bending, drawing, shearing, welding, buffing and value added assembly. We have 47 presses from 6-tons to 600-tons, 2 CNC Turret Presses, 4 CNC Machining Centers with large bed sizes, 3 CNC Turning Centers- 1 Fryer SL-10, 4 Press Brakes capable of up to 1/2″ x 12′ and 3 shears capable of up to 3/8″ x 12′. Our welding capabilities include light duty tig and resistance welding. Painting, plating, heat treating and engineering assistance is available.

Top products: Multimixer drink mixer, agricultural components, food service components, door closer components, armament components & electrical components

Special Capabilities: Stamping, precision components, machining, turning, forming, bending, drawing, shearing, welding, buffing and value added assembly.

Contact Sterling Multi Products:

326 West 5th St.
Prophetstown, IL 61277
Phone (815)537-2381

Interested in joining Made in Illinois? Click here to begin promoting your business today!

IMEC Made in Illinois program logo

Made in Illinois Featured Company: Testor Corporation

For over eight years in Rockford, IL the Testor Corporation has been manufacturing inspiring products for hobby, craft, home decor, auto-touch-up, and nail color. Since 1929, the oval Testor logo has been associated with the quality and integrity of these creative products for building, educating, and decorating.

Testor hobby finishing materials and accessories, plastic model kits, craft paints and supplies, airbrushes, auto touch-up sprays and markers, and nail color products are sold world-wide, satisfying the demand for these fine products. Testors… for Every Surface – Inspiration for Creative Minds.

Some of our top products are brushable paints, aerosol paints, adhesives, airbrush paint, and adhesive markers and applicators models. Testor offers exact color match paints and adhesives in small and unique packaging.

Contact Testor Corporation:

440 Blackhawk Park Ave
Rockford, IL 61104
Phone (815)967-4074

Interested in joining Made in Illinois? Click here to begin promoting your business today!

IMEC Made in Illinois program logo

Welcome the newest IMEC team member: Andy Cave

Andy CaveIMEC is proud to announce Andy Cave as the newest Regional Manager to the team.  Andy will have primary responsibility serving the north and northwestern Chicagoland region.

With more than 25 years of manufacturing experience, Andy is a results oriented Operations Executive with a strong background in process re-engineering using Lean and Six Sigma tools. He has a solid track record of improving profitability through hands-on change management, implementing process improvements to increase margins, quality and customer satisfaction.

Along with significant experience driving business growth by executing strategic plans and successfully introducing new revenue streams, Andy excels in examining current processes, determining areas for improvement and delivering targeted objectives.

Welcome Andy!

For more information about IMEC’s team of manufacturing improvement specialists, please contact Amanda Hawley or

Retirement through Employee Ownership: The Select Machine Story


Contributed by Project Equity, an IMEC partner

Like many business owners nearing retirement age, when it came time for Select Machine owners Doug Beavers and Bill Sagaser to think about stepping away from the company, they investigated a range of options. They ultimately decided that selling their business to their employees was the option that best met their retirement goals of keeping their company healthy and profitable, and keeping their trusted employees in their jobs.

Select Machine, founded in 1994, manufactures and sells custom parts for demolition and construction equipment. When founders Beavers and Sagaser decided that the time had come to retire, they were confronted with a difficult choice. Their children weren’t interested in taking over the company, and prospective buyers planned to dismantle the company and lay off its workers, preserving only the company’s client list. Sagasar said of their employees, “These are our guys, our family, and we wanted them to keep on working.”

Why employee ownership?

Studies demonstrate that worker-owned businesses are stronger businesses: they outlast their competitors in economic downturns, have higher productivity and growth, and lower employee turnover. Plus, employees, their families, and their communities are better off: worker-owned businesses have higher wages, better benefits, and workers build assets through business ownership.

How does it work to retire by selling to my employees?

Tactically, a “conversion” to a worker-owned business is three things:

1) The creation of a new business entity that is a worker-owned co-op

2) A sale of the business (or its assets) to the worker co-op

  • The sale is often financed by a lender (which could be the owner) or by selling non-voting equity shares; loans are paid back out of future profits from the business.
  • Financial buy-in by workers is usually required but doesn’t cover the entire purchase amount. Businesses often allows employees to pay some or all of this out of their paychecks over time to make worker-ownership broadly accessible.
  • After the ‘founding’ worker-owners, there is typically a candidacy period for new employees to assess fit from both sides.
  • Not all employees have to be worker-owners, but there needs to be a genuine offer to all permanent employees who are interested.

3) A transition over time of roles and culture as new worker-owners take on the ownership and governance responsibility of the new entity.

And depending on the specifics of your company, there may be significant tax advantages to selling your business to your employees.

Does your business have a succession plan?

Surprisingly few U.S. business owners have an ownership succession plan. When looking at family-owned businesses, it turns out that only 30% of family businesses succeed to the 2nd generation, and only 15% to the 3rd generation.

With baby boomers currently owning an estimated two-thirds of all businesses with employees, there is a potentially huge impact of keeping those businesses anchored in our communities. Doug Beavers, one of the selling owners of Select Machine, expressed his thoughts on the conversion: “We did not set out to establish a precedent or develop a model. We wanted to do what was best for the employees of our company and for ourselves. We chose the employee-owned cooperative because it made sense.”

How can I learn more?ProjectEquityLogo_LowerRes

Project Equity, a nonprofit that assists businesses through the process of assessing, then transitioning to employee ownership, provides information about conversions to worker ownership and hands on support to businesses throughout the transition. Visit their website to read Select Machine’s and many other case studies, or to sign up for an upcoming webinar or individual consultation.

IMEC business transition solutions are geared toward manufacturers and small businesses interested in positioning their firm for future in the next generation. Whether a family-owned or closely-held business, we’re here to help. Visit to learn more.


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