By Lauren Zeugner
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Two local companies — Maple Leaf Farms and Polywood — are in the elite eight round vying for the title of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s second annual “Coolest Thing Made in Indiana” contest.
Online voting for round four, which will decide which products reach the final four, is now open to the public at indianachamber.com/coolest-thing-made-in-indiana-tournament.
The contest, which celebrates the state’s long manufacturing history and showcases the wide variety of Hoosier-made products, started with a 54-company field. Some companies participating have headquarters located outside the state; however, the product representing them is made completely in Indiana.
Those 54 companies were then placed in a March Madness type bracket with the public encouraged to vote during the various rounds.
The winner will be announced at the Indiana Chamber’s Best IN Manufacturing Luncheon Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Olivia Tucker, brand marketing manager, explained someone from Maple Leaf’s executive committee nominated the company for the contest. Maple Leaf’s product is its half roast duck. “The great thing about the product is it’s a partially deboned product,” said Chris Jellel, plant manager. He explained the de-boning process has to be done by hand. “So a lot of blood, sweat and dedication goes into it.”
Maple Leaf has been campaigning for votes through social media as well as talking its product up through various professional organizations, such as the Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce.
Company officials are tossing around a few ideas as to how to celebrate, should Maple Leaf win the coveted Coolest Thing Made In Indiana award. “We’re just happy our staff is being recognized for the product,” said Janelle Deatsman, communications manager for Maple Leaf Farms.
“We’re very appreciative of the people who made this product possible,” said Jellel. “It’s so impressive what they do,” said Tucker.
Maple Leaf Farms has been producing its roast half duck since Serenade Foods, the processing facility, opened in the 1970s.
Employee Gabe Bollinger has been eating the roast half duck since the 1980s and said its consistency remains the same. The product is so popular with Maple Leaf customers, “We were pretty much sold out during COVID,” said Tucker.
Maple Leaf’s roast half duck is available at its retail store in Leesburg and at Martin’s and Costco stores in the area.
Polywood received the information and its executive staff tossed around ideas as to which product to showcase. It settled on the elevated sectional, a modular deep seated set that can be configured into dozens of seating options.
Along with the sectional frame, Polywood also sews and stuffs the cushions that go with it at its Syracuse plant.
“There are a lot of great companies in the contest, including Maple Leaf. To have two companies from Kosciusko County (in the elite eight) is great,” said Ryan Zimmerman, senior director of human resources for Polywood.
Polywood has sent out some internal communications encouraging employees to place their votes as well as some posts on Linkedin.
The current round of voting ends Wednesday, Nov. 23, with the final four round starting Monday, Nov. 28, and ending Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The winning company receives:
• The Coolest Thing Made in Indiana trophy,
• A feature article about the company in the 2023 May Indiana Chamber BizVoice magazine issue
• Coordinated media outreach promoting the company’s win, through press releases, social media and blogs
• The official “Coolest Thing Made in Indiana” winner badge to be placed on the company’s website.
• Recognition and profile on The Coolest Thing Made in Indiana website.
• An invitation to appear on the IN Chamber podcast or filmed video appearance for Chamber INsider e-newsletter which is sent to 15,000 people.