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Decatur-made 797F mining truck named Coolest Thing Made in Illinois

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DECATUR — It’s official. The 797F mining truck, manufactured by the Decatur Caterpillar Inc. plant, is the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.

The title was announced Wednesday following eight weeks of voting for the inaugural Makers Madness contest hosted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

"It is an honor having the Caterpillar 797F mining truck chosen as the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois. This acknowledgment is a direct reflection of the men and women who show up every day to make the best products in the world for the customers we serve," said Tina Czerwinski, Caterpillar's Decatur facility manager. "I am very proud of our team."

The online bracket-style tournament chose the Caterpillar 797F from a field of more than 260 individual products initially nominated from across the state, with nearly 300,000 votes cast over the course of the competition.

The other finalists are The Clipper by Sterling-based Wahl Clipper Corp., the grip device Functional Hand by Thera-Solutions and Beer Nuts Bar Mix from Bloomington.

Click here to view the announcement.

The Caterpillar 797F is the world’s largest mechanical truck. Standing over 23 feet tall on six 13-foot tires, the 797F has best-in-class productivity and fuel-efficiency. With a top speed of 40 mph, it can haul 400 tons of payload on a single trip, which is equal to 13,000 bushels of soybeans or 686,000 ears of corn.

Because of its size, the truck is shipped in pieces to its final destination and assembled there. For this reason, many of the people who have a hand in constructing it have never seen their final product firsthand.

The Decatur plant is among the community's largest employers and serves as the hub of Caterpillar's Mining Division. In addition to the 797F, the Decatur plant also manufactures large wheel loaders, other large mining trucks, compactors, wheel tractor scrapers, off-highway trucks and axles.

Because of the products that come out of the plant, it has been deemed an essential business and allowed to continue operating amid the stay-at-home executive order issued last month by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. In a note to employees soon after the executive order was issued, Czerwinski noted the important role the products made in Decatur are in obtaining “minerals from the earth” that are used in medicine and x-ray screens, among other uses.

“The Caterpillar 797F Mining Truck is a great example of American manufacturing, innovation and ingenuity and is well-deserving of the title of Coolest Thing Made in Illinois. Designed for mining and heavy-duty construction, this iconic truck is rugged and dependable,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

“While this contest began before we started to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Makers Madness has been a great way to showcase the wonderful products made in Illinois and the great career opportunities manufacturing offers," Denzler said. "Every day, our manufacturers are making life-saving products, equipping first responders and ensuring our food supply remains safe and strong.”

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 592,200 women and men in Illinois at an average salary of $88,691, providing $52 billion in wages and benefits.

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