The Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched a unique campaign. Residents are being encouraged to nominate and vote for the “Coolest Thing Made in Elkhart County.” The contest, which was inspired by the Vibrant Communities initiative in Elkhart County, will highlight 50 products made throughout the county and culminate with a public vote this spring.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder said the goal is to shine a spotlight on businesses outside of the recreational vehicle industry.

“One of the things we have targeted actually going back to 1992 is that, as a community, we wanted to work towards diversifying our economy and I actually thing we’ve done a pretty good job, but we’re not aware of it,” said Yoder. “So we’re going to increase awareness of our own community – what sort of cool things do we make here already.”

The CVB says the campaign could feature products made in a home business, a farm-based workshop, or a large production facility. Nominations are being accepted online through March 31, or until 50 products have been nominated.

The nominees will be featured on the contest website with an article and short video. A two-week voting period will take place in April and the winner will be announced during a celebration event in May.

Yoder says got the idea for the contest after seeing a similar contest in Wisconsin. In addition to providing a fun event for the county, Yoder says the contest could have economic development benefits as well.

“What we’ve noticed on the economic development corporations is oftentimes, some of these smaller businesses that are making products that could be used in another industry within the county…we’re not making that connection. So there may be (an Elkhart County) company buying a product from China or some other place in the United States and that product is (also) made right here in Elkhart County. So some of those smaller companies will be able to be highlighted with this effort.”

Yoder adds the contest may also help the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County find small businesses it wasn’t aware of to further economic development growth. EDC of Elkhart County President Chris Stager says the contest fits right in with the organization’s mission.

“This project will pay homage to our local workforce and showcases Elkhart County’s leading manufacturing capabilities and companies,” Stager said in a news release. “It highlights the scope and reach of the array of products produced every day here in Elkhart County that are used locally and throughout the world.”

The CVB says more details about the contest, as well as updates to the Vibrant Communities initiative, will be announced at The Big Event, which is scheduled for January 22. The bureau will also reveal the new destination brand for Elkhart County.

Yoder says the goal is to shine a spotlight on businesses outside of the recreational vehicle industry.