Nominations for the Chicago Innovation Awards Open

Nominations for the prestigious 2012 Chicago Innovation Awards opened May 1st, and will close July 15th. The awards, which celebrate and recognize innovative businesses in the Midwest, were started in 2002, by Tom Kuczmarski and Dan Miller. According to Kuczmarski, they, “Grew tired of hearing the Midwest being referred to as the ‘Rust Belt’, and wanted to highlight the innovative culture of Chicago and the Midwest.” The first year saw only a handful of nominees, but that has grown to 409 as of 2011, and this year is expected to see even more nominees.

Innovation alive and well in the Galesburg/West Central Illinois Region

2011 was a record year for nominees, and was marked by another first – 10 nominees from the Galesburg/West Central Illinois Region and three of those making it to the finalists list. The region’s nominees included Cross Fire Soil Remediation LLC, Blackburn Sampling, Inc., Intellihot Inc., Flipple Baby Products, En Season Café, the Sustainable Business Center, Fusion Tech Inc., Green Winds, Bridgeway Training, and stainless reflections. Gary Camarano, Global Strategies director for the EBI Network remarked, “Having ten nominees and three finalists from the region made a statement about the business and innovative climate in the region – they are alive and well. And this year I expect to see at 15 nominees.”

The Importance of Innovation

Innovative companies not only
survive, but they thrive. A study
of 27 past Chicago Innovation Award winners over the past ten years from the Chicago area showed that these companies added over $20 billion in new revenues, were granted 1009 new patents and created over 10,000 jobs. Locally, regional nominees have created over 100 new jobs, have been granted 15 new patents and have also generated new revenues for their companies, and that’s in less than a year. Camarano said, “I expect more positive results out of these companies and the future nominees from the region. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more finalists and even a winner in the near future. We’ve some talented people and amazing ideas here.”

Bryan Ahee, VP Marketing Manager for past nominee and finalist Fusion Tech added, “The Chicago Innovation Awards were a great experience for us. The networking, exposure, and knowledge we extracted from the event were very valuable. The innovation culture that we have adopted here has helped us grow and prosper. We are going to double in size over the next two years and plan to hire an additional 72 welders.”

State Representative Don Moffitt praised last year’s nominees and looks forward to seeing more Galesburg/West Central Illinois companies becoming involved in the awards. Moffitt explained, “Our businesses that embrace innovation are prospering, growing and will lead our regional economy. Other businesses would do well to get on board with innovation and make sure they remain relevant and in a position to grow. Galesburg’s EBI Network is on target with fostering an innovative climate for our businesses. I encourage businesses to contact the EBI Network and find out what programs are available to help them.”


The EBI Network is looking for innovative companies in the region to nominate. If your company or one you know of is innovative, please contact Gary Camarano at for information on the nominating process, or visit

Gary Camarano is the Director of the Globalization and Innovation Center, a part of the City of Galesburg’s Economic Development Department and a regional economic development initiative called the EBI Network.  The EBI Network educates, engages and empowers entrepreneurs, business and industry in Knox, Warren, Mercer and Henderson county to become more entrepreneurial, innovative, global and sustainable. For more information visit 

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