A new program by the Effingham Convention and Visitors Bureau is promoting both local artists and businesses that are located in the county.

Known as “Made in Effingham,” the campaign will feature one business or artist each month who is both located in the county and uses local resources in its products.

“We want people who are creating and doing things in Effingham County or people who are locally sourcing food from the area,” explained Jodi Thoele, the tourism director at the Effingham CVB.

Thoele says the program is modeled after a statewide initiative by the Illinois Office of Tourism called “Illinois Made,” which features businesses all across the state as being unique to Illinois.

“It was something we thought was such a great idea because Effingham has so much to offer and so many of these makers,” said Thoele. “We just had to have it here.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that Effingham would take it and run with it to promote their own local makers,” said Marla Cichowski, a spokesperson for the state’s office of tourism.

“Illinois Made” launched in the summer of 2016 and Cichowski says its aim is to ultimately attract tourists to Illinois by promoting unique experiences.

“And it’s working,” said Cichowski. “Illinois Made advertising campaign had a direct impact on tourism generating about 21,000 hotel bookings and $7.5 million in tourism spending from March 1 to July 31 in 2017.”

Cichowski said in addition to “Made in Effingham,” similar programs have been launched in McHenry and Champaign counties, as well as across a 23-county swath known as “ILLINOISouth.”

Such local initiatives, added Cichowski, can provide a pool of potentially eligible “makers” for the “Illinois Made” campaign.

“We look forward to seeing who they choose,” said Cichowski of the Effingham initiative. “We’re always encouraging CVBs to nominate their local makers since they are the ones who know their regions the best.”

Among the more than 100 statewide “makers” already is Effingham’s FireFly Grill, which Thoele says she can certainly imagine as a “Made in Effingham” nominee.

“Hopefully, when people in the community learn about the 'Made in Effingham' program and if it fits the criteria for 'Illinois Made,' we can pass that along and get more local people featured with the state. We’ve already spoken with the state about our program and they are excited we are doing it.”

Kicking off the new program last week, Thoele and her staff selected Tytia Habing Photography of Effingham for both drawing inspiration from Effingham’s “rustic, yet vibrant landscape” and using it to produce her works of art.

“Hopefully, it just gets the word out that we exist and that we’re here and ready to make art for whoever needs it,” said Habing, who has been shooting for about 20 years. “I just wish more people would support local artists and businesses. That’s what makes a healthy community.”

Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker described the new program as “a great opportunity for us to shine a light and put a little emphasis on the ingenuity and craftsmanship that takes place here in Effingham County and the City of Effingham.”

“I think anything that helps promote people in our communities within our county is a plus,” added Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann. “I applaud their efforts on it.”

Nominations for Made in Effingham can be submitted online at www.visiteffinghamil.com/play/madeineffingham. Criteria include making products in Effingham County and using local resources whenever possible. Small-batch operations will also be given preference over mass production.

One “Maker of the Month” will be featured on the Effingham CVB’s website with a brief interview and multimedia to allow readers the chance to learn more about the business or artist. Makers will also “take over” the Effingham CVB’s Instagram for one day to promote its services or products. Stickers with the #MadeinEffingham decal will also be provided as a way to designate which businesses and artists have received the honor. The public is also encouraged to use the #MadeinEffingham to express their support for local businesses and artists online through social media.

“It’s an opportunity to highlight these people who are making Effingham so unique and giving them a bigger platform to reach people,” said Thoele.

Contact Keith Stewart at keith.stewart@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext. 132.

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