Electronics & Tech
William M. Brown founded this lighting component company in his Skokie apartment as BBS in 1955. He changed the name to ALP in 1972 for pragmatic reasons; he wanted it to come up first in the Yellow Pages.
Astro-Physics Machesney Park
Amateur astronomer and electrical engineer Roland Christen wanted to take better photos of the stars, so he took matters into his own hands. His company has been developing handmade telescopes and accessories for the advanced amateur since 1975.
Ash Manufacturing Inc. Plainfield
Founded in 1961, Ash supplies observatory domes to stargazers in 49 states and 70 different countries throughout the world.
This massive manufacturer of hair dryers, curling irons, straighteners and other personal grooming technology makes its products in Central Illinois.
Established in 1990 in Southern Illinois, Elastec is now the largest manufacturer of oil-spill-cleanup and surface-water-pollution equipment in North America. It also has a Cocoa, Fla., facility that makes equipment for trash, debris and sediment control.
First Alert Aurora
This company designs, engineers and tests its safety products — including carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers — in the western suburbs.
Forest City Gear Roscoe
Since 1955, Forest City has made gears for use in applications that range from medical devices to motorcycles, airplanes to automation, even NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover.
Frasca International, Inc. Urbana
Former Navy aviator Rudy Frasca started his flight simulator business out of his garage. Sixty years later, Frasca International employs 180 people and has produced more than 2,800 custom simulators for more than 80 countries.
Legacy Audio Springfield
It began in a garage in the Midwest three decades ago, but Legacy Audio now makes audio equipment that has been used in Sony, Epic and Arista recording studios and by Grammy award-winning producers such as Rick Rubin and L.A. Reid.
The telecommunications giant, which has several production facilities in Illinois, has left plenty of massive footprints, none bigger than in 1969 when a Motorola radio transponder aboard the Apollo 11 lunar module relayed the first words from the moon to Earth.
Omni Gear Joliet
Omni makes precision gears in diameters that range from a 1/2 inch to eight feet. Its gears are used not only in oil production equipment, but also in robots, printing and the manufacture of corrugated cardboard.
RR Donnelly Chicago
This international corporation — with some 42,000 employees serving 50,000 clients — started as a printer in Chicago 150 years ago. Famous for printing the Yellow Pages and the Sears catalog, much of its business now takes place online, though it still has a custom printing facility in St. Charles.
Frasca International, Inc.