By Kate Silver
If you’re looking for some innovative gifts to check off your holiday list, visit these Rust Belt small businesses that have been giving the economy a run for its money, offering a much-needed boost to an area hard-hit by recent factory declines. Like the 2014 Volt, these forward-thinking, made-in-America hot spots are displaying cutting-edge technology and inventive design this holiday season. Plus, there’s a bonus gift: When you shop at locally-owned businesses, a larger portion of your money stays right there, in your own community.
The 3D Printer Experience, Chicago, Illinois
Think a bust of yourself would make a good holiday ornament? Print a 3D self-portrait at The 3D Printer Experience for just $25. If you’re looking for something more useful, check out their workshops and classes, which guide you through the ins and outs of printing in three dimensions. After a few minutes in this tech-savvy shop, it’s easy to see why 3D printing has taken the world by storm.
Constructive Eating, Ann Arbor, Michigan
“Play with your food” is practically a command when talking about Constructive Eating, a company that makes interactive plates shaped like construction sites and fairy wonderlands. Named one of Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch in 2013, this business makes eating fun, even for the pickiest kids, who rely on pushers, shovels and hoes to get their food where it’s supposed to go.
TerraTrike, Grand Rapids, Michigan
While your friends are pre-empting the number-one New Year’s resolution by signing up for grueling gym regimens, you can actually enjoy getting into shape with a TerraTrike. This company also made Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch list this year, and after one spin on a comfortable, laid-back three-wheeler you’ll know why.
JamPlay.com, Beavercreek, Ohio (online)
Give the gift of music this holiday season—namely, virtual guitar lessons. Named one of the Top Companies in Ohio and included in the Inc. 5000 list, JamPlay.com films, edits and publishes 11 hours of guitar lessons every 30 days. Learn from the pros without ever leaving your couch.
Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles, Wakarusa, Indiana
When people start investing in recreational vehicles, it’s a solid sign that the economy is improving. Judging from the 450% growth in the last three years for Livin’ Lite, things are looking darn good. This recreational vehicle company, which specializes in ultra light, all-aluminum truck campers, travel trailers, fifth wheels and more, made the Inc. 5000 Top Companies in Indiana list. Road trip, anyone?
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Kate Silver blogs at Kate Silver’s Very Important Blog and Parents.com, and writes regularly for Spirit Magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Midwest Living.