Great Lakes freighter built in Door County advances to top 16 of 'Coolest Things' contest

The 639-foot-long bulk carrier Mark W. Barker, shown in its dock at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, is one of the top 16 vote-getters  advancing to the bracket-style "Manufacturing Madness" tournament in the annual "Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin" contest sponsored by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. The winner of the contest is decided by online public voting. Bay Ship built the vessel, which set off on its maiden voyage July 28, and it's believed to be the first Great Lakes freighter built on the lakes since 1983.

MADISON - Don't know if college basketball analyst Dick Vitale ever said, "Awesome, baby!" about a Great Lakes freighter, but he could once he discovers that one made in Door County is still alive in the basketball tournament-styled "Coolest Things Made in Wisconsin" contest.

The M/V Mark W. Barker, built by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay for Ohio-based Interlake Shipping Co., reached the top 16 in preliminary voting in the seventh annual Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce-sponsored contest.

In fact, the Barker was the No. 5 vote-getter out of 121 entries from across the state. The top 16, which were revealed Sept. 28, advanced to the first round of what WMC calls "Manufacturing Madness," which pits each product head-to-head against another in a bracket format, with online public voting determining the winners. Each of the eight winners in this round advance to the next round of head-to-head competition, continuing until the last two winners face off for the "Coolest Thing" title.

As the fifth seed, the Barker is matched against the No. 12 seed, a product made by Hentzen Coatings in Milwaukee. Hentzen's Aerozen Advanced Performance Coating System is used to beautify and protect the exterior of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels Super Hornet multi-role fighter aircraft, which reaches speeds up to Mach 1.8 and can climb as high as 49,000 feet.

The Barker was nominated because it's the first U.S.-flagged, Great Lakes freighter to be built on the lakes in almost 40 years (since 1983). It had its launching ceremony Oct. 28 of last year and set off on its maiden voyage July 27. Its duties are to transport raw materials such as salt, iron ore and stone to customers throughout the Great Lakes region.

The goal of the contest is to highlight the state’s diverse manufacturing industry. Products remaining among the top 16 contestants include farm and construction equipment, folding chairs, a virus detector, a plate with a built-in cupholder, outdoor lighting, and soda and popcorn. The top vote-getter and No. 1 seed, out of a total of 49,386 votes, is the first electric, zero-emissions firetruck made in North America, from Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton.

Online voting to determine the top 8 runs opened Sept. 29 and runs through Oct. 4, followed by the vote from Oct. 6 to 11 to narrow the bracket to the top 4 and the final round to determine the "Coolest Thing" from Oct. 13 to 19. The winner will be announced Oct. 19 during WMC's Business Day event in Madison. The public can cast a vote every day on any device.

To vote, visit

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-562-8900 or

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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Door County-built lakes freighter advances in 'Coolest Things' contest