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Three companies with deep agricultural roots were named the top businesses in Illinois history as part of the Illinois Top 200 online vote, a joint project of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, The State Journal-Register and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.

State Farm, based in Bloomington, is ninth on the list.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., which helps feed the world by turning crops into food ingredients, came out No. 1 in the voting. ADM, based in Chicago but with extensive operations in Decatur, is one of the world's largest agricultural processors, with approximately 31,000 employees.

Deere & Co., whose green-and-yellow farm equipment can be found in fields around the world, landed in second place. The Moline-based company employs more than 55,000 people and ranks 105th in the Fortune 500.

Caterpillar Inc., which placed third, recently shifted its headquarters from Peoria to Deerfield, and also has operations in Decatur employing more than 1,600 people. It also has a plant in Pontiac.

Cat is the world's largest maker of construction equipment, employs 95,000 people and ranks 74th on the Fortune 500. 

The rest of the top 10:

  • McDonald's: With headquarters in the Chicago area, McDonald's serves about 69 million people each day and is the world's second-largest private employer.
  • Walgreens: This drugstore chain began in Chicago. Its parent company ranks 17th on the Fortune 500, higher than any other Illinois business.
  • Rand McNally: This Skokie company, now synonymous with maps and atlases, traces its roots back to a Chicago printing business that began in 1856.
  • DeKalb AgResearch: Founded in 1917 by DeKalb County farmers, the company was a pioneer in developing corn hybrids to resist disease and yield more grain.
  • Sears: Sears grew from jewelry business to mail-order giant to the largest retailer in America. Based in Hoffman Estates, it has 596 department stores.
  • State Farm: This Bloomington company was founded in 1922. Today it has 70,000 employees and ranks 33rd on the Fortune 500.
  • Dairy Queen: The first DQ opened in Joliet in 1940. Now based in Minnesota, the company popularized soft-serve ice cream and today runs more than 6,000 restaurants.

The Illinois Top 200 project lets Illinoisans vote every two weeks on an array of categories. By the state's 200th birthday on Dec. 3, voters will have chosen 10 favorites in 20 different categories — the Illinois Top 200.

Voting in the next category, top inventions and innovations, is open now at

Future categories include authors, musicians, actors, leaders, buildings and unforgettable moments. Everyone is invited to suggest possible nominees in each category by using the hashtag #ILtop200 on social media.


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