Made in Illinois: Inside the World of Hobbico

By: Maggie Poteau, Anchor/Special Reporter

Last week we introduced you to the world'™s smallest quad copter drone made in Champaign by Hobbico.

In this edition of "Made In Illinois, we take you inside the world of Hobbico.

Behind the doors of this privately held Illinois company, to show you why it is the largest model hobby company in the world and continues to take the hobby world by storm.

Inside the world of Hobbico, it is pretty awesome.

Nearly everywhere you turn are hobby & radio controlled air crafts, cars, trains, water crafts, even submersibles.{}

"We are always trying to get to the next stage, right? This is an evolving marketplace," said R & D Electronics Manager, David McCallister.{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

The company started in 1943 with Revell Model Kits and steadily expanded.

In 1973, company founders Bruce and Jeri Holecek, and Clint Atkins, both University of Illinois alumni, acquired Tower Hobbies and Great Planes Model Manufacturing Company. Together, in 1984, Hobbico was born.{}{}{}

Hobbico became 100-percent employee owned in 2005, and remains an Illinois company to this day.

"I'm still playing with my hobby.{} I love airplanes so it's nice to be able to make airplanes," Rodney Clinton said laughing.

Clinton has worked for Hobbico at Great Planes Manufacturing Company in Urbana since the early 1980's, helping to produce some of the finest balsa wood airplanes in the industry.

"We control and monitor the labor, material costs and stuff so that we know exact cost of the product when we are done," said Clinton.

Technology, craftsmanship, and the human element all combined.

When it comes to popularity, Hobbico's radio controlled planes are wildly popular, but then again, so is the Proto-X.

Hobbico is the maker of the Proto-X, the world's smallest quadcopter drone.

"It'™s technically cool.{} It's something that you would think, oh I can't believe I have this technology right in the palm of my hand," said David McCallister.

The success of the Proto-X, forced the company to expand its warehouse space.{} Now, this 262-thousand square foot Champaign facility is the largest UPS Hub in Central Illinois.{} It serves five major cities, including Chicago, Kansas City and even Indianapolis.

Every item handpicked by an employee, including the company's blockbuster item the Proto-X drone.{} Hobbico's drone offerings will take you to new heights.{} Some, offering an unparalleled bird'™s eye view like the S4-Pro.

"What's nice about it is that its programmable, you can set your weight points, and tell it to fly around a particular field here and then once you activate it, you hit the start button, the quad will take off on its own, fly the course and then when it'™s done it comes back in and lands," said Product Team Manager, Frank Noll.

The product pipeline is strong, with new products released monthly.{}{}{}

"To be honest with you I grew up racing real cars. So this was a lot easier and cheaper for me to get involved," said Product Team Manager: S.U.R.F.A.C.E Brad Brucker.

Brucker will tell you that he likes anything that has wheels on it; from beginner ready to run vehicles, stadium trucks to rock crawlers, and then there are the race cars.

"These are fun, but they are not toys. This one here is probably about 400 different parts," explained Brucker.{} The race cars come in kits, and you get to build and customize them yourself.

"Full blown race people do drive it around on the streets to have fun with it, but most of them are racing them," said Brucker.{} He should know, Brucker oversees and nearly 300 of Hobbico's sponsored race car drivers.

Drivers as young as nine years old to those as old as fifty are sponsored drivers, and they race their customized cars on a race track.{} Yes, on a race track.

"I race almost every weekend. Yes, I race almost every weekend. I have my own track in my back yard even to race," said Brucker.

At work or at home, having a hobby is a way of life at Hobbico.{} And Hobbico and its employees bring the excitement and love of hobbies to Illinois and the rest of the world. Hobbico also offers enthusiasts and pro's an investment in fun and learning.

The company also offers plastic model kits, rockets, die-cast models, model trains, jigsaw puzzles, science and educational kits, games, kites, craft kits and much more.

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