DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias toured Macon Resources Inc. (MRI) Monday as the facility celebrated its 40th anniversary of making all of the state’s license plates. 

“It’s one thing to hear the story of MRI, it’s a completely different thing to come here and meet the folks, walk around the property see that, again, excitement they have, the pride they have, the hope they have,” Giannoulias said.

On average, MRI makes more than five and a half million license plates for the entire state every year including more than 140 specialty design plates.

“This quarter were over 700,000 units, which again, would be in pairs,” Ryan Raleigh, the chief operating officer at MRI, said. “It’s about 1.4 million plates that we had to produce this quarter, which on average is about 24,000 plates a day [that] have to come through our facility.”

MRI’s partnership began with the state in 1983. Since then, it’s expanded its facility and the number of workers.

About 60% of MRI’s workers are people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As the month of March marks National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Giannoulias said it was especially important to make the visit to the facility. 

“To see the pride they take in the work and the pride they take in their friendships and giving hugs around, and this is not just the very best of Illinois, this is the very best of humanity, so I couldn’t be more excited about this partnership,” Giannoulias said.

Raleigh said MRI greatly “appreciated” that the Secretary of State came to the facility.

“We’re always amazed at what our people do here, their abilities and how friendly they are and how they make you smile every day, and to have him come here and see it was a great honor,” Raleigh said.

As he toured the facility seeing how the license plates get made, Giannoulias also met with some of the workers.

“We’ve met people who have been here for 38 years, 39 years, 24 years. I mean, unless you’re here meeting them in person, it’s very tough to make that translation,” Giannoulias said. “That’s also why we’ve been trying to visit as many of our driver services facilities as possible to really see the challenges that Illinoisans are facing, to get to meet our employees, to see the hard work that they do. “

Illinois is just one of only a couple states that doesn’t make license plates in a prison. Giannoulias said he hopes to see more states doing what Illinois does in the future.

“Hopefully others across the country will use this model, learn from it, will travel here and take this and make this a national and hopefully international model,” Giannoulias said.