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Idaho has more than 3,000 manufacturers. What it doesn’t have is a way for them to find and connect with one another.

Nicole Handlen, an economics and international studies student at the University of Idaho, is changing that with an app.

The foundation of any app is data. Handlen’s research started by identifying as many ways to collect data on manufacturers in Idaho as possible. The senior’s research — and resulting database — created the most extensive picture of the Gem State’s manufacturing sector.

“What surprised me most is the diversity across Idaho’s manufacturing industry,” said Handlen, who is from Pocatello. “Our state makes everything from dairy products and sugar to textiles, beer and wine.”

The Idaho Manufacturing Alliance (IMA) will build the app based on Handlen’s database, giving its manufacturers and suppliers a way to find and connect with one another. IMA believes Handlen’s data will help manufacturers increase efficiency, identify supply chain gaps and pivot to local resources.

“The research also shows where the holes are in Idaho’s manufacturing industry,” Handlen said. “That’s useful information to have. If the state and industry know where gaps exist, they can determine what types of manufacturers Idaho needs to attract.”

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