Downtown development gets an assist from a nearby source
ALMA — Bringing a 125-year-old building into the 21st century is hard work, and Ryan Smith ’06 knew he couldn’t do it alone. That’s why, when he needed help with marketing the new 3one3 Boutique Hotel — opening soon in a newly renovated, downtown Alma building — he turned to students in the Alma College new media studies program.
As part of a class, Client-Based Production, Alma students worked side-by-side with Smith’s development firm, Gemini Capital Management from Breckenridge, Mich., on conceptualizing and creating a marketing plan for the hotel’s reservation system. According to Smith, working with Alma students was similar to working with seasoned professionals.
“It was a fantastic experience. There’s a little bit of trial and error involved as we get to know each other and the ways we communicate, but that’s very typical. In the end, I felt as though the students brought something fresh and original to the table that we wouldn’t have otherwise had,” Smith said.
Nathan Idalski, a senior from Gaylord, served as the leader of the marketing project. He said the project started in the fall term focused on social media, which is considered an ideal environment for advertising a boutique hotel. While the project initially featured broad updates as to the renovation of the building, located at 313 N. State St., it quickly became more concentrated.
“At first, Ryan wanted general content, which we were happy to produce. However, in working together, we realized that this content wasn’t having the returns we both wanted, and we decided to pivot,” said Idalski, a marketing and new media studies major. “We then decided to highlight the hotel’s online reservation system, which was important to Ryan — he wanted people filling up rooms as soon as it opened. As I understand now, that has happened, which means the project is successful.
“Through my coursework, I’ve learned that communication is top of mind in any marketing type of industry. If we’re not able to communicate effectively as clients, our work won’t be received well by the public. It was really interesting and worthwhile to see those lessons from the classwork play out in a real-world setting.”
Idalski, who worked with fellow students Sophie Flater, Megan Hope, Alec Strick and Andrew Smith on the 3one3 project, said it was unlike anything else he had done before in a classroom. The class was built around Bitworks Productions, a student organization created to support students as they begin building their professional portfolios.
“There was a lot of self-discovery going on. I’ve had leadership positions before at Alma College, but in terms of organizing people and managing workflows, it was a totally unique experience. It was like a puzzle — we knew what the big picture was, but getting everything aligned was a big, fun job,” he said.
3one3 — formerly the home of a hardware store, a five-and-dime, and offices for Consumers Energy, among other uses — is set to open in the spring. It’s a big deal for the city of Alma; one that has caught the eye of some major players, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who recently toured the interior as it was being constructed.
According to Anthony Collamati, associate professor and chair of the art and design, communication and new media studies departments, it’s a big deal for Alma College, too.
“The more we think about the college and the town being an organic entity — the idea that when one does well, the other one thrives — we need to continue pursuing these partnerships,” Collamati said. “Oftentimes, I think, local area businesses like Gemini Capital Management are finding our students’ work to professional-quality and the students are getting necessary experience. I hope to see 3one3 do well and the town continue to thrive, so that more of these opportunities can present themselves.”
Smith agreed. In fact, he said, he plans to continue contracting with Alma College students as the hotel opens and into the summer tourism season.
“I think this is the perfect marriage of an alumnus, a local business owner, and current and active students. We’re really happy here,” he said.