Putting Alpena into the app world

ALPENA -people are relying more and more on smartphone and tablet applications as a resource tool to access information quickly. Having maps, phone numbers, email addresses and business directories at your finger tips makes it easier to quickly plan a weekend getaway, or learn more about the community you live in.

In Alpena the city is planning on releasing an app, as is the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, which have partnered together. The two apps, once designed and distributed on the Apple App Store and the Google Play app market, should enhance visitors’ knowledge of what is in and taking place locally, while the city’s also will increase transparency with updates on local issues and government business.

Mary Beth Stutzman, CVB president, said making apps available to people who use mobile devices makes good business sense and will help people from out of the area navigate town during a visit or making planning a trip to Alpena simpler.

“About 85 percent of the population uses some sort of smart phone or tablet device. The technology and apps are creeping into our lives and we have found it can make our lives easier,” Stutzman said. “Apps compile data and presents it to us in a way that is easy to digest,so we teamed up with the chamber to create and app that will be multi-purpose app that will make it easier for visitors to find things like events, places to stay and eat and not having to stop, set up a computer and go into websites.”

Chamber Executive Director Jackie Krawczak said she has done a lot of research on what should be included in the app and has sampled apps already available by other communities. She said making a free app available will open up another avenue for local business to promote their products or services. She said a community calendar in the app will make it easier for people to find things that are taking place in Alpena at any given time.

“There are benefits for the business if we have an app, because as people use the app they can use features that will show people what restaurants are close to them, hotels are close to them or what attractions are close by,” Krawczak said. “If you exist as a business you will be on the app and will benefit from people using it.”

Krawczak said the use of push notifications will allow the businesses an opportunity to reach out directly with the people who have the app and advertise specials, or special events. Once the notification is sent it will pop up on the users screen like a text message with information from the business.

The development of the app is ongoing, but Krawczak said it should not be long before it is made available. She said it would be a free app for the users to download.

On Monday Alpena Assistant Engineer Steve Shultz explained to Alpena Municipal Council how the city and its residents could benefit from having an app centered around Alpena and its government. He said it would provide city staff and council an easy avenue to communicate with residents about issues in the city.

“There will be a reporting portion of the app where people can report things like pot holes or a burnt-out street light or a water main break. It is also going to provide us another way to get our information out to the public,” Shultz said. “We can get news out to them, maps, information about the parks meeting notices. they will be able to many different things without having to be on a computer to do them.”

Shultz said the cost to have the app designed will be between $20,000 and $25,000, but the company that will be constructing the app has received a grant to do the work for the city, so the only cost will be a $99 a month service fee. He said it will take about 90 days for the app to be built and then there is a review process. He said he is unable to give an accurate estimate for when the application will be released.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.