Alma is located on the Pine River, the Pere Marquette and Ann Arbor railroads (now the Mid-Michigan Railroad), and U.S. 27. Formerly in the midst of an extensive lumbering region, the surrounding land was later transformed into farms. The river afforded a source of waterpower for the early establishment of mills, a foundry and machine shop, and a farm implement factory. Artesian wells and mineral springs suited the town for development as a sanitarium. Alma citizen and lumberman Ammi W. Wright promoted the founding of a college, a sugar factory, and the Masonic Home. Presbyterians established Alma College here in 1885. Ultramar Diamond Shamrock found its Alma oil refinery no longer profitable; it was closed in 1999 and demolished in 2003.
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