Business Energy Retrofit grant improves lodging facility in Babbitt

Alder Place the Inn owners Michael and Billie Rouse utilized a Business Energy Retrofit (BER) grant to help replace an outdated furnace with a new energy efficient one to heat their historic inn located on the edge of Babbitt near Birch Lake. The existing boiler was fueled by liquid propane and was the original heating system installed in the 1950s.

Alder Place the Inn was built as the "Staff House" by the Reserve Mining Company in the 1950s. The facility was used for those visiting or working at the newly opened mine. The mine closed in the 1980s, and the building was soon purchased and repurposed as a private lodging facility.

Michael and Billie Rouse purchased Alder Place the Inn in 1995 after relocating to northeastern Minnesota from Indiana in the early 1980s as a young married couple. They operated it as a family-owned business while they raised their five children who are now grown. Billie is the primary inn operator, and Michael is the music instructor at Ely High School. The inn is located close to Birch Lake with nearby hiking, biking and cross country ski trails. The three-acre property is adjacent to snowmobile and ATV trails and is 15 miles from Ely, all of which makes it a convenient lodging choice for outdoor enthusiasts visiting the region and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. A variety of large to standard room sizes can accommodate families, groups, couples and individuals.

“Michael and I honeymooned in the Boundary Waters in 1976 and fell in love with northeastern Minnesota,” said Billie. “Several years later, we decided to move here permanently. The inn has been a huge part of our life and of the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

With the BER grant and their own private investment, the Rouses made the needed improvements to the heating system that was operating at about 50% capacity. The city of Babbitt received a Commercial Redevelopment grant from the agency to assist with the internal demolition and removal of the oversized furnace. The new furnace is anticipated to reduce the facility’s propane fuel consumption by approximately two-thirds, a significant improvement to both the environment and the owner’s operating expenses. The project may also potentially result in energy rebates.

“The new furnace has been nothing short of life-changing. The new system has taken a huge amount of stress off our shoulders,” said Billie. “The old furnace required a lot of repair time and oversight to keep it going and a lot of money to operate it. The new system has elevated the inn’s overall performance, both financially and operationally.”

Learn more about The Alder Place the Inn.

Since BER’s inception in 2013, over 500 grants have been awarded to help small businesses with energy efficiency upgrades that can result in reduced utility bills, improved building aesthetics and increased building life. The program is funded by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and administered through a partnership with Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA). To learn more email Vince Meyer at AEOA or call him at 218-735-6828.