The Mary MacDonald Business Center is a 58,500 square foot facility located in the town of Silver Bay that was made possible thanks to the time and efforts of community members. Originally an elementary school, the building served a number of purposes after the consolidation of area schools left it student-free. In 2008, the City of Silver Bay bought the building from the school district with plans to use it as a venue for local businesses.
The building was constructed in the early 1960’s and was very inefficient. The planning team was faced with a tough decision: tear down the building or invest in its renovation. After a number of residents urged them to invest in its future, city leaders in Silver Bay mobilized to update the building, adding a sprinkler system, handicap entrances and a loading dock, along with energy-saving features such as new windows. They found funding support from the IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board), Legislative Funding from Taconite Production Tax, and from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which selected Silver Bay for an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) of $100,000.
The EECBG funding was used to replace and improve the windows and install a new, energy efficient boiler, increasing the efficiency of the system by 30%. The building continues to run a duel fuel boiler system. This gives tenants the option to burn oil if the supply of natural gas is tight, reducing their billing rate. These investments over the past years have effectively stabilized fuel consumption.
The Mary MacDonald building is now fully utilized and has positive financial operations. Tenants include Wilderness Family Naturals – an organic foods company, Lake County Public Services, Vineyard Church, Heavy Duty Designs LLC, Dilly Dally Thrift Shop, and Superior Health Pharmacy. Silver Bay’s business center attracts customers who enjoy having so many venues in one convenient place. In addition, the business center has successfully contributed to the overall commercial development of the community by creating jobs, diversifying the employment base, and providing services to our citizens.
The city leaders take pride in the rate at which Silver Bay is becoming more sustainable. The energy-saving renovations to the Mary MacDonald Business Center are just one example of how the community is working towards energy efficiency. To learn more about Silver Bay and its efforts, including the new development of an Eco-Industrial Park, see this additional CERTs article.
About the Local Government Energy Action Series:
This effort tells the stories of Minnesota municipalities, counties, and schools and the tangible results of their energy-saving efforts to inspire others to take their own actions.