NORFOLK, Neb. – A building in downtown Norfolk is being envisioned for a new innovative venture through Northeast Community College, in partnership with the Nebraska Innovation Studio on the University of Nebraska’s Innovation campus in Lincoln, Invest Nebraska, area manufacturers and school districts.
Members of the Northeast Board of Governors approved the potential purchase of the building at 707 and 713 West Norfolk Ave. at its monthly meeting Thursday in Norfolk. The final sale is dependent on the outcome of a federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The grant, if awarded, would partially fund the renovations and equip the space. Funding will also come from dollars allocated to the State of Nebraska through the American Rescue Plan Act.
The 18,000 square foot building, as currently envisioned, would contain fabrication labs, collaboration spaces and offices. It would include areas for wood, metals and rapid prototyping. In addition, area manufacturers are working closely with Northeast to design a space that supports the further development of robotics and automation.
“This building will be utilized by area employers for workforce training and will also be accessible to area entrepreneurs and community members who want to innovate and create,” said Dr. Leah Barrett, president of Northeast. In addition, she said the grant would support the development of robotics programming for area middle and high school students; and would be a “great complement” to the myriad of projects and activities being planned in downtown Norfolk through the Growing Together initiative.
Justin Eckert, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer who has been working with Northeast on developing the innovation studio, said the space will be an exciting addition to all the creative energy occurring in downtown Norfolk and northeast Nebraska.
“It’s going to be great to have a space with high quality machines where individuals and companies can learn and build whatever they need or desire. We’re fortunate to have access to this kind of cutting-edge technology,” Eckert said. “Thanks to President Barrett and Northeast for spearheading this innovative idea to serve Northeast Nebraska.”
Renovations could begin early next year and be complete by spring 2024 if all the necessary funding can be secured. The owner of the building is working with the current tenant on a relocation plan. No renovation work will take place in the building until relocation occurs.