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Kearney firm leads design team for Ag & Water Center

Kearney firm leads design team for Ag & Water Center

NORFOLK, Neb. - Wilkins Architecture Design & Planning led the team that designed the first phase of the Agriculture and Water Center of Excellence at Northeast Community College and has also made a financial contribution to the capital campaign for that project.

Kali Eklund, managing principal of the Kearney-based company, said Wilkins specializes in putting together the experts needed to make a successful project.

On the Northeast project, she said Wilkins partnered with firms such as Olsson Associates, Morrissey Engineering, Flad Architects and Settje Engineering and AgriServices in order to create a working veterinary clinic and farm that are intended for educational purposes.

“This was truly a community effort in northeast Nebraska. We engaged with vendors, specialists in animal handling and best practices, faculty and staff,” Eklund said. “We reached out to local experts to tap into what is needed for northeast Nebraska. We toured cutting edge facilities in Kansas and Iowa for ideas, but the local input made sure this facility will meet the requirements of northeast Nebraska. That’s one of the things I enjoyed most about this project, getting that local involvement to ensure the facilities are tailored to the area’s needs.”

Eklund said community colleges are a passion of hers.

“I enjoy how versatile they are, the way they are structured, and how they can react to community needs quickly.”

Eklund said the Ag & Water Center is the third project her firm has designed for Northeast Community College. Wilkins was also the architectural firm for Phase II of the Hawks Village project and the renovation and addition of “Union 73” (student center) currently underway on the Norfolk campus. Wilkins has also worked on projects at Central Community College and Mid-Plains Community College, as well as the Summerland School project in Antelope County and the Elkhorn Valley Bank and Trust and Madison County Bank projects in Norfolk.  

“Kali and the rest of the Wilkins staff have been an integral part of the Ag and Water project,” said Dr. Tracy Kruse, associate vice president of development and external affairs and executive director of the Northeast Foundation. “They helped put together a team of experts who worked closely with our faculty and staff to design facilities that will serve Northeast students and the region’s agriculture industry well into the future.”

“To have Wilkins also make a financial contribution to the Nexus campaign is a testament to their support of community colleges,” Kruse added. “We appreciate both their design expertise and their investment in our students and the future of agriculture in this region.”

The initial phase of construction includes a new veterinary technology clinic and classrooms, a new farm site with a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, a farm office and storage. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex on E. Benjamin Ave. in Norfolk. Site work began in April and construction should be completed by the Fall of 2021.

The funding for the agriculture facilities will come from the College’s commitment of $10 million, as well as external fundraising to fill the gap. With a total project cost of $22.3 million, the College has raised enough funds to begin construction; however, fundraising for the Nexus campaign will continue, as more is needed for equipment, technology and furnishings.

In August 2019, the Acklie Charitable Foundation (ACF) announced a $5 million lead gift to the Nexus project. ACF was founded by the late Duane Acklie and Phyllis Acklie, both Madison County natives and graduates of Norfolk Junior College, a predecessor institution of Northeast Community College.

For more information on the Nexus Campaign, contact Kruse, at, or call (402) 844-7056. Online donations may be made through Checks may also be mailed to Nexus Campaign, Northeast Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702-0469.




PHOTO ID: (From left) Teresa Fibich, Kali Eklund, Sergei Klein, Jacob Sertich, and Joanell Staab of Wilkins Architecture Design & Planning of Kearney, Neb. (Courtesy Photo)