Skip to main content

College News

Plans for Downtown Norfolk iHub Continue to Move Forward

Plans for Downtown Norfolk iHub Continue to Move Forward

NORFOLK, Neb. – Years from now when future generations look back at how Northeast Community College’s iHub got started, there could be a chapter dedicated to the political support it has received.

One of the latest developments was Congressional appropriations of $750,000 recently to help provide equipment for the iHub building in downtown Norfolk. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Flood of Norfolk, who introduced legislation that contained the funding, issued a statement after both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate voted to approve the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2024. 

It was one of several projects outlined in the appropriations.

“These projects are big wins for communities across the First Congressional District,” Flood said. “All but one of our original requests received funding, which is an incredible result. We were able to accomplish all this in the appropriations process while controlling spending. Congratulations to each of the stakeholders who helped bring these projects to the table, and I look forward to seeing each of them come to fruition.”

The other projects ranged from $25 million to the UNL Agricultural Research Services Facility to various road and street projects, as well as the $750,000 designated for the iHub.

Paul Cross, director of the iHub, welcomed the news.

“I would like to offer a special thanks to Congressman Flood for his help on this project,” Cross said. “Northeast Community College and the region it serves are excited that the latest round of funds were appropriated for the iHub. These funds will be instrumental in acquiring equipment needed in today’s manufacturing environment. With this project we are investing in our community to train and retain our many talented community members for our future.”  

This legislation – House Resolution 4366 -- is part of an overall bipartisan spending agreement that saves $200 billion over the next decade and enacts the first overall cut to non-defense, non-VA spending in almost 10 years, according to a statement issued by Flood.

Northeast Community College President Leah Barrett said Northeast has been fortunate to have received support for the iHub since it was first discussed years ago as a “fab lab.”

Barrett said while nobody was certain originally what it should be called, political leaders helped to promote the idea that this region needed to expand training and technical opportunities so that future employees could receive necessary training in robotics and high-tech industries.

Years from now, it would not be surprising to discover that technology played a major role in the transformation of economies – as is already starting to happen. Technology has helped to retain employees and attract new industries to areas that construct everything from automobiles to personal and industrial computers.

Technology such as robotics also assists in established industries all over Northeast Nebraska and the world, whether it is meat processing, livestock feeding, grain handling or manufacturing plants in the region.

“The iHub is essential for this region. We believe it will help everyone from entrepreneurs looking for ways to produce their products to existing industries, looking at ways to become more competitive,” Barrett said.

The Board of Governors approved the purchase of the building in downtown Norfolk in August 2022, but the building was not actually purchased until January 2023. 

Northeast is one of six partners in the Heartland Robotics Cluster that received about $25 million in funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) through its Build Back Better Regional Challenge program. 

Another $2 million came from money allocated to the State of Nebraska through the American Rescue Plan Act from then Gov. Pete Ricketts, who now serves in the U.S. Senate. Private funds are also being used for the building and equipping it. 

At the Northeast Community College Board of Governors’ meeting on Thursday, March 14, Scott Gray, Northeast vice president of administrative services and general counsel, provided an update of the project. Bid letting took place recently, with selection of a contractor expected in a few weeks.

The facility, which is south of Black Cow, Fat Pig, will contain lab spaces with woods and metalworking equipment, CNC plasma machines and 3D Printers. This will be open to the community through a membership option and will also be utilized for workforce training with area manufacturers on process control, industrial maintenance and automation.

Lastly, a Youth STEM center and robotics area will also be available for area middle and high school children. Construction is expected to take place April 2024 through summer 2025, with a tentative opening planned for that August. The college will be seeking additional private funding in the coming months to complete the overall project.  

iHub Cutline
The Northeast Community College iHub in downtown Norfolk is scheduled to have a groundbreaking on Thursday, April 4. Here is an artist’s rendering of what the outside will look like. (Wilkins Architecture Design Planning, LLC)