LINCOLN, Neb. — Finally, Nebraska Cattlemen have a home to call their own.
For the first time in its history, the largest cattle organization, in the top-producing beef state in the country, has moved into its own new headquarters. Years in the making, the move finally came in February. The walls still await memorabilia from past offices and landscaping will complete the outside look once winter is finally over.
“We traded a 10-minute walk for a 10-minute drive,” said Pete McClymont, NC executive vice president. “Whether we’ve been active or inactive, we’ve been saving for this. The board has always been frugal, so we saved enough to have the down payment.”
Traditionally, NC offices have been in downtown Lincoln, near the State Capitol — four offices sites since the Cattlemen formed in 1988 with the merger of three beef organizations. Now, the Cattlemen have rented parking spaces near the capitol for the convenience of the association’s lobbyists and other officials who have reason to be at the capitol.
The new offices are at 4611 Cattle Drive in Nebraska Technology Park, a 122-acre development. That’s on the north side of Interstate 80, between the Ninth Street and Lincoln Airport interchanges. The Cattlemen’s office can be seen by eastbound drivers on the Interstate. There’s a lake between the building and the Interstate. Neighbors include deer and turkeys, evidenced by tracks they’ve left in the winter snow.
Despite desires for the headquarters, getting to this point wasn’t all that quick and easy. McClymont and Lee Weide, vice president of operations, explained the steps that were taken over several years.
Committee formed, questions mulled, ideas pondered. One committee even said to stop the process.
“Halfway through our lease, in 2013, we had savings. But at that time, we didn’t pursue,” Weide said. “Then at the August 2015 board meeting, we said, ‘Let’s investigate.’ We formed a task force to investigate whether to continue renting or finding something to buy and renovate.”
The task force looked at half a dozen properties to buy while the board made the decision to own after considering the rent amounts for the next 10 years. Looking for new locations in downtown Lincoln turned up nothing that filled their needs. Searches for land on which to build weren’t there either.
“The task force looked at quite a few places,” Weide said.
“We work for farmers,” McClymont added. “They’ve got to kick the dirt.”
The search was becoming frustrating, but one day, McClymont said, “Lee yelled at me, ‘come look at this.’”
One website was alone in having the listing for the old Technology Park. The park was designed as a business incubator and eventually became home to some corporate headquarters and regional offices, including Verizon Wireless, Dell, Cabela’s and GeneSeek.
Mark Suleiman, a Kearney native and successful investor at a very young age, bought a building and land at Technology Park in 2015. The University of Nebraska Foundation and University of Nebraska-Lincoln developed the site, which opened in 1997. But with the development of Innovation Campus on the former State Fair Park property, the foundation and UNL were less interested in the property.
Suleiman, who has franchise investments in Tasty Burger, a fast-foot restaurant mainly back East, wanted a direct connection for his burger joint and found that with Nebraska Cattlemen members.
It turned out there were three possible locations and Suleiman sold 1.9 undeveloped acres for the new Cattlemen’s headquarters.
“Mark gave a very competitive offer to the board and we bought the land,” Weide said.
Another task force was assembled to focus on the building’s need, review bids and work with the contractor and the board. Ground was broken in January 2018. A summer storm damaged some of the building, which pushed back construction by a month. The Cattlemen took occupancy in February.
When the offices were moved from downtown to the new building, staff and members could see almost double the space for offices and meeting rooms, from 4,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet, plus 1,000 square feet in the garage.
The offices are smaller than they had downtown, but that’s not a negative. In the downtown offices, there were no small conference rooms, so meetings often were held in offices. The new building has two conference rooms, so there’s no need for larger offices.
The board has 34 members. Board meetings usually had the six vice chairmen plus staff for a total of 45 to 50 people. The old offices didn’t have a room to accommodate that many, so any Lincoln meetings had to be held outside the offices. Not so anymore, although meetings will circulate around the state as they always have. The education room will hold 60 to 70 people.
“Leading into convention (last fall), to me it was just another project,” Weide said. “But once you get it enclosed and see reality in place, we have a new home here.”
Each update in Nebraska Cattlemen magazine helped get members more excited.
A fund drive began at the 2017 convention with a goal of $1 million.
“The campaign has ended, because we have to start building the donor wall,” McClymont said. “It’s great how the membership stepped up.”
The fund is at $851,000 and checks are still coming in. The project originally had a budget of $1.73 million and likely will top out at $1.8 million.
“So we’re over a little, with some upgrades,” Weide said.
The donor wall will feature names of any amount of donation for the building fund. Beyond the wall, any donation of $5,000 or more will be honored with a plaque with name, company name, logo or brand, and hung in the Education Room.
The headquarters’ walls will fill up once all the historic photos and memorabilia are placed. Most of one wall in a larger meeting room already features an extensive barbed wire collection that was given to the Cattlemen.
Also featured are a full kitchen and break room, near a covered patio that overlooks the lake. The restrooms double as storm shelters. The garage is a big addition from what was available downtown. It permits loading and unloading indoors, away from rain, snow and wind.
Nebraska Cattlemen came into existence in 1988 with the merger of the Nebraska Stock Growers Association, primarily in the western part of the state, and Nebraska Livestock Feeders Association, mostly in eastern Nebraska, along with the Feedlot Council, which was formed to help merge the two groups.
NSGA had long had its office in Alliance. When operations moved to Lincoln, a satellite office remained in Alliance.
The 3,700 members, who represent 70 percent of the cattle in Nebraska, will get to show off their new digs at an open house in June.
Terry Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.