FARGO — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum choked up a little during his remarks Friday, Nov. 19, as part of a groundbreaking and naming ceremony for a new ag research facility on the North Dakota State University campus.

The Peltier Complex is being named in honor of Burgum's cousin, the late Joe Peltier, an NDSU graduate and advocate for ag in the state.

"I can't think of a more fitting name for a state-of-the-art complex," Burgum said. “The Peltier family’s history of philanthropy at NDSU didn’t start today or with this project; it’s been going on really since the time that Joe (Peltier) graduated in 1951."

Burgum said his parents took Joe under their wing when Joe's father died when Joe was young. Burgum, 27 years younger than his cousin, said Joe's family did the same for him when his father died when he was a freshman in high school.

"We're a lot closer than just cousins," Burgum said of the Peltier family, with the two families also linked by the Arthur Companies, which evolved out of the Arthur Farmers Elevator at the small town of Arthur where Burgum grew up in northern Cass County.

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Joe Peltier's son, Keith Peltier, spoke on behalf his siblings, Jeff, Suzette and Betty-Jo, and his mother, Norma, during the ceremony Friday for what will be the Peltier Complex, a 165,000 square foot building that will be the biggest on the campus when complete. The ceremony was at Wallman Wellness Center, with the Peltier Complex to be built just to the southwest of that building along 18th Street North.

Keith Peltier described his father as "progressive" and an innovator in the ag industry in areas such as selling fertilizer and certified seed. "It's a great way to honor my dad," Keith Peltier said.

An architectural rendering of the type of food science lab to be included in the Peltier Complex at North Dakota State University. 
Zerr Berg Architects
An architectural rendering of the type of food science lab to be included in the Peltier Complex at North Dakota State University. Zerr Berg Architects
The Peltier Complex will house NDSU’s food, meat and cereal science laboratories along with the Northern Crops Institute, Agricultural Products Utilization Commission and North Dakota Trade Office. The North Dakota Legislature approved $70 million to build the facility and authorized an additional $15 million in fundraising. Construction is to begin in the late spring of 2022 and will take about 20-24 months to complete.

Keith Peltier and his wife, Cathy Peltier, are serving as campaign ambassadors for In Our Hands: The $400 Million Campaign for NDSU, which has raised more than $440 million.

Keith Peltier, president and general manager of Proseed and an NDSU alumni, said he has been an advocate for several years for replacing Harris Hall, the current NDSU ag research facility. "But the scope got so much bigger and so much better," Peltier said.

As plans evolved, it included bringing in APUC, NCI and the Trade Office. "This is not just an NDSU building, this is a state of North Dakota building," NDSU President Dean Bresciani said in his remarks.

State Sen. Rich Wardner of Dickinson referred to Harris Hall as a "museum" where blown fuses pile up because of outdated wiring, among other shortcomings.

Wardner also touted the use of $50 million from the Legacy Fund, where the state of North Dakota deposits some of its oil tax revenue, for the project. The Legacy Fund "is starting to make a difference," Wardner said.

Burgum said after the ceremony that the facility will help NDSU compete against other top land grant universities for students, faculty and staff in the world of agriculture.

"We're all competing for talent," he said.

Norma Peltier, right, is congratulated by state Sen. Randy Lemm of Hillsboro after a ceremony on Friday, Nov. 19, to name a future ag research building on the North Dakota State University campus after the Peltier family. Norma was married to the late Joe Peltier.

Jeff Beach / Agweek
Norma Peltier, right, is congratulated by state Sen. Randy Lemm of Hillsboro after a ceremony on Friday, Nov. 19, to name a future ag research building on the North Dakota State University campus after the Peltier family. Norma was married to the late Joe Peltier. Jeff Beach / Agweek

NDSU also has a building bearing the Burgum name, named for his grandmother, the first female student at North Dakota Agricultural College, part of its initial class.

With many members of the Peltier family, with many of them NDSU alumni in attendance, Burgum called the event, in part, a family reunion.

"I am pleased to count myself as part of that family," he said.