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Teamwork Stressed at Economic Confab


LOWELL- In hopes of boosting the local economy, the University of Massachusetts Lowell wants to continue developing new innovations with startup companies spawned on campus.

The university also hopes to give students a leg up on the competition, too, so they can find quality jobs when they graduate.

UMass Lowell Chancellor William Hogan conveyed that message yesterday as keynote speaker for the nonprofit Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council Inc.'s annual meeting. He said the state school can play a vital role in pushing for regional economic development, through initiatives like plastics and nanotechnologies.

"There is a fundamental need for it, and the campus has placed a high priority on externally funded research," Hogan said before about 75 people at the university's new recreation center on Pawtucket Street.

More than 60 programs with area schools and 26 centers at the university have helped contribute to the community, and will continue their work, said Hogan, who was once a engineering professor at Lowell Technological Institute, before it merged with Lowell State College to become University of Lowell in the early 1970s.

The council, using a similar model already in place with UMass Dartmouth, wants to strengthen its partnership with the school, as it has with Middlesex and Northern Essex community colleges, said Dave Tibbetts, general counsel to the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council.

The coordinated effort will only help the region excel, especially in more prosperous times, officials said.

"Businesses throughout Greater Lowell have historically led economies with their manufacturing technologies, and we need to continue with that visibility so they can remain competitive," said Robert Halpin, the council's executive director.

Already, the university has spawned companies like Konarka Technologies, a three-year-old solar technology company which has since moved into new space at the Boott Mill. Also, the school is known for its plastics and nanotechnology programs, under which it holds proprietary licenses and helps nascent companies sell their products.

In other action, council Co-Chairman Kendall Wallace, who is publisher of The Sun, presented Eagle Tribune publisher Chip Rogers, also co-chair, with a mock front page that congratulated him on the newspaper's recent Pulitzer Prize win. The North Andover-based newspaper won for its reporting of a drowning.

The three-year-old council though heralded as a success by many area officials has been impacted by the state budget shortfall. For the current fiscal year, the council received $189,062, or 24 percent less than it did the year before. For the next fiscal year, Gov. Mitt Romney's proposed budget contains no money for it, but private fund-raising efforts have solicited roughly $100,000 thus far.