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4 colleges join UMass-Lowell in jobs effort

By From the Boston Globe

By Brenda J. Buote, Globe Staff  

In an effort to help shape the economic future of the region, the presidents of four colleges have joined forces with the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell to form EdLink, the first formal partnership to represent all three segments of the public higher education system in Northeastern Massachusetts.

''The group intends to focus on the region's sustainable economic development," said Mary Williams, coordinator for the new partnership, which includes North Shore Community College, Salem State College, Northern Essex Community College, and Middlesex Community College in Lowell.

''We're hoping to achieve as a group what we can't achieve as individual campuses, and that is a regional approach," said Wayne Burton, president of North Shore Community College.

According to Burton, EdLink's first priority is the launch of Project Connect, an initiative that was unveiled Monday at a meeting of the Northeast Regional Competitive Council, a panel that was set up by Governor Mitt Romney to determine the regional economic needs on the North Shore and in the Merrimack Valley.

Project Connect will examine how Massachusetts will compete with other regions of the country to meet business needs.

''We have always been commingled with Boston in terms of planning and economic development, and, to be frank, I think that we've been shortchanged because of it," Burton said. ''We can be the education node for our region."

EdLink is a result of the state Board of Higher Education's push for regional partnerships. Connect, an initiative similar to EdLink, serves Southeastern Massachusetts.