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Meehan Touts 'Innovation Economy'

By From the Lowell Sun

By Brandon Butler

FITCHBURG -- UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan brought his message about the importance of schools and businesses partnering together to spur economic growth to the North Central region yesterday.

In a speech before members of the North Central Chamber of Commerce at the Oak Hill Country Club yesterday, Meehan said Massachusetts is an "innovation economy" and that it was the responsibility of colleges and universities to create a highly literate work force in technology to meet the demands of businesses, thus leading to new jobs.

He said if a university can work with a company to train students for the jobs the private sector business needs, that will create a work force that will help grow the company and guarantee jobs for students.

"This is what we (universities) do: We help grow companies, that's how you create jobs," he said.

Meehan also reiterated the need to regionalize the university and attract more students not only from across the state but from southern New Hampshire. He also wants to continue to attract a global student population and said he would like to create partnerships with students and businesses in China.

Meehan said he learned a lot during his 14 years as a congressman, much of which prepared him well for his job as the UMass Lowell's chancellor.

During a question-and-answer session, Meehan said he isn't supporting any of the candidates running for president. "I would never dirty my hands with politics," he joked.

He did say, though, that Sen. Hillary Clinton needed at least a double-digit percentage win over rival Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary to win the nomination.

After the speech, Meehan said he's supportive of Gov. Deval Patrick and his policies. He specifically applauded Patrick for devoting resources to life sciences, public higher education and infrastructure through bond bills.

"I've never seen a governor more highly committed to higher education," he said.

Meehan said his major worry is identifying how to pay for the billion-dollar bonds Patrick has proposed. "In difficult economic times it can be difficult to raise that revenue," Meehan said.

David McKeehan, president of the Fitchburg-based North Central Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes Meehan's appearance will create a stronger partnership between the schools, businesses and city officials in the area and UMass Lowell.

"We already have some relationship with Chancellor Meehan and we hope that grows and there is an increased relationship," he said.