Northeastern heads north to Maine

Whenever people in Boston get nervous about the local economy, you often hear someone say that at least the bedrock of that economy — the colleges and hospitals — can’t pick up and move. But now Northeastern University is sort of doing just that.

With a $100 million donation from David Roux, who was born in Lewiston, Maine, and made a fortune in Silicon Valley, Northeastern is opening a graduate school and research center in Portland, Maine. It’s a bold economic development play by a savvy investor who is betting that a tech ecosystem centered around artificial intelligence for life sciences companies can be built from scratch in Maine’s largest city.

Northeastern doesn’t have a location for the Roux Institute yet, but it hopes to enroll 65 students this fall in temporary digs and then keep growing — 1,000 students in five years and 2,600 within 10 years. All of the students will pursue master’s degrees or Ph.Ds in digital technology and advanced life sciences.

Corporate partners are being recruited who will enroll students at the school and collaborate on research and professional training, as well as participate in Northeastern’s famed co-op student employment program. The 10 founding corporate partners include Maine-based firms such as L.L. Bean, Bangor Savings Bank, the Jackson Laboratory, Maine Health, WEX, and IDEXX, as well as companies such as PTC and Unum.

Roux and his wife spent close to two years searching for the right university to partner with. They settled on Northeastern in December. At the announcement in Portland on Monday, Roux called the Northeastern venture an “opportunity machine disguised as an educational institution and research center.”

He said the school will give the state the opportunity to compete in the global tech economy.

“The real problem is that we are underperforming against our potential,” Roux said. “We live in an innovation economy, but we are not participating fully.”

Joseph Aoun, Northeastern’s president, said tech ecosystems elsewhere (think Boston) have typically grown where some seeds were already planted. In Portland, he said, “our opportunity is to launch this ecosystem and shape it. That’s why it’s going to be transformational.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Ex- Fox News host Gretchen Carlson joins the State House fight over nondisclosure agreements. (CommonWealth)

At a meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, six senators and many union officials push back against more T privatization. (CommonWealth)

House members have been huddling for weeks behind closed doors to try to agree on a sweeping transportation finance package that will draw broad support. (Boston Globe)

Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke will not seek reelection in November. (MassLive) For more, and a punny headline, check out this story at Western Mass Politics and Insight.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Politicians, tenant activists and even some of Brockton’s largest landlords have formed a coalition in support of establishing a right-to-counsel for tenants facing eviction. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s lawyers charged ahead with their defense arguments, largely sidestepping the revelations from the book manuscript by former national security advisor John Bolton that threaten to upend the impeachment trial. (Washington Post) Mitt Romney said he thinks “it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans” will join the call to hear testimony from Bolton. (New York Times)

Joan Vennochi says Joe and Hunter Biden should both agree to testify along with Bolton, demonstrating that they don’t fear telling the truth under oath. (Boston Globe)

The US Supreme Court, voting 5-4, backs President Trump’s “wealth test” for immigrants. More than 500,000 households in Massachusetts could be affected. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY/NONPROFITS

Paul Grogan will step down after 19 years as CEO of the Boston Foundation, a tenure marked by elevating the voice of the region’s largest foundation in policy issues. (Boston Globe)

Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Fall River was unable to find enough two- and three-bedroom units to house families on the Cape, so it has returned its federal housing grant funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development back to a group of housing agencies in Barnstable County. (Cape Cod Times)

Chipotle was hit with a $1.3 million fine for more than 13,000 child labor violations at its Massachusetts outlets, the largest child labor penalty ever levied in Massachusetts history. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is off to a slow start on its commuter rail makeover, missing several deadlines laid out in November resolutions by the Fiscal and Management Control Board. (CommonWealth)

T notes: A pilot project on the Fairmount commuter rail line will add four more inbound and four more outbound trips and also allow people to use CharlieCards to board….The T makes change orders to its Red and Orange line car orders, boosting the overall price by about 8 percent. …Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone raises concerns about bridge work on the Green Line extension, but T officials say the project is on time and on budget….New ATM locations on the T raise significant cash. (CommonWealth)

Norfolk County will begin charge drivers $2 per hour to park in the Quincy District Court parking lot starting on Monday. The lot has long been free for court users and open to the public for no charge in the evenings. (Patriot Ledger)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Department of Environmental Protection took almost a year before telling Natick officials that East Park was contaminated with PCBs. (MetroWest Daily News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Justina Pelletier, now 21, took the stand yesterday in her family’s malpractice lawsuit against Boston Children’s Hospital, which kept her in locked psychiatric unit and limited her parents’ contact with their then-14-year-old daughter after state welfare officials ruled they were not acting in her interest in treating a mysterious gastrointestinal ailment. (Boston Globe)

A youth hockey coach in Dracut is charged with sexually assaulting one of his players. (Lowell Sun)

MEDIA

Washington Post reporter Felica Sonmez was put on paid leave after she tweeted hours after Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story on rape allegations against him. (Washington Post) The Post action came in for sharp criticism, including from the paper’s own media critic, Erik Wemple.