Maine is filled with potential. That is why Greenlight Maine mentors and supports small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. It saddened us for so long to see the so-called “brain drain” of bright and industrious young people moving away to seek their fortunes. That’s why a $100 million investment in Portland in the technology sector is exciting news for anyone who loves this state and wants to see it thrive. It could be exactly the piece that is missing from Maine’s burgeoning economy. Let’s take a closer look.
David Roux, a tech entrepreneur from Lewiston, and his wife, Barbara, donated $100 million from the Roux Family Foundation. Partnering with Boston’s Northeastern University, they will develop a graduate program in digital and life sciences, to open this spring in a temporary space. In three years’ time, the graduate program will find a permanent home with an urban campus on the peninsula. The program, which will begin enrollment this summer, will have a tight focus on the practical application of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Gov. Janet Mills calls the program “a shot in the arm,” and notes that Maine is “more than lighthouses and lobsters.” We have long recognized that truth about Maine. In the last decade, we have seen the explosion of the food industry, progressive farms, the visual and performing arts, and ethical artisans and makers. The tech step may not be a logical progression, but it makes sense if you consider our proximity to Boston and the hallowed halls of academia there. Maine has always been, since its inception 200 years ago, a state of hardworking forward thinkers. We have lost so many of our best and brightest to cosmopolitan centers to the south and west, where there is more opportunity to earn and develop professionally. This degree program is going to change the game. It will give us a much-needed advantage in the American and global economies.
We love looking back on our storied history as farmers and fishermen. We support those who are investing in the working waterfront and spearheading a second wave of back to the land. But we cannot afford to look backward. We must be willing to adapt, to progress, to evolve and move forward. Technology and the digital sector are the present and the future of the American economy. This industry will provoke necessary changes in the industry and how we save the earth. It is a revolution, and we must be part of it. Portland will become an innovation hub, and all of Maine will benefit, we believe.
At Greenlight Maine, we look forward to meeting more entrepreneurs in the digital sphere, listening to their ideas, and supporting their dreams that will cause us all to rise.