Founding corporate sponsors, city and state leaders pose with benefactors David and Barbara Roux last week at Ocean Gateway after unveiling plans to open the Roux Institute at Northeastern University in Portland this fall. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The new technological graduate school and research center slated to open in Portland this year will strengthen Maine’s workforce, area employers say.

Gov. Janet Mills said once up and running the new Roux Institute at Northeastern University will “provide a shot in the arm to help us stabilize our economy in the long term.” Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Lewiston native David Roux announced last week he has partnered with Northeastern University to start the Roux Institute, a graduate school and research center focused on artificial intelligence and digital sciences and has donated $100 million to it.

“The Roux Institute being focused on workforce development in Maine is something that will benefit not just L.L.Bean, but many other organizations in Maine,” said Maureen Lafferty, director of talent and learning at L.L.Bean.

The school is expected to begin enrolling students this summer or fall and will award degrees and certificate in disciplines such as analytics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, data science, genomics, information systems, machine learning and precision medicine. It will operate in a temporary space before moving to a permanent location in Portland within the next few years.

Corporate partners will co-develop the school’s curriculum, participate in joint research and send employees to the Roux Institute for training, Roux said. The partners – Bangor Savings Bank, Idexx, The Jackson Laboratory, L.L.Bean, Maine Health, PTC, Tilson Technology, Thornton Tomasetti, Unum and Wex – represent some of the fastest growing businesses in the state.

 “We believe a world-class research institution based in Maine connected to a recognized university will help accelerate life sciences and technology industry growth in the state, so we’re thrilled to partner with the Roux Institute,” said Jeff Thomas, chief technology officer at Idexx, a veterinary diagnostics, software and water microbiology testing company based in Westbrook.

Roux said his investment is needed so Maine can keep up and fully participate in the ever-evolving technological landscape.

Maine Health was quick to join the effort as a way to help its employees advance in their industry, CEO Bill Caron said.

“What the Roux Institute does for us is it takes our existing workforce and helps to advance their skills in some very key areas in healthcare,” he said. “Healthcare is changing everyday from a technology standpoint.”

Caron said the institute will produce “students trained with the skills we need.”

Lafferty said L.L.Bean stands to benefit from the institute’s focus on data and business analytics, “key skills and knowledge we have in our organization and are always looking to develop.”

“It is an important part of the business and what we do,” she said.

Tilson Technology CEO Josh Broder said companies, including his Portland-based network deployment and construction technology firm, often have to look outside the state to find the right employees and they lose employees to other states better education and career opportunities.

“Oftentimes, we have to look outside of Maine for employees and critically those education opportunities that are necessary for those employees to transition within their career from the thing they are doing now to the thing they want to do,” Broder said. “We have the things they want to do in the future, but our problem has been when they transition to graduate school in another place, they very often will find work in that other place.”

Soon, he said, that opportunity will be provided in Portland.

“We are thrilled through this partnership we are not only able to offer employees a graduate education locally, but also the cooperative internship program and externships that will support them,” he said.

Thomas said most of the jobs in things like artificial intelligence “are consolidated in a limited number of metro areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston.”

“IDEXX needs these talented professionals for many positions,” Thomas said. “Partnering with the Roux Institute will enable IDEXX to recruit from Maine, where we do the bulk of our research and development. While our engagement with the Roux Institute will evolve over time, initial plans include sending current employees to the institute, exploring research collaborations, and hiring graduates.”

Catherine Longley, Jackson Laboratory executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the Roux Institute will build upon the strengths of the non-profit biomedical research institution and “advance our mission in exciting new ways.”

The lab, headquartered in Bar Harbor, “has a long and rich history in genomics research, education, and workforce development here in Maine,” Longley said.

Caron and Lafferty said representatives from their organizations have already begun working with the Roux Institute to help develop course work.

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