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Three towns on Route 495 vie for state-of-the-art microelectronics center

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Something for everyone - businessmen, academicians, and politicians. That's the concept behind a planned $40 million microelectronics research and training center.

The high-tech industry will get a retraining facility for its staff and boost the skills of local engineering grads. Nine participating institutions will get state-of-the-art equipment they've only dreamed of affording. And, the state ensures the continued prosperity of the commonwealth.

So far, under the guidance of the state-founded Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation (MTPC), this triad is relatively seamless. But the fabric of the partnership may be stretched a bit in the coming months.

Out of 27 possible sites for the center, the choice has narrowed to three: Taunton, Marlborough, and Westborough. Each has its backers.

Located near Route 495, the Marlborough and Westborough sites are on the outer rim of a crescent of computer companies wedged between Routes 128 and 495.

Not surprisingly, they are considered the favored sites of the 16 high-tech companies now part of the coalition. Since half of the center's $40 million will come from industry, in donated equipment and money, these firms would prefer to have the investment in their own backyard.

Yet what might be considered the political favorite is about 30 miles south of Boston, in Taunton. The area could use an economic boost, and officials see the center, located on 495, as an attractive lure for industry.

Unemployment in January stood at 13.3 percent in Taunton. ''We're just starting to feel the impact of the Parker Bros. closing and the slowdown in the silver-plating industry,'' Mayor Richard Johnson explains.


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