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Ticker: Woburn firm in battery deal with Mercedes, Stellantis; Maine groups take aim at fed permits for hydro lines

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Ticker: Woburn firm in battery deal with Mercedes, Stellantis; Maine groups take aim at fed permits for hydro lines

Automakers Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis announced agreements with Woburn-based Factorial Energy on Tuesday to help develop solid-state battery technology that they hope could make electric cars more attractive to a mass market.

Mercedes-Benz, part of Daimler AG, said it is joining forces with Factorial to jointly develop batteries with the aim of testing prototype cells as early as next year. It said it is “investing a high double-digit million dollar amount in Factorial” that will give it the right to a representative on the battery company’s board of directors.

Stellantis, which combined PSA Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler, said it signed a joint development agreement with Factorial and is making a “strategic investment” in the company. It didn’t detail the size of the investment.

Maine groups take aim at hydro lines

Maine environmental groups have requested that the federal government suspend the permits it issued to a billion-dollar electricity project for Massachusetts residents, which Maine voters rejected in a referendum last month.

Three groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, wrote a joint letter on Monday to the federal Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, seeking to halt the New England Clean Energy Connect project.

The 145-mile electric transmission corridor would run through western Maine, and is backed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

The letter emphasized that the project could not continue because of the Nov. 2 referendum blocked the project that would be used to transmit power from hydroelectric dams in Canada to the New England grid through Lewiston.

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Chicago Bears interview Reggie McKenzie for GM vacancy

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Chicago Bears interview Reggie McKenzie for GM vacancy

The Chicago Bears have reached out to at least 15 general manager candidates and 10 coaching candidates for interviews. As they go through the interview process, we’re looking at each of the prospective hires.

Reggie McKenzie interviewed for the GM opening Thursday, the team announced.

Reggie McKenzie

Title: Miami Dolphins senior personnel executive

Age: 58

Experience

Before joining the Dolphins in 2019, McKenzie spent seven seasons as the Oakland Raiders general manager. He was named the Sporting News and PFWA executive of the year in 2016 after a 12-4 playoff season that included seven players making the Pro Bowl.

That was the Raiders’ only winning season in his seven as his teams went 40-72.

Among the players he drafted were Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.

Before joining the Raiders, McKenzie spent 18 years with the Green Bay Packers as a pro personnel assistant, the director of pro personnel and the director of football operations. The Packers won two Super Bowls in that span.

You should know

McKenzie was an NFL linebacker who played 60 games over five seasons with the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers from 1985-92. He played in college at Tennessee.

Chicago connection

In 2014, McKenzie drafted current Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack fifth overall.

In 2018, after coach Jon Gruden was hired and negotiations for an extension soured between the Raiders and Mack, the team traded Mack, a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2020 to the Bears. The Raiders received two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick over the next two seasons. The Bears then gave Mack a six-year extension.

Mack was named a Pro Bowler each of his next three seasons with the Bears but missed 10 games this year with injury.

What has been said

Before firing McKenzie in December 2018, Raiders owner Mark Davis spoke to ESPN about the Raiders’ roster issues.

“It’s been all part of an evolution, but I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer to Jon (Gurden), as well, that the talent is just not here at this time,” Davis said. “The drafts did not help supplement what we were doing in the free-agent market. If you look at our roster now, it’s a bunch of free-agent, one-year guys that are mercenaries. And they’re great guys, and they’re Raiders. Once a Raider, always a Raider … but we just don’t have the overall talent of a 22-man roster.”

Before the Raiders hired McKenzie in 2012, former Packers executive Ron Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “Reggie’s a tremendous evaluator. He can tell you who can play and who can’t play. That’s what it’s all about. Some can write reports but can’t tell you who can play. Whatever that is, he has that. He has a feel.”

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With rivalry renewed, Wild coast to 5-1 win over Blackhawks

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With rivalry renewed, Wild coast to 5-1 win over Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Ask any Wild player from the past decade and they would almost certainly say the Chicago Blackhawks are the franchise’s biggest rival.

Sure, there’s bad blood with the Colorado Avalanche and the Winnipeg Jets. When push comes to shove, though, the rivalry with the Blackhawks hits different.

That’s because the Wild so often played the role of little brother in the matchup, bowing to the Blackhawks in the 2013 playoffs, 2014 playoffs and 2015 playoffs.

With how intense the rivalry was throughout the 2010’s, it feels weird that Wild haven’t played the Blackhawks since Feb. 4, 2020. They didn’t play last season due to the pandemic causing a temporary realignment throughout the league.

Not that the Wild were treating the Blackhawks any differently heading into Friday’s game at United Center.

“They play the same way as a couple of years back,” alternate captain Marcus Foligno insisted before the game. “We just always have to play that hard physical style and try to get to our game early against this team.”

Fittingly, Foligno opened the scoring on this particular night, and the Wild parlayed that into a 5-1 win over the Blackhawks.

Does it make up for the back-to-back-to-back losses to in the playoffs? Not a chance.

That said, it might signal a changing of the guard with the Wild potentially taking over the role of big brother for the foreseeable future.

This was hardly a contest as the Wild took control early on and never looked back. After taking a penalty 22 seconds into the game, Foligno served his time, then made it 1-0 by finishing off a pretty pass from rookie defenseman Calen Addison.

Not long after that, center Ryan Hartman stretched the lead to 2-0, hammering home a special delivery from star winger Kirill Kaprizov. It was a special moment for Hartman, scoring in his return to Chicago, and he added another goal late in the first period to make it 3-0.

With the game already well in hand, the Wild coasted for much of the second period before Addison ripped a slap shot past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 4-0 and chase him from the game.

Unfortunately for backup goaltender Kevin Lankinen, he didn’t fare much better, and winger Brandon Duhaime stretched the lead to 5-0 late the second period after a highlight-reel pass from winger Kevin Fiala.

While goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen appeared to be on his way to a shutout in the third period, center Dylan Strome spoiled that with a goal to finalize the score at 5-1.

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Business attorney Jay Rothman to be University of Wisconsin’s president

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Business attorney Jay Rothman to be University of Wisconsin’s president

MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin System leaders on Friday chose Jay Rothman, a Milwaukee business attorney with no experience administrating higher education, as the next president running the 26-campus system.

The regents chose Rothman, chairman and CEO of the Foley & Lardner law firm, over the other finalist, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. The system said in a statement that Rothman has accepted the job and will begin June 1.

Rothman will make $550,000 annually as the system’s eighth president. Regent Karen Walsh, who led the system’s presidential search committee, called him a “servant leader” who builds consensus.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the UW System and approach this role with profound respect for the unparalleled role public higher education plays in the lives of our students, alumni, and communities,” Rothman said in a statement. “I intend to lead by listening first, so that the experience I have gained over my lifetime in Wisconsin can help us build a great UW System together.

The move comes after the system went almost two years without a permanent president. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson has been serving as interim president since Ray Cross retired in June 2020.

The regents offered the permanent president position to Jim Johnsen, then president of the University of Alaska, the month Cross retired, but Johnsen withdrew from consideration amid concerns about his spotty record in Alaska and massive backlash about the selection process in Wisconsin. Faculty, staff and students complained loudly that they weren’t involved on the search committee.

Multiple faculty groups have complained this time around, too, that regents never held any public forms where professors could question Rothman and Schmidt. Regent Karen Walsh, who led the search committee, countered that the panel didn’t need to hold forums because it received plenty of public input during listening sessions this past fall.

Thompson plans to step down on March 18. Regents President Edmund Manydeeds III said in the system statement that he has asked former regents President Mike Falbo to serve as interim president from that date until Rothman takes over June 1.

Rothman, 62, has been chairman and CEO of Foley & Lardner since 2011. He joined the law firm in 1986 and has been a partner since 1994. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and a law degree from Harvard.

He has no experience administrating higher education. He told reporters during a news conference earlier this month that his term as head of the law firm is ending and he’s looking to start a new chapter in his life.

Foley & Lardner is based in Milwaukee and has 1,100 attorneys and 22 offices nationwide. Rothman said his experience leading the firm has prepared him well for running the 26-campus, 165,000-student UW System.

Rothman inherits a system still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and suffering from strained relationships with Republican legislators.

Cross retired after a 2020 spring semester that saw all classes go virtual. Thompson pushed for a return to an in-person setting this fall but drew the ire of his fellow Republicans when he implemented mask and testing mandates. Sen. Steve Nass threatened to sue the system, but Thompson didn’t budget and the GOP ultimately backed down.

Rothman also will have to weigh whether to raise tuition, always a thorny issue. Thompson persuaded Republican lawmakers to lift an eight-year freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition last summer. The regents opted not to raise tuition this year out of consideration for families struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, but Rothman will have revisit potential increase in the system’s next budget this summer.

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