Gov. Ned Lamont shared his economic development strategy Friday, announcing a new public-private partnership and appointing three experienced business leaders to execute that vision.
Goldman Sachs partner David Lehman is Lamont's choice to lead the Department of Economic and Community Development and will also serve as the governor's senior economic adviser.
Former PepsiCo chair and CEO Indra Nooyi and retired Webster Bank chair and CEO Jim Smith will jointly lead the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, a public-private partnership originally created to help towns and companies.
Lamont said Lehman, Nooyi, and Smith will be part of his "strategic vision to aggressively pursue business" and grow the economy.
That vision includes CERC and DECD collaborating through a formal agreement as the Partnership to Advance the Connecticut of Tomorrow, with Lehman responsible for "ensuring a tight alignment between the two."
CERC will act as a recruitment agency, with a focus on ways to support, retain, and recruit companies, while DECD will continue to assist and promote the state's existing business sector.
"CERC is the hunter, DECD is the gatherer," Lamont said. "We are jump starting the way we retain and recruit companies and grow the economy.
"For too long, we've looked at economic growth and development in silos instead of with a comprehensive view that allows us to see the impact of our decisions on the long-term financial sustainability and success of our state."
Lamont wants to aggressively target companies that are a natural fit for Connecticut, including those in sectors such as insurance and finance, digital media, defense, bioscience, and healthcare.
"We're moving away from the old model of 'Hey, somebody knocked on our door,'" Lamont said.
"We want to find companies who are a natural fit here in Connecticut, where we have the wind at our backs. I think we can do a better job of attracting them."
Lamont called the choice of DECD commissioner one of the most important appointments of his administration, acknowledging that Connecticut's economy and job growth has lagged the region and the country.
There's some positive momentum, but when it comes to recruiting businesses, we've got some work to do.
CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan welcomed Lamont's strategic vision and the appointments of Lehman, Nooyi, and Smith.
"I think it's really exciting because of the high caliber of people the governor is able to attract and this notion of putting together ongoing partnerships between the public and private sectors," Brennan said.
"When you look at a lot of other states that have experienced greater growth than we have, they really rely heavily on the private sector being part of their economic development activities."
Lehman, 41, considered a rising star at Goldman Sachs, only recently met Lamont, a fellow Greenwich resident, after volunteering his talents and services through a friend.
"David said I want to do what I can to help," Lamont said, "and in less than two weeks, here he is."
Lehman, who will not take a salary, said Lamont's inaugural speech struck a chord with him.
"Specifically, when he talked about the need to collaborate and work together, it just really spoke to me in a way no politician had done previously," Lehman said.
"I'm excited to play a role in growing the Connecticut economy and making sure it works for all residents."
Nooyi, a Greenwich neighbor and college friend of Lamont, recently retired as CEO of PepsiCo, where she led a global expansion that saw the company nearly double in size in 12 years.
She called her love for Connecticut "irrational," but said she wants to do everything she can to help her adopted state.
"I am committed to making Connecticut one of the greatest states in the nation again," she said.
Smith co-chaired the state's Commission of Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, which made a series bold recommendations to fix Connecticut's economy and address long-term deficits.
He said he's inspired to work with Nooyi and sees their role to "expand our activity to recruit and retain business in Connecticut."
He said labor and business must have a seat at the table on an expanded CERC board, and that the focus will be "the redirection and exponential expansion of resources available to engage directly in business development opportunities."
Lamont said his new team will work toward "giving everyone an opportunity and ensuring the economy works for everyone."
Brennan believes this effort can "make Connecticut a destination state again."
"Connecticut has all the assets to be that destination state," he said.
"I think that with the team the governor is putting in place and his vision, we can get there."