Gov. Ned Lamont is practically tearing up his predecessor’s playbook when it comes to the state’s plan of economic development.
Lamont unveiled his new strategy and top advisors on the topic during an event in Hartford Friday.
“We have been a laggard if you look around the country, for many many decades to tell you the truth and that’s about to change,” Lamont told the crowd at Upward Hartford. “As we’re rethinking our whole strategy when it comes to economic growth and economic development.”
He announced a new partnership between the non-profit Connecticut Economic Resource Center and the Department of Economic and Community Development as being the main driver of economic policy.
He tapped David Lehman, a Goldman Sachs executive to lead DECD, and he will serve as senior economic advisor to the governor, a new role.
Lehman, Lamont said, reached out to members of his transition team and volunteered to serve in the administration.
He said he plans on using his relationships in the corporate to help the image of the state.
“I think the governor has used the word, ‘hospitable,’” Lehman said. “It needs to be a welcoming environment that encourages growth.”
Lamont will also lean on two corporate allies who have provided him with different kinds of support over the past year.
Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s former CEO, and Jim Smith, Webster Bank’s former CEO, will join CERC’s board, and work with Lehman on economic development.
Recently, Smith helped the Lamont administration craft its policy to provide state-backed loans through private banks to unpaid federal workers.
Lamont and Nooyi have a relationship that goes back decades to when the two were classmates at Yale.
Nooyi even provided an introduction for Lamont with Infosys’ CEO, which eventually led to Infosys selecting Hartford for expansion last year.
She says she is committed to helping Connecticut.
Nooyi said, “I’d like people to say once again, Connecticut is the greatest state. We’ve made some detours, but we’re once again the greatest state in the country.”
As for strategy, Lehman would not commit to any particulars, as he will not start his new position until February 19, and his commissioner nomination must be confirmed by the General Assembly.
Lamont, however, said he does not plan on continuing the “First Five,” Program, which was championed by the Malloy administration.
The program was used to craft individual incentive and tax break packages for major corporations. Among its biggest successes were ESPN and United Technologies, with them committing to the state. However, the program was also used to lure Alexion Pharmaceuticals to New Haven, where the company built a new headquarters. Within five years, Alexion had announced plans to move its headquarters to Boston, forfeiting major tax breaks.
Lamont said he expects a new vision for how the state lures companies, but would not rule out providing cash, loans, or tax breaks in ways other states compete for companies.
“I don’t think you want the state of Connecticut picking winners and losers. We’re going to do everything we can to help incubators like [Upward Hartford] create the next generation of jobs and we’ll do our best to recruit and keep new companies coming to Connecticut.”