YaleNews

Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 has called upon some of the region’s titans of industry to help revamp Connecticut’s struggling economy.

At a news conference on Friday, Lamont announced the nomination of Goldman Sachs partner David Lehman to serve as both the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development and the senior economic advisor to the governor. Under Lehman’s leadership, the Department of Economic and Community Development and Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. — a nonprofit that provides business development services to the state — will aim to bring together the public and private sectors through their Partnership to Advance the Connecticut of Tomorrow, according to a Friday press release.

“I’m excited to play a role in growing Connecticut’s economy and making sure it works for all families,” Lehman said at the press conference on Feb. 1. “With the formation of PACT, the state will now have a comprehensive infrastructure and corresponding strategy to attract, retain and grow business and investment.”

Lehman, who has worked at Goldman Sachs for 15 years, currently heads the bank’s Real Estate Finance for the Investment Banking Division and provides guidance to the firm’s Public Sector and Infrastructure Finance group. He will begin working under Lamont in two weeks, as he awaits final confirmation from the Connecticut General Assembly.

According to the framework of the PACT partnership — which was announced Friday — CERC will attract companies to the state, while the economic and community development department will focus mainly on promoting and supporting businesses already in the state by easing their communication with the state government.

Lamont’s Yale classmate and former PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi SOM ’80 will join former Webster Bank Chairman and CEO Jim Smith to co-chair the Connecticut Economic Resource Center board of directors to guide the PACT transition.

“We look forward to expanding CERC’s board, making it illustrative of the Connecticut we are, but more importantly, the Connecticut we want to be,” Nooyi and Smith said in a joint statement on Feb. 1.

Under Nooyi and Smith’s leadership, the CERC will aim to redirect resources to engage in more business development, recruit ambassadors from the business community and “aggressively attract” companies to Connecticut by highlighting its educated workforce, high quality of life and supportive state government, according to the joint statement.

Lamont expressed his excitement at the potential of the PACT public-private partnership under the guidance of Lehman, Nooyi and Smith.

“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, and therefore, our residents,” Lamont said in a statement on Friday.

The governor and his wife bring a long history in the private sector to the state’s top office. Lamont founded the telecommunications company Campus Televideo in 1984 and chaired Lamont Digital Services, a company that invests in tech start-ups. His wife Ann Lamont is a founder and managing partner at venture capital firm Oak Investment Partners, making her one of the richest women in the country.

Some experts, however, feel that Lamont is not using his experience in the private sector to his full advantage.

Sacred Heart University political science professor Gary Rose noted that Lamont’s other appointees have come almost exclusively from the ranks of the Democratic party, either in the legislature or from the offices of politicians like Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn.

“Lamont is surrounding himself with people who only understand government solutions to problems,” Rose said. “I don’t see a lot of change coming.”

The governor’s office is now in the final stages of drafting the state budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which Lamont will present to the legislature on Feb. 20. The General Assembly and Lamont will look to come up with a final agreement by June.

Forbes Magazine ranked Connecticut’s appeal to companies 40th of 50 states in 2018 — citing its high cost for businesses, many environmental regulations and poor economic climate. The state placed fifth, however, for quality of life.

Nathalie Bussemaker | nathalie.bussemaker@yale.edu