This story has been updated.
Gov. Ned Lamont has attracted some international heavy-hitters to his Economic Development team including former top executives from PepsiCo and IBM.
That's good news for a state that has not recovered from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
This month, Lamont added two more board members, Donald Kendall, Jr., co-founder and chair of Social Venture Partners Connecticut, and R. Adam Norwitt, president and CEO of Amphenol Corp., to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes business growth.
“There is nobody better to serve as an ambassador to recruit companies to grow and expand in Connecticut than business leaders themselves, who can tell their stories directly about the opportunities our state and our workforce provide for businesses to succeed," Lamont said in a press statement.
The group is chaired by former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi of Greenwich and former Webster Bank CEO James Smith. The panel also includes David Lehman of Greenwich, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD); Jim Loree, president and CEO of Stanley Black & Decker; and Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Sr., associate dean at Yale School of Management.
Lamont is expanding the role of CERC, adding key business leaders who have expertise in areas like workforce development, advanced manufacturing, transportation, business advocacy and urban policy.
Kendall, a resident of Weston, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, working to close the gap in educational and employment opportunities for affluent versus low-income people in Connecticut. He leads SVP-CT, a group of entrepreneurs, corporate executives and leaders from the philanthropic, nonprofit and academic communities who pool their time, expertise and resources to strengthen the capacity and impact of nonprofits.
Norwitt, a resident of Ridgefield, joined Amphenol in 1998 and has been based in both Asia and Connecticut. Prior to joining the company, he was a corporate attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Amphenol, headquartered in Wallingford, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of high technology interconnect products, antennas and sensors.
Lamont, a newly-elected Democrat, promised to recast the state’s troubled relationship with business. Lamont previously announced a new approach to economic development to be led by Lehman, a 41-year-old Goldman Sachs partner.
In a separate development, Nooyi was appointed as the newest member of Amazon's Board of Directors in February, just as Connecticut is positioning itself to convince the company to build its second headquarters in the Nutmeg State.
After watching the governor’s inauguration on Jan. 9, Lehman called Lamont’s transition team, offering to help. The call led to a breakfast with the governor’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, and Garrett Moran, the former chief operating officer of the Blackstone Group, who helped lead the transition.
Lehman will serve as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development and senior economic advisor to Lamont. Two former corporate CEOs and chairs, Nooyi of PepsiCo and Smith of Webster Bank, will lead the non-profit Connecticut Economic Resource Center in a new public-private partnership with DECD.
As is the case with the governor, Lehman will be working without a state salary.
Nooyi moved to Greenwich 28 years ago, where Lamont has a home and Lehman lives with his wife, Laura, and their two school-age children.
Lamont said he's trying to "get a closer collaboration between business and government and, quite frankly, labor and government."
Drajewicz came to Lamont’s staff from Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. His commissioner-designate of administrative services is Josh Geballe, a former senior IBM executive and tech entrepreneur.
Lamont introduced the new economic team during a news conference at Upward Hartford -- home to some of the world’s most ambitious change-makers and entrepreneurs who come to connect, collaborate and create with fellow innovators.
Marc Bradley of Norwalk, who served as Lamont's campaign manager, previously was appointed director of External and Constituent Affairs. Bradley also worked on Lamont’s 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate as well as Attorney General William Tong’s unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate in 2012.
“I’ve got to show some results on this, but things are turning around,” Lamont said at a news conference announcing his initial Economic Development appointees.. “And I think people are feeling it.”