The Indian American former chief executive officer at PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, was recently named by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to a board of directors that promises to improve the state’s economic development strategy.
Lamont Feb. 1 unveiled key components of his vision to transform the state’s economic development strategy: aggressive business recruitment; collaborative work across agencies to better support existing businesses and onboard new ones; as well as a strategic and long-term economic policy focus, including in the important area of opportunity zones, according to a news release distributed from Lamont’s office.
To execute on this vision, Gov. Lamont is nominating David Lehman, a partner with Goldman Sachs, to serve in dual roles as the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development and as the governor’s senior economic adviser.
In addition, Lamont announced that two of Connecticut’s principal economic development entities – the nonprofit Connecticut Economic Resource Center Inc. and DECD – will form an innovative public-private partnership known as the Partnership to Advance the Connecticut of Tomorrow.
Through this collaboration, CERC will function as the outward-facing recruitment arm on behalf of the state, and DECD will continue to support, promote, and advocate for existing businesses while also serving as the central resource to help new businesses navigate state and local government to minimize lag time, enhance services, and expedite relocation. As part of his mandate, Lehman will ensure tight alignment between CERC and DECD, the release said.
As part of the formation of PACT, the membership of CERC’s board of directors will be revised and expanded to more accurately reflect both the geography and business diversity of the state.
In addition, CERC’s research will focus on competitive insights to help support business retention, expansion, and recruitment, and the municipal support program will be more specifically directed toward economic development and project management activities, the release said.
Nooyi, of Greenwich, and former Webster Bank chairman and CEO Jim Smith, of Waterbury, were selected last week to serve as co-chairs of the board and will help steer this 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. “The most visible change at CERC will be the redirection and exponential expansion of resources available to engage directly in business development activities. We’ll recruit ambassadors from the business community to provide financial support and active participation in business development. We are excited to leverage our private sector relationships and experience as we aggressively attract businesses and market our state as a place with an educated workforce, a great quality of life, and a supportive state government.”
Nooyi, 63, is the global superstar among the three. She moved to the United States from India to attend Yale, graduated and rose in the ranks of PepsiCo, based in Purchase, N.Y. The soft drink and food company grew from $35 billion to $63 billion in her dozen years as CEO with total market returns of 162 percent, CNBC reported, as Nooyi dramatically boosted its international reach.
She was the linchpin connecting Lamont, and the state, to Infosys, the India-based IT company that’s rebuilding its image by hiring thousands of employees in U.S. cities, including Hartford, according to a Connecticut Post report.
“I do take some hope that there’s some positive momentum going into 2019, but when it comes to recruiting businesses,” Lamont said in the report, “We’ve got some work to do.”
Asked whether he’ll continue with the large incentives, Lamont didn’t have a ready answer yes or no, but he said, “As a priority, we’re not leading with incentives, we’re leading with the reason you want to be in Connecticut,” according to the publication.