February 1, 2019

Lamont taps top biz execs to reshape CT's economic-development strategy

HBJ Photo | Sean Teehan
HBJ Photo | Sean Teehan
David Lehman (right) was introduced Friday by Gov. Ned Lamont (left) as commissioner of the reshaped state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Photo | C-SPAN
David Lehman testified before Congress in Washington, D.C., in 2010.
HBJ PHOTO | Steve Laschever
Former Webster Bank CEO Jim Smith will co-chair CERC.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday nominated a former Goldman Sachs executive to oversee Connecticut's economic-development efforts.

The newly minted governor said he has tapped David Lehman, a managing director at the New York-based investment bank and financial services company, to serve as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

Lamont announced Lehman's appointment Friday at Hartford incubator and co-working space Upward Hartford, 20 Church St.

Lehman, a Greenwich native, most recently led Goldman Sachs' public sector and infrastructure finance group, after spending 15 years with the Wall Street giant. Amid the nation's financial crisis, Lehman defended Goldman Sachs' actions before Congress' Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in July 2010.

The governor said Lehman, who will take over for ex-Commissioner Catherine Smith, will carry out his "aggressive" strategy to recruit businesses through state agency collaborations and managing long-term strategies, including implementing new "opportunity zones."

Lehman's nomination will require approval from Connecticut's General Assembly, and is expected to begin work Feb. 19.

"I am grateful that someone of his caliber with as much finance and investment experience as he has is willing to roll up his sleeves and join state government at this critical juncture," Lamont said in a statement Friday. "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.

Also Friday, Lamont announced Rocky Hill-based nonprofit Connecticut Economic Resource Center Inc. (CERC) and DECD will forge a public-private partnership dubbed the Partnership to Advance the Connecticut of Tomorrow (PACT).

Under the partnership, CERC will serve as Connecticut's recruitment arm and will focus its research on ways to support, retain and recruit businesses to the area. DECD, meantime, will continue to support and promote the state's existing business sector while also helping ease the transition of new businesses relocating to the state.

Former PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi of Greenwich and former Webster Bank Chairman and CEO Jim Smith were selected to serve as co-chairs of the board and will help steer this transition.

Lehman, 41, is tasked with overseeing the new CERC-DECD alliance.

"David had expressed his interest in public service at the same time that I was looking for the right person to oversee the totality of our state's economic policy and development," Lamont said.

Prior to Goldman Sachs, Lehman worked at another Wall Street firm, Morgan Stanley. He earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Washington and Lee University in 1999.

Lamont's DECD hire marks another link between the corporate sector and his administration.

A week ago, the governor, who started a telecom business in the 1980s, tapped veteran tech executive and investor Josh Geballe to oversee the state Department and Administrative Services (DAS) as commissioner.

This story has been updated

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