Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Associate Dean of SOM, takes the helm of AdvanceCT, which focuses on rationing and building businesses in Connecticut.
Courtesy of Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld
AdvanceCT, a nonprofit that focuses on economic development in the state of Connecticut, announced two weeks ago that the Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies at the Yale School of Management, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, will take succession as co-president of the organization.
Sonnenfeld will co-chair the organization alongside Margaret Keane, Executive Chairman of the Synchrony Board of Directors. The two will replace former PepsiCo CEO Indira Nooyi SOM ’80 and former Webster Bank CEO James Smith at the helm of AdvanceCT. Sonnenfeld got involved with AdvanceCT in early 2017 after General Electric, or GE, moved its headquarters from Connecticut to Boston. The organization aims to stimulate economic development within Connecticut by encouraging businesses to locate in the state as well as helping to retain and develop existing businesses in the state.
“The CEO of GE retired the company and moved to Boston,” Sonnenfeld said. “People thought it was a big blow, and there had already been a downcast spirit in the state. Previous governors and mayors had gone to jail for misconduct, and there had been a leak from major state corporations. “
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont got involved with AdvanceCT around the same time as Sonnenfeld and has since played an important role in shaping the organization’s current form.
Lamont and Sonnenfeld both attended a 2017 School of Management symposium that aimed to study the “downcast” spirit within the Connecticut economy and why GE left the state. Sonnenfeld said the symposium brought together a diverse group of business leaders within the state, ranging from manufacturing to executives in the pharmaceutical industry as well as political figures such as former Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.
Business leaders attending the symposium addressed the lack of political will within the state to address issues such as a $ 7 billion public deficit, inadequate investments in infrastructure and an overburdened public pension system , Sonnenfeld added.
“The primary reason GE gave for leaving Connecticut was not a specific issue, but rather a broader concern about the state’s political ability to advance economically,” Sonnenfeld said.
After this symposium, Sonnenfeld became involved with AdvanceCT, serving on the organization’s board of directors under then co-chairs Nooyi and Webster.
As part of its work, the organization draws people’s attention to the many positive aspects of Connecticut, including its highly skilled workforce, its central location between Boston and New York, and its strong network of colleges, according to AdvanceCT President and CEO Peter Denious. . He told The News that the organization has several goals and objectives.
“AdvanceCT has four main focus areas: marketing or demonstrating the benefits of the state to businesses and people who are not yet there, business retention which is basically ensuring that businesses here have all the resources they need to thrive, research and special projects which is a catch-all part of the organization, ”said Denious.
Denious added that the organization is also working to simplify the Connecticut migration process for businesses by creating a centralized hub for all required forms and documents, while actively working with businesses to ensure a smooth transition.
AdvanceCT is also heavily involved in attracting businesses to the state, Sonnenfeld said. According to Sonnenfeld, the organization listens carefully to rumors or information about companies wishing to move to the state and acts on them to attract businesses here. In recent years, several Fortune-500 companies have relocated their operations to Connecticut. In addition, General Electric Appliances has also made the decision to roll back part of its activity.
Although business recruiting is an important part of the organization, Denious stressed that AdvanceCT also prioritizes improving communication and interconnection between the 169 municipalities and cities in the state.
“AdvanceCT is unique in that we are focused on the economic development of all parts of the state, from small towns to big cities like Stamford or New Haven,” Denious said.
Denious added that AdvanceCT has played an important role in Elm City. The organization aided in the 101 College Street construction process by attracting businesses to the building, as well as to the greater New Haven area.
Thomas Cavaliere, partner at AdvanceCT, said he was drawn to the organization because he was able to see the direct impact of his work on the state.
“I was looking for a job where I could make that impact and have a relationship with him as well,” Cavaliere told The News. “And so I was looking for a lot of organizations in Connecticut, there are a lot of them, but it’s really an organization that I could work for, where my skills would be showcased. And I could see the direct consequence of my work.
AdvanceCT was founded in 1993.