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Claire Leonardi Named Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director of Connecticut Innovations

Follows Governor Malloy’s Proposal to Combine Quasi-Public Agencies

Catherine Smith, chair of Connecticut Innovations (CI), announced today that Claire Leonardi, a veteran investment and venture capital executive with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, has been chosen to lead CI as its new chief executive officer.

As part of his legislative agenda for 2012, Governor Dannel P. Malloy is proposing to consolidate the state’s two quasi-public entities dedicated to economic development. The measure, which requires legislative approval, would merge the Connecticut Development Authority (CDA) into CI.

Earlier today the CI board voted unanimously to appoint Leonardi as the CEO.

“Our quasi-publics play an important role in supporting the state’s strategies for improving competitiveness and creating jobs—but there is much more we can do. Consolidating CDA into CI will be an important step in our efforts to streamline our economic development infrastructure and strengthen its overall effectiveness from both a business customer and marketing perspective,” Governor Malloy said.

CI is the state’s quasi-public venture investment arm that supports high-tech development and entrepreneurship in Connecticut. CDA has a variety of tools to support financing of commercial and industrial businesses.

“The selection of Claire Leonardi to take over the reins at Connecticut Innovations is the right choice at the right time,” the governor continued. “Working closely with Catherine Smith, Claire will play a leadership role in helping to create a vibrant business environment that will create jobs and attract new businesses to our state. This is the focal point of our larger strategy to reinvent Connecticut.”

Leonardi, who earned an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, begins in her new position March 1 and brings exceptional leadership and financial experience to CI. She has held senior positions in financial firms including alternative investment management with Crossroads Capital and Fairview Capital, both located in Farmington, and business development and strategic investment at Phoenix Home Life in Hartford.

“This is an exciting time to join the governor’s team,” said Leonardi. “The recent passage of the Jobs Bill and the strong support from the Malloy administration for all aspects of job creation have established an ideal climate both for startups and growing businesses here. We have a great opportunity to leverage Connecticut’s significant intellectual talent, driven by our academic institutions and industry resources across a vast array of growing sectors. Combining CI and CDA places many of the state’s economic development tools in one place and provides a great opportunity to make available resources more coordinated and understandable. One of my objectives is to enhance the organization’s outreach to make sure that we are accessible and that the tools in our tool kit are relevant and tailored to help our businesses succeed.”

Most recently, Leonardi has been working with startup and growing companies and nonprofits in upstate New York, advising them on capital structure and funding, strategic planning and performance improvement.

In addition, Leonardi brings a wealth of experience from her affiliations with various boards. Most notable are her contributions serving as chair of the University of Connecticut Health Center Board of Directors and vice chair of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees.

“Claire’s investment expertise and business development background make her the perfect choice as we focus on ways to accelerate investments in innovation, entrepreneurship and high-tech startups,” said Smith, who also serves as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“In addition I’m delighted Peter Longo will continue to be a part of the CI team, reporting to Claire, and running the day-to-day operations of the organization. Peter’s considerable financial and analytical talents will be put to best use by managing the investment side of CI’s operations,” Smith noted.

About Connecticut Innovations
CI is a quasi-public organization dedicated to driving an entrepreneurial, technology-based economy in Connecticut. CI stimulates high-tech growth by investing in early-stage Connecticut technology companies, university/industry research collaborations and technology transfer and collaborating with government, business, nonprofit and academic organizations to advance technology growth and promote public policies consistent with CI’s mission. For more information, visit www.ctinnovations.com.

About the Connecticut Development Authority
The Connecticut Development Authority is a quasi-public entity that has several programs to stimulate investment in commercial and industrial businesses and retain and create jobs that contribute to the state’s economy, technology base, intellectual capital and infrastructure. To learn more about the CDA, visit www.ctcda.com.

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