BY DON MICHAK
Catherine Smith, the former insurance company executive named by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to lead a reorganized state economic development agency, has won legislative approval to also chair Connecticut Innovations Inc., which functions as a sort of high-tech venture capital firm, the governor said Monday.
Meanwhile, Malloy announced that he would host a forum at the University of Hartford next month where small businesses in Connecticut can be matched with prime contractors for the state and federal governments.
He said the June 23 event is intended to help identify opportunities for business owners here and expand the state’s economy.
The General Assembly’s action means that Smith, the former chief executive officer of ING U.S. Retirement Services picked by Malloy as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, now oversees CII as well as two other related quasi-public agencies, the Connecticut Development Authority and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to cultivate start-up and early-stage high-tech companies — our state’s job generators of the future,” Smith, a Branford resident, said Monday. “We have so many vibrant technology sectors in Connecticut to build on, from bioscience to information technology to clean tech.”
Malloy said Smith, who worked for ING for a decade after spending 17 years at Aetna, is “uniquely positioned to ensure that CII’s clients and prospective clients have access to the best possible assistance packages to help them grow.”
CII invests in start-up and other companies with the expectation of returns after a business is successful.
By most measures the agency recorded a poor financial performance in the last fiscal year, when it sustained a $3.08 million operating loss, or about $631,000 more than it had lost over the previous 12 months.
Similarly, while it reported an unrealized gain on investments of $7.5 million, the agency said it also realized a $10.8 million loss on the “disposition” of investments, primarily because of write-offs that were recorded an unrealized losses in prior years.
Moreover, those losses contributed to a $5.1 million decrease in the agency’s net assets, which fell to $83.9 million.
Malloy last month lauded Smith as a gifted and experienced private sector leader he said would help DECD accomplish his objectives.
His comments came as he responded to a Journal Inquirer report that nearly half of the companies that got grants and loans through DECD last year failed to meet their contractually-obligated targets to create or retain jobs.
Malloy said the state would continue to support incentives that would lead to more jobs, although it would “never award them as political favors” and would base such subsidies on “realistic, achievable goals.”