Former state economic development official hired in New London

New London — The city’s new economic development director says he is dedicated to recruiting, expanding and retaining local businesses in the city.

Peter Lent, who spent 23 years with the state Department of Economic and Community Development, began this week in a position that has evolved since the retirement of Director Ned Hammond at the beginning of the year.

Lent will be expected to be a more public face of New London as well as the point of contact for all business needs, said Felix Reyes, the director of the Office of Planning and Community Development. Reyes said his vision for the position was for less administrative work and a push for more personal connections out in the community.

Lent said he expects to build relationships and coordinate resources to meet the needs of business owners or would-be business owners.

“I’m excited to be an advocate for business development projects that foster New London’s economic development,” Lent said in a statement. “I see tremendous opportunities to build effective partnerships for economic growth in New London and I am looking forward to being a contributor in its success.”

Reyes led an interview team that recommended Lent for the position. That team included Hammond and economic development and planning officials in neighboring Groton and Waterford.

“The city of New London is fortunate to have someone with Peter’s experience joining our team of talented people committed to improving the economic and business development opportunities in our city,” Reyes said.

Reyes said Lent is passionate about local business development projects and has hands-on experience working directly with business owners. He said Lent will help erase any perception that New London is a hard place to start or maintain a business.  

“He is an ideal fit to coordinate successful economic development in New London,” Reyes said.

For the DECD, Lent acted as a senior regional manager and community development director managing development projects throughout eastern Connecticut, including aiding in the administration of state financial assistance on projects that included Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Seaport Museum, the Garde Arts Center rehabilitation and construction of the Mercantile Exchange Office Building in Norwich, according to a written statement from the city.

Lent finished his career with the DECD in 2016 as the assistant executive director for the DECD’s Office of Business Development, where he was responsible for directing business retention and expansion project management statewide. He has spent the past two years as a program administrator for Pasco County, Fla.

Reyes said having Lent on board will allow him to focus more on things like development and real estate projects.

Lent will earn a $81,492 yearly salary, which was funded in this year’s budget; 25 percent of the salary is funded through a grant from the Connecticut Community Development Block Grant program.

g.smith@theday.com

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