Malloy taps former Stamford colleague to head tourism

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reached back again to his Stamford roots Thursday, this time to find someone to head Connecticut’s tourism promotion, a topic Malloy raised often during the campaign for governor as an example of the state’s failure to develop jobs.

Malloy selected Christopher “Kip” Bergstrom, who has been executive director of Stamford’s urban redevelopment commission for the past three years, to head the Commission on Culture and Tourism, a relatively small agency with a $16.7 million annual budget and just over 30 full-time positions.

Bergstrom, 59, was Stamford’s first economic development director, holding that post from 1993 through 1998 and playing a key role in UBS relocating its American headquarters for sales and trading in that city. He left to run the Rhode Island Policy Council, a public-private partnership that promotes economic development.

“I didn’t hire Kip when he first worked in Stamford, but I certainly hired him back after seeing what he was able to do in Rhode Island,” Malloy said. Bergstrom returned to Stamford in 2008 after a decade in Rhode Island.

While in Rhode Island, the state often led New England in job and income growth. It was one of four states that made the greatest improvement in the Kauffman Foundation’s New Economy Index between 2002 and 2007.

Bergstrom said tourism is a “twofer,” an industry that generates jobs, while also exposing the state to business leaders who might one day relocate here. He will work with Catherine Smith, the ING executive Malloy hired to reorganized economic development.

Malloy pledged to make statewide tourism promotion a key priority for his administration, chastising the legislature and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell during the last campaign for stripping the entire $15 million statewide promotion account in this fiscal year’s budget.

The governor would restore that funding in the $19.74 billion budget he proposed last month for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the plan does cut small grants for specific tourism attractions in Connecticut.

Bergstrom has had two eventful stints overseeing economic development in Stamford, a city that has had success in attracting financial services companies, such as UBS.

A global company with more than 64,000 employees worldwide, UBS has a major presence in the northeastern U.S. Besides its Stamford office, its American headquarters for investment banking and private wealth management are located in New York City and Weehawken, N.J., respectively.

More recently, Bergstrom launched “Reinventing Stamford,” a series of community conversations about how to position the city to cope with the economic crisis.

Bergstrom began his public career with the city of Hartford in 1979.

Bergstrom holds master’s degrees in city and regional planning from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Graduate School of Design. He is married and lives in Old Saybrook.