Notice:  Route 9 North, Exit 18 will be closed to traffic on Saturday, October 22nd from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., due to an event!  Main Street (Route 99) in Cromwell will be closed to traffic from Route 372 (West St.) to South St. for “Halloween On Main Street”.  To access the event, take Exit 19 on Route 9 North.

Summer employment sessions kick off this week for 80 youth

By: Larry McHugh

June 27, 2016

Summer has arrived in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. As the weather heats up, the chamber calendar is hot with events and activities throughout the month of June.

Last Monday was a busy chamber day at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. It began with our June Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by First Niagara and headlined by UConn Athletic Director David Benedict, continued with a special workshop on cyber security, and closed with the Middlesex County Career Fair which featured over 40 companies from a wide variety of industry sectors. It was a very successful day for our organization, and I want to thank First Niagara for sponsoring the breakfast and the workshop, Workforce Alliance and the Connecticut Department of Labor for partnering with us on the career fair, and all of the companies that came to network with the over 500 job seekers that attended. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to be an effective bridge between job seekers and employers.

On Tuesday afternoon, I joined Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and State Representative Matt Lesser for the official announcement of a major infrastructure project for Middletown and for Middlesex County. For many years, travelers on Route 9 have had to deal with massive backups and safety concerns due to the traffic signals that exist on the highway. Now, through the leadership of Gov. Malloy and Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker, a plan has been developed that will remove the lights, create two bridges that will allow motorists coming from Middletown to enter onto Route 9, and install a pedestrian bridge over DeKoven Drive and Route 9 that will allow for direct access to the riverfront from downtown. These, and other important elements of the project, will be explored further and discussed extensively throughout the public input process which is about to begin. Removing the lights on Route 9 has been discussed at various points throughout my 33 years at the chamber. This is the first plan that we have seen that makes these vital improvements to the highway, while still protecting access to downtown which is so important to the economic vitality of the central core. This plan also gives us a pedestrian bridge to the river which I know will be very popular with residents and visitors to Middletown. On behalf of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, I would like to thank Gov. Malloy and Commissioner Redeker, and the terrific staff at DOT, especially Will Britnell, Erik Jarboe, and Matt Vail,  who have worked so well with us as this project has been explored. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner as this important project moves forward, and I know that all travelers that use Route 9 will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Last Thursday featured the June meeting of the chamber’s East Haddam and Haddam Division which was held on board Connecticut River Expeditions’ new boat, Adventure. Chamber VP Jeff Pugliese, who attended the meeting on behalf of our staff, noted that the new boat looks terrific, and I congratulate Captain Mark Yuknat and his team on the expansion of their fleet. The meeting featured an excellent discussion on local issues as usual. However, it was also a bittersweet gathering because it marked the final chamber meeting for East Haddam First Selectman Mark Walter who is leaving to become Town Administrator in Columbia, CT. Mark has been a strong supporter and friend to me personally and to our chamber. We wish him the best of luck in his new position, and certainly hope to still see him in East Haddam and throughout Middlesex County. The Town of Columbia is lucky to be welcoming Mark Walter into the fold.

The chamber’s Westbrook Division will meet tomorrow morning at the Westbrook Elks Lodge 1784 from 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. We look forward to welcoming State Comptroller Kevin Lembo as guest speaker at the meeting. The mission of the State Comptroller is to provide accounting and financial services, to administer employee and retiree benefits, to develop accounting policy and exercise accounting oversight, and to prepare financial reports for state, federal and municipal governments and the public. Kevin Lembo has been a strong supporter of our chamber since he was elected to this important constitutional office in 2010. We look forward to seeing him again, and look forward to enjoying the beautiful view of Long Island Sound that the Westbrook Elks facility provides.

Tomorrow evening, the Side Street to Main Street Supplemental Program Business “Know-How” Class 5, Session 4 will be held from 6:15 p.m.-10:30 p.m., at the chamber. The chamber’s Side Street to Main Street Supplemental Program Business “Know-How” is funded by a generous grant from Eversource Energy. Business “Know-How” is an intensive four-session program which provides practical knowledge for starting and building a small business in Connecticut. The program is targeted for minority small business owners in Middlesex County and surrounding areas within the Eversource Energy footprint. Designed as a companion to the chamber’s award winning Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program sponsored by Aetna, Inc., Business “Know-How”, offers a bridge for business owners hoping to participate in the program now entering its 20th year this fall. Participants in the Business “Know-How” Program learn a variety of business related skills from both the program’s expert facilitator/instructor, and through group discussions of the homework assignments. We are very proud of Business “Know-How” here at the chamber, and I would like to again, thank Eversource for its sponsorship, and Aetna, for its longtime sponsorship of the Side to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program.

The 2016 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program will kick off its work experience next week. Two mandatory orientation sessions will be held this Thursday, June 30th, at the chamber office. This year, we are proud to announce that over 80 youngsters from the City of Middletown will work through this year’s program. Led by chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall, the first orientation session will take place at 10:00 a.m., and the second session at 2:00 p.m. The orientation sessions will introduce and explain to our young workers a number of important workplace requirements such as properly filling out tax withholding forms and work time recording sheets, signing an employee code of conduct contract, and stressing the importance of professionalism in the workplace. Liberty Bank personnel will provide a presentation on the importance of responsible financial literacy. This program continues to develop the workforce of tomorrow, and we are very proud of it. I will have much more on the 2016 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program in next week’s chamber column including information on our outstanding team of funding partners, and a description of the application and placement process.

The chamber will host two sessions of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training on Tuesday, July 12. The first session will begin at 8:00 a.m., and the second session 10:15 a.m. The definition of sexual harassment, liability (your own and your organization's), and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets the State of Connecticut's requirement for two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers. This session is a key component of our First Niagara Workshop Series which has been very successful, and I want to again thank our friends at First Niagara for their support of this important series for our members.

On Monday, July 18, the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell will host a members-only Business After Work networking reception from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. We expect a nice crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of country fair themed networking and festivities. Kristen Pikula, Dan Miller, Donna Franklin and the entire Courtyard team always does a terrific job with this annual networking event, and we continue to appreciate their strong support. I will have additional updates on the evening’s happenings as we get closer.

Our Women in Business Leadership Conference, Luncheon, and Health & Wellness Fair will take place July 28 at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. Sponsored by Citizens Bank, the event will feature Keynote Luncheon Speaker Faith Salie who appears on CBS News Sunday Morning and is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Approval Junkie.” The program also features Gina Barreca, weekly columnist from the Hartford Courant, Grace Killelea, “The Confidence Effect” author and highly sought after keynote speaker, and Kara Sundlun, two-time Emmy award winning news anchor for WFSB. We expect a large turnout for what is sure to be another terrific Women in Business themed event on July 28.

Unfortunately, I must once again close this week’s column on a sad note after learning of the recent passing of Robert Seiferman at the age of 89. Along with his older brother Joe, Rob worked on the family property, Riverdale Farm & Cottages in Portland, which later evolved into the Riverdale Motel. Rob was a strong and active member of our chamber for many years. I am grateful for his support and the support of his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his brother Joe, another great supporter of our chamber, his daughters Janet, Karen, Elaine and Diane, and his entire family at this difficult time. Rob Seiferman will certainly be missed.