Three Middlesex County legislative candidates’ forums to focus on issues

October 17,2016

By: Larry McHugh

Last week was very busy for our members and our staff and I want to take a moment to touch on some of the highlights. Our 2016 Business to Business Expo was a very successful all-day affair at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Expo featured a number of events and activities from a Tourism Outlook Breakfast, Small Business Awards Luncheon, Career Fair, over 100 exhibitors from many different industry sectors, a number of important workshops, and a Business After Work networking reception that was extremely well attended. I would like to once again thank our sponsors, led by presenting sponsors Comcast Business, The Radisson Hotel Cromwell and Updike, Kelly, & Spellacy, P.C., and media partner Hartford Business Journal for their great support of the 2016 Expo event. I also want to thank our Expo Committee, volunteers and the chamber staff who stepped up once again and executed a terrific event. Chamber Vice President Johanna Bond has been our lead events coordinator for many years now. She did another outstanding job putting this event together and I continue to appreciate her efforts and the efforts of my entire team.


Last week also featured three important chamber division meetings which doubled as forums with legislative candidates in Middlesex County. On Wednesday, our Durham & Middlefield Division met at Lyman Orchards Golf Center where we welcomed eight candidates for legislative office in the districts that cover Durham or Middlefield. On Thursday, our Cromwell Division met at Chicago Sam’s where we welcomed three candidates for legislative office, and our Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division met on Friday at Deep River Town Hall where we welcomed another four candidates who hope to represent those towns in the General Assembly for the next two years. This week features our All Middletown Division candidate forum at Village at South Farms on Wednesday and next week features meetings in Westbrook and in Haddam. These forums are extremely valuable for our members and our candidates, and I thank everyone for their support of what are truly very important conversations.

The chamber submitted comments to the City of Middletown’s Planning and Zoning Commission for its public hearing on potential changes to the zoning code which was held last Wednesday evening at City Hall. In general, the chamber supports the development of a better organized and more user friendly zoning code and zoning map in Middletown. As a standing policy, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is generally opposed to the rezoning of land that is currently commercial, industrial, MX or any other designation that allows for a business purpose. I urge commissioners to take a cautious approach to this process, allow for further examination of the newly proposed regulations, and engage all key stakeholders within the city. The chamber will continue to stay involved in this important discussion.

On Tuesday night, I have the honor of attending The Middlesex County NAACP’s Freedom Fund Dinner at Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church in Middletown. As I noted last week, I very much look forward to presenting the NAACP’s annual Business Award at the event, and continue to be proud and honored to have the award bear my name. This year’s winner is DATTCO, a third generation family-owned business. DATTCO has over 2,000 employees, including a strong presence in Middletown, and multiple offices, terminals and service facilities throughout New England. DATTCO President Don Devivo is a great friend to our chamber and is an active member of our Executive Committee. He also supports our tourism and legislative efforts along with other important initiatives. I look forward to honoring him and his terrific company at the Freedom Fund Dinner tomorrow night.

This chamber’s Board of Directors will meet this Thursday at Greenwald Industries in Chester. Our Board of Directors is truly representative of the business community in Middlesex County. It is comprised of members from every city or town in our region, and from every important industry sector in our regional economy. I would like to take a moment to thank Greenwald’s Managing Director Len Samela for hosting the chamber’s board meeting every October, for his longtime service on our Executive Committee and as a past chamber chairman, and for his strong support of our organization. We look forward to another productive meeting.

This Friday evening, Oct. 21, I will attend the Hospital for Special Care’s 75th Anniversary Gala at the Hartford Marriott Downtown. In addition to celebrating 75 years outstanding service to its patients, the event will honor the retirement of John J. Votto, DO, FCCP. After multiple expansions of its facilities, HSC has grown to one of the largest specialty hospitals in the country with 228 beds, and the only long term acute care hospital serving adults and children. Dr. Votto joined the medical staff at HSC in 1984, was named the Chief of Pulmonary Medicine in 1990 and in 1997, became president. HSC has become a great chamber member over the past few years and we very much appreciate their support. I look forward to celebrating their success, along with the terrific career of Dr. John Votto on Friday evening in Hartford.

The chamber’s 15th Annual Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast meeting is coming up on Monday, Nov. 7 at the Radisson in Cromwell. This major chamber event, sponsored by Middlesex Hospital, will feature Capt. Paul Whitescarver, Commanding Officer of The Naval Submarine Base New London as keynote speaker. We are very proud that this event has become such a key part of Veterans Week in Middlesex County. In addition to keynote remarks from Capt. Whitescarver and other important updates, the chamber will present the 2016 William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award to Larry Riley of Middletown. The William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award is presented annually to a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces in recognition of his or her distinguished service to the citizens of Connecticut and selfless commitment to public service. This award is chosen by a committee of its past recipients. I am very proud that Larry Riley is this year’s recipient. Larry is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He went on to have a distinguished career in the U.S. Secret Service and has a long record of supporting a number of veteran and other community service initiatives. We very much look forward to honoring our friend Larry and look forward to another great Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans event. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. I urge those who are interested in attending to sign right away as we expect this event to sell out.

Our November Business After Work Networking Reception for members and their guests will be held at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam on Wednesday, Nov. 9th. This is one of our most popular Business After Work networking receptions of the year and for good reason. We look forward to a fun evening in Haddam and will release more information on the event as we get closer.

I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent loss of Richard LeRoy Brock the age of 84. A longtime Middletown resident, Richard operated the historic Brock Dairy Farm in the city for many years. Richard served as president of the Middlesex County Farm Bureau and supported a number of other community initiatives along the way. I always enjoyed my conversations with Richard about business and other issues of importance in the city. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Lilly and their entire family at this difficult time. Richard Brock will be missed.

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