Middletown to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with celebration

January 16, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Middlesex County and throughout our great country. MLK Day is a special day, one that celebrates not only his birthday, but the huge impact that the great civil rights leader had on the United States of America. There are many celebrations around Middlesex County today that will honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. I am proud that chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall will represent our organization at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Committee of Greater Middletown event this afternoon at The Church of Holy Trinity in Middletown. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce also has a longtime and enduring partnership with the Middlesex County Chapter of the NAACP, and I am truly honored that the organization’s business award bears my name. As I do every year on MLK Day, I would like to take a moment to recognize all of those who volunteer their time in the service of others. We are all in this together, and it is in this spirit, that we honor Dr. King’s legacy.

Last week was a busy one from start to finish with a number of chamber meetings held throughout the county on a variety of important topics.

Our Automotive Council held its first meeting of the year on Tuesday night at Cantina Cafe Ristorante in Middletown. 50 chamber members and their guests packed the meeting which featured remarks and a question and answer session with Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Michael Bzdyra and Deputy Commissioner Judeen Wrinn. Both of these officials did a great job with their comments, and I thank them for attending the meeting and for their service in state government.

The chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the year was held last Wednesday evening at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. A huge crowd of over 200 chamber members attended the event which showcased all that Powder Ridge has to offer. Powder Ridge Owner and CEO Sean Hayes and his team put out a fantastic spread of food and drink and the place looked great as always. I would like to thank Sean for the hard work that he and his team put in to make this event a huge success.

The Business After Work event also served as the official kickoff for the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for this week, January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the Middlesex region. Participating restaurants are offering a pre-fixed menu to give Middlesex County’s residents and visitors the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. Each participating restaurant will offer a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). The final list of participating restaurants is as follows: Amici Italian Grill, Eli Cannon's Tap Room, El Pulpo & Tapas Bar, Esca Restaurant and Wine Bar, First and Last Tavern, Herd Restaurant, La Boca Mexican Restaurant, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill, Tavern at the Armory, and Tuscany Grill in Middletown; Baci Grill, Cromwell Pizza & Pasta, and Sheffield's Restaurant and Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell; Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant, Rossini's Italian Restaurant, The Tavern on 66, and WAVES in East Hampton; Fire at the Ridge and Ridgeside Tavern in Middlefield; Griswold Inn in Essex; Red House in Deep River; and, On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on www.middlesexchamber.com for more information and for details on the Taste of Middlesex County menu offerings. I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the work of chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who has put in a lot of time and energy into making this Taste of Middlesex County a successful initiative. Bon Appétit!

Jeff Pugliese and I had a great visit to Flo-Tech in Middletown last Thursday morning. Flo-Tech, a company that specializes in printing, imaging and document driven processes, is led by CEO and Founder Leo Bonetti. Jeff and I had a very productive discussion with Leo and Flo Tech’s VP of Manufacturing & Engineering Pete Massaro which touched on the company’s high quality products and the challenges that they face within the imaging industry. I thank Leo for reaching out to us and for his membership in our chamber. We certainly look forward to working with him and his team in 2017 and beyond.

On Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the Grand Opening celebration for Energy Fitness Zone in Cromwell. I was joined at the event by Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza, Cromwell Division Chairman Jay Polke, and other key local officials. We all wish Julie Cranick and her entire team nothing but great success moving forward. We are happy to welcome them to the Middlesex business community.

The first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting of the year is scheduled for this Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Our keynote speaker, and recipient of our 2017 Role Model Award, is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. Rich is a Massachusetts native who has Connecticut ties through his brother Larry who lives in Durham. Before his time out west in LA, Rich had major league stops with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, LA Angels, New York Yankees, and Oakland Athletics. He has had a long and interesting career so far, and he just signed a three year deal to remain in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. We look forward to welcoming Rich who will touch on what life is like as a pitcher in the big leagues, and some of the challenges he has endured and overcome along the way. Rich will also share some the causes and issues that are important to him off the field. We look forward to another chamber Role Model Breakfast Meeting, and thank our friends at Webster Bank for sponsoring and for the bank’s longtime support of our chamber.

This Wednesday, the chamber will host a special luncheon of appreciation for the Middletown Motorcycle Mania and Cruise Night on Main Planning Committees at First and Last Tavern. Tony Scacca and his team will host the event and will provide a delicious First and Last spread for our group. The 20thAnnual Cruise Night On Main is scheduled for June 14, and the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is scheduled for August 9. The chamber very much appreciates the efforts of the Cruise Night on Main Planning Committee, led by Chairman Foster Charles, and the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco. We look forward to both of these major events in downtown Middletown later on in 2017.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is once again offering 21st Century Advanced Office Training Programs. These programs are free to the public, are designed to provide individuals with the necessary skills to compete in today’s demanding workforce, and aim to increase productivity while at work. Classes include: Microsoft Word 101, Microsoft PowerPoint 101, Microsoft Access 101, Microsoft Publisher 101, Microsoft Excel 101, Word Press 101, Intermediate Excel, Basic Grant Writing, Career/Personal Coaching, Mastering Microsoft Word, Social Media, and Tools to Land your Dream Job. An orientation session for the free 21st Century Advanced Office Training Programs will be held this Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 3:30 p.m. at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, 393 Main St. Those who are interested can contact chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall at 860-347-6924 or lorenzo@middlesexchamber.com.

The chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its January meeting this Thursday at the Middletown Elks Lodge. In addition to reports from chamber committee chairs and key chamber staff, the meeting will feature remarks from CT. Department of Labor Commissioner Scott Jackson. The chamber is proud of its many workforce development initiatives, and we look forward to welcoming Commissioner Jackson as we collectively work to be a bridge between job seekers and employers in our state.

The Advisory Committee for the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) has changed the date of their January meeting from Friday, January 27 to Monday, January 23. MCSAAC, a council of the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County, works to reduce the incidence of alcohol and other drug abuse in our region. Director Betsey Chadwick and her team continue to do great work on these important issues.

The chamber’s Legislative Committee has been hard at work preparing our organization’s 2017 Public Policy Agenda and planning our 2017 legislative events. Our 2017 Legislative Breakfast will take place on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. This event, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. The Legislative Breakfast represents a great opportunity, on an annual basis, for our members to network with these important elected leaders. The chamber remains committed to promoting a positive business climate in Middlesex County, and we will certainly stay engaged with our Middlesex County delegation and with legislative leadership throughout this important session.

Finally, I want to close this week’s column by acknowledging the passing of a great friend and mentor of mine, Wally Camp. I will have much more on Wally’s passing in next week’s column, but I ask that everyone keep him and his family in their thoughts and prayers in the coming days and weeks. Wally Camp will be missed.

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