Legislators breakfast to offer preview of General Assembly’s new session

January 23, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

January is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Another busy week kicks off with Monday’s meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) at the chamber office. 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. The work of Director Betsey Chadwick and her team is more important than ever considering the massive threat posed by opioids in our community and in communities across the country. MCSAAC will continue to focus on this critical issue and many other substance abuse related issues affecting our region. The chamber’s Westbrook Division meets on Tuesday morning at Oxford Academy. In addition to a chamber report and a report from Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop, the meeting will feature updates from Town Planner Meg Parulis on some of the key economic development activity in town, and Town Building Official David Maiden on the new on-line permitting system being implemented locally. We look forward to another productive meeting in this key chamber member shoreline town.

I also look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from the eight metro chambers of commerce from throughout the state, at a lunch meeting on Tuesday, at the Baci Grill in Cromwell. The eight metro chambers: Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Metro Hartford Alliance, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, Business Council of the Fairfield County, and the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, collectively represent over 10,000 businesses from throughout the state and from every industry sector. We work together on many important issues including representing our chambers and the business community in our dealings with the Malloy Administration and the General Assembly. We will be joined at the meeting by Electric Boat’s Vice President of Human Resources Maura Dunn who will update our group on the hiring plans for this vital Connecticut company. I am sure that Tuesday’s meeting will be another productive session, and I look forward to welcoming my chamber colleagues to Cromwell.

On Tuesday night, the chamber’s Golf Committee will hold its first meeting of 2017 which will mark the official start of planning for our 34th Annual Golf Tournament which is scheduled for Friday, May 5, 2017. The weather may be cold right now, but our Golf Committee is busy planning for what is always a sold out, and outstanding event.

Middlesex United Way’s Annual Meeting will be held Thursday morning at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. Jeff Pugliese and I will attend to help support the event and the morning’s honorees which include: David Director- Community Service Award, The Coalition on Housing and Homelessness- Community Impact Award, Joe Santaniello- Community Leadership Award, and The Community Foundation of Middlesex County- Tocqueville Society Philanthropy Award. The United Way continues to do good work in our region under the leadership of President and CEO Kevin Wilhelm and his team. We look forward to a great event in Haddam on Thursday morning.

Later in the morning on Thursday, I will join Mayor Dan Drew on a visit to the property which will eventually become the new FedEx Ground Distribution Center on Middle Street in Middletown. The chamber has supported this major economic development initiative for Middletown and for our region since the very beginning. The FedEx project will create over 400 permanent jobs, hundreds of part-time positions, and has already created a number of important construction jobs. As I have noted in the past, this is a big deal for the City of Middletown and for the State of Connecticut. FedEx is a globally renowned and successful company and we look forward to having them as an important part of the local business community.

The 24th annual Middletown Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner will be held this Thursday evening at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. I want to take a moment to congratulate the following individuals and teams who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Thursday evening: Jeff Bagwell, Tina Cienava Clemmey, Dave Daniels, Joe Jaskot, John Geary, Herb Kenny, Sharon Jackson Locke, Ted Lombardo, Bill Post, Billy Sbona, Michael Shapiro, Tyrone Speller, Lou Vargas, Joel P. Wysocki, the 1994 Mercy High School Softball Team and the 1982 Middletown American Legion Baseball Team. All of these fine individuals and teams deserve this high honor, and I look forward to celebrating their achievements at the induction dinner. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the fine work of the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors and its President, Tom Serra.  

As I noted last week, the chamber’s Legislative Committee has been hard at work on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda which among things, urges lawmakers to pursue legislation that encourages Connecticut businesses to invest and grow opportunities for good, well-paying jobs. The chamber’s 2017 Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast and featuring members of the Middlesex County legislative delegation, will be held this Friday, Jan. 27 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. The following members of the General Assembly have been invited to attend the event: Senators Paul Doyle, Ted Kennedy Jr., Len Suzio, Art Linares, and Len Fasano, and State Reps. Devin Carney, Christie Carpino, Joe Serra, Melissa Ziobron, Jesse MacLachlan, Bob Siegrist, Buddy Altobello, Vin Candelora, Matt Lesser, and Noreen Kokoruda. The chamber’s Legislative Breakfast represents a great opportunity for our members to network with these important elected leaders who represent our region. The chamber remains committed to promoting a positive business climate in Middlesex County, and we will certainly stay engaged with our delegation and with legislative leadership throughout this session.

I want to take a moment to thank all of the restaurants that participated in last week’s "Taste of Middlesex County", brought to you by Comcast Business. The following terrific local eateries: 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, all offered a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 all of last week. For the second year in a row, it was a great success. I also want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County, and Johanna Bond who put in a lot of time and energy into making this initiative a success.

I must end this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of my friend, Walter “Wally” Camp, and the recent passing of a strong and longtime chamber member, Charles Joseph “Joe” Seiferman.

Wally Camp was a legendary coach and athletic director in the Town of Durham. He left a lasting impression on the thousands of student athletes that went through Durham High School and later, Coginchaug Regional High School. He coached soccer, basketball, and baseball, and initiated the first girls’ softball team at Durham High all while teaching physical education at the school. His teams racked up an amazing 508 wins, and I know he was honored to coach 12 All-State players over the course of his tenure. I am forever grateful to Wally for welcoming me to Durham High School as a teacher many years ago. My experience at Durham High led me down the path to coaching at Xavier High School, and eventually to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Wally Camp was a special man, and he will be missed by many. We must also acknowledge that he served two years in the U.S. Army, and we certainly appreciate that service. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Judy, his daughter Jeanne, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time.

Joe Seiferman was a longtime resident and huge supporter of the Town of Portland and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. He served as a navigator with the Marine Air Corp in the Pacific during World War II. He was the owner and operator of the Riverdale Motel in Portland and he also served the town for 36 years as Water Superintendent and as Director of Public Works. He supported the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce in a variety of ways including as chairman of our Portland Division, and as a host of many chamber events, meetings and activities.  Joe Seiferman was a good man, a family man, and we appreciate his longtime service to our region and to our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with his son Thomas, his daughters Sister Miriam Seiferman and Rita Leo, four grandchildren, six great- grandchildren, and a large network of family and friends. Joe Seiferman will be missed by many.

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