Side Street to Main Street minority business owner training marks 20 years

March 20, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

The 20th Graduation Awards Ceremony for the award winning Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program is scheduled for Tuesday evening at the chamber office in Middletown. This important event will officially bring the graduate total to 248 since the inception of this groundbreaking initiative in 1997.  At the urging of the local branch of the NAACP, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce created the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program and sought the financial support of Aetna, Inc., which has funded the program ever since. Side Street to Main Street is a one year long entrepreneurial and business development course with a rigorous curriculum, designed to assist minority small business owners in the community who have not had formal business training. Beginning with 16 facilitated, interactive three to four hour weekly work sessions, and two hours of outside reading and written homework, the program is designed to build skills, explore the true entrepreneurial interests of each person. The program assists its participants in the production of a formal, compelling and operational version of their business and financial plans. Quarterly follow-up sessions reinforce the process so that participants meet with their expert business facilitators over the course of one full year. This program has been, and continues to be, an effective way in which we have encouraged the development of small, minority-owned businesses which are now part of the central fabric of the Middlesex County business community. I would like to take a moment to thank a few individuals who are critical to the success of this program: Jim Jackson, President of The Essex Group who serves as facilitator of the program, and Jennifer De Kine, chamber Staff Liaison to the Side Street to Main Street Program who does a terrific job supporting the work of program participants. Finally, we have to thank the program sponsor, Aetna, Inc., for its outstanding support of the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini, Senior Director of Corporate Community Investments Chris Montross, and Vice President of Community Relations & Urban Marketing Floyd W. Green III have all been supportive of this initiative. Aetna is an outstanding corporate citizen in our region and throughout the nation. I am proud of the work that this program is doing for our local business community, and it would not be possible without the support of Aetna. On to Class 21!

The 2017 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Event Series continues Monday, March 20, when we welcome Sen. Len Fasano to a special event at the Courtyard by Marriott. Sen. Fasano is now the Senate Republican President Pro Tempore, and he will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. I want to once again thank The Connecticut Water Company for sponsoring the event and especially Maureen Westbrook, who serves on our Executive Committee and as co-chair of our Legislative Committee. We look forward to the event with Sen. Fasano and also look forward to meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff on April 10, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides on April 25. These meetings follow a successful Legislative Breakfast with our delegation in late January, and an event with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz in late February. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay very engaged throughout this important session of the General Assembly.

Due to last week’s blizzard, the March session of the chamber’s KeyBank Seminar Series was postponed to this Tuesday morning. This session, beginning at 8 a.m., will focus on Time Management and will be led by Jim Jackson of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. Attendees will learn practical techniques that they can use immediately to gain control over their day. The program will also cover planning and prioritizing more effectively while managing interruptions and distractions. The content will assist our members both personally and professionally. Please contact the chamber for registration information and keep an eye out for future sessions of the KeyBank Seminar Series. We again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this important initiative.

I look forward to attending the grand opening of The Ädelbrook Bark-ery on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. The Ädelbrook Bark-ery is an educational venture of the Ädelbrook Transitional Academy. Located at Riverview Center in Middletown, the Bark-ery is designed to assist post-secondary students by helping them develop the skills needed to transition into the work force and adulthood. We look forward to supporting this important community initiative.

Two important chamber committees will meet on Wednesday of this week, the Nominating Committee and the Golf Committee. The Nominating Committee, which reviews and recommends nominations for officers of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and its Board of Directors, will meet at Noon in the chamber conference room. The Golf Committee will meet at 5 p.m. at Luce Restaurant in Middletown. The group will continue its planning for our 34th Annual Golf Tournament which is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at Portland Golf Course. The chamber Golf Tournament is always a sold-out and outstanding event, and we look forward to sun shining on Portland in early May.

Our Auction Committee continues to plan for the 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown to be held once again at the Italian Society of Middletown. This year’s event, scheduled for Tuesday, March 25, is titled Pirates of Middlesex County Swashbuckler’s Soiree. Taking place from 5 to 8 p.m., the event will feature complimentary beer, wine, soda and a specialty drink. Some highlights include the taste of downtown featuring delicious offerings from many of downtown Middletown’s outstanding restaurants, a live auction beginning at 5:45 p.m., a silent auction, a treasure chest that has keys available for purchase to unlock a surprise worth more than $200, a drawing for a movie viewing at Metro Movies 12 and much more. I will have more to share in next week’s column, but members should certainly save the date of March 28.

Looking ahead, the month of April is also expected to be a very busy month. Members should save the dates of April 20 for another fantastic Business After Work, hosted by Lady Katherine Cruises docked at Harbor Park,  April 24, which is a Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Congressman Joe Courtney sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, and April 27 which is the Annual High School Career Fair Expo at the Freeman Athletic Center at Wesleyan University. More information on these events is forthcoming, but planning is underway.

I would like to take a moment to reiterate my support for the nomination of Joseph Samolis to serve as Middletown’s new Director of Planning, Conversation and Development. I have had the privilege of working with Joe Samolis on a number of important economic issues over the past few years. He has always been accessible and responsive to questions and input from a number of different constituent groups, and has conducted himself in a sincere and professional manner at all times. He is intelligent, dedicated and hard working. I am confident that Joe Samolis will do a great job as the new director of this important department. Chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese attended the city’s General Counsel Commission meeting on March 9 where he read a statement of support on my behalf and offered some of his own thoughts on Joe. We look forward to working with him and his team as we continue to move Middletown forward in tough economic times.

Our chamber is very excited about the recent announcement that Grown, a restaurant featuring 100 percent organic offerings, will open in Middletown as part of the R.J. Julia and Wesleyan University Bookstore development. Grown was started by Ray and Shannon Allen. I have known Shannon Allen and her family for many years, and have gotten to know Ray through our mutual connection to UConn. We were honored to present Ray with the chamber’s Role Model Award in 2007. This is a family that gets it. All reports from their establishment in Florida describe the food and service as outstanding, and Shannon and Ray as great business people and strong corporate citizens. This news adds to the major excitement that RJ Julia Booksellers and Wesleyan University are bringing to downtown Middletown. It is a terrific development for our city, our county and our state.

This is just one example of the outstanding economic development activity happening in Middletown and throughout Middlesex County. 2017 looks like it is going to be a really strong and productive year for our region. The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

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