On the Move with Larry McHugh


Larry McHugh, President of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce writes the weekly column "On The Move," published in The Middletown Press. The column focuses on the business community and the economic environment in Middlesex County. Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce events and grand openings are a regular feature of the column.

Manufacturers’ Council to meet at Pegasus this week

February 20, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

It’s another busy week in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

There are a few important chamber committee and division meetings scheduled for this week. Our Manufacturers’ Council will hold its first meeting of 2017 on Tuesday morning at Pegasus Manufacturing in Middletown. The meeting will feature a discussion on the many incentives and programs that are available to manufacturers in the state, along with an update on the legislative session that is underway in Hartford. Council Chairman Chris DiPentima, who is president of Pegasus, will lead the group on a tour of their terrific facility. The Manufacturers Council is planning additional meetings in the next few months, and it will continue to support this critical industry sector.

On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce at the Bushnell in Hartford. We will be joined at the meeting by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal to discuss important business related issues. I am sure that Tuesday’s meeting will be a productive session with the senator and my chamber colleagues.

The chamber’s Golf Committee will meet at Luce in Middletown on Tuesday night. 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.

Thursday morning includes the February meeting of our East Haddam & Haddam Division. The meeting, co-hosted by Fireworks Hearth & Home and Alan’s Small Engine Service in Haddam, will feature updates from the two towns, chamber information including upcoming events and activities, and a presentation from the chamber’s Affordable Housing Committee. Our Westbrook Division will meet next Tuesday, the 28th, at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa. Our division chairs continue to be our eyes and ears in member towns. We appreciate their strong and continued support.

Friday’s Member Breakfast Meeting, featuring United States Senator Richard Blumenthal, will be held at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. Networking begins at 7 a.m., Breakfast Buffet opens at 7:45 a.m., and the Meeting Program runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Sen. Blumenthal has some important committee assignments down in Washington D.C., including Veterans Affairs, Judiciary, Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Armed Services. We look forward to welcoming him back to Middlesex County for his remarks. I would like to again thank Hospital for Special Care for sponsoring the event and for their continuing support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Hospital for Special Care is a fantastic hospital, and their team continues to do terrific work addressing the special health needs of the many communities they serve. I know that President and CEO Lynn Ricci looks forward to introducing the senator, and we look forward to another great event.

Immediately following the breakfast meeting, the chamber will host an economic development session in partnership with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. The CTSBDC provides no-cost advising services to both prospective and existing business owners to help them start or expand their business. This session will feature a presentation from James Jackson, Business Advisor for Middlesex County, on CTSBDC’s services that are available in our region, and from Joe Ercolano, statewide Associate Director, on business resilience and disruption planning. We value our strong partnership with CTSBDC and look forward to a productive session on Friday morning.

2017’s Legislative Event Series continues on Monday, February 27, 2017, at the Inn at Middletown. The meeting begins at 8 a.m., and will end at 9:30 a.m. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz will serve as keynote speaker and will participate in a question and answer session. At this special meeting, Speaker Aresimowicz will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. This event is sponsored by our friends at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. We thank UKS, especially chamber Executive Committee member and Legislative Committee Co-Chair Rich Carella, for their strong and continued support of this event.

The chamber’s next Business After Work networking reception will be held Monday, Feb. 27 at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. In addition to a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests, this event will feature outstanding networking and will provide our friends at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel with the opportunity to showcase their terrific facility. I want to thank General Manager Lori Brooks, Director of Group Sales and Business Travel Gina Molde, Director of Sales Jamie O’Connor, Director of Catering Jen Gokey, and the entire team for hosting our group. We look forward to this great networking event on Feb. 27.

Members should save the date of March 13 for our member breakfast meeting with UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma, which will be a sold-out event. Coach Auriemma always does a terrific job with his remarks, and I know that our members are excited for this year’s visit which will take place right before the start of the NCAA Tournament. I would like to acknowledge the support of event sponsor MiddleOak, especially CEO Gary Vallo who sits on our Executive Committee and is a terrific chamber supporter. This breakfast event will be followed by a Small Business Lending Forum and Mini Expo featuring representatives of bank, non-bank and community lenders. The Lending Forum and Mini Expo runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and consists of two parts: a one-hour moderated panel discussion followed by a 90-minute mini expo of tabletop displays representing bank, non-bank and community lending sources available to small businesses in Connecticut.  The event is free for small business attendees.

I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the passing of J.J.Vinci at the remarkable age of 104. J.J. was a class act and true gentleman. He had a remarkable business career which included the founding of a number of different companies in the energy and real estate industries. His early professional career included driving trucks that carried supplies for the Arrigoni Bridge and Merritt Parkway among many other projects. In 1934, J.J. formed the J.J. Vinci Coal Company. This successful company helped support the war effort in World War II by supplying energy supplies to critical industrial facilities. Amazingly, J.J. recently celebrated his 82nd year in business. It was just last November that Connecticut’s Commissioner of Consumer Protection visited the Vinci Oil facility to present J.J. with a proclamation from Governor Malloy to honor the fact that he was continuing to attend the necessary classes to keep all of his licenses current and in compliance with state regulations. In fact, J.J. was officially dedicated as “The Dean of Occupational License Holders” by the Department of Consumer Protection, and Mayor Dan Drew was also on hand that day to present J.J. with a key to the city of Middletown. I am glad that we had the opportunity to spend some time with J.J. on that fun day. In addition to his business skills, J.J. was also a terrific corporate citizen. He supported countless charities, service clubs and other organizations, including the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce where he was a longtime member. He was a founder and the first president of the Italian American Civic Order, a board member of the Connecticut Association of Street & Highway Officials (CASHO), United States Small Business Administration, New England Association of Chiefs of Police, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, National Association of State Fire Marshals, and Connecticut Fire Marshals Association among others. He also served in an advisory role to Liberty Bank’s Board of Directors for many years. J.J was an inspiration to all of us, and a role model on how a business should conduct itself as part of a larger community. He was a patriot who loved his city and loved his country. He was a great man who lived a long and full life, and he lived it well. Our thoughts and prayers are with his children, Joseph J. Vinci, Jr., Robert F. Vinci and Rosemarie Vinci, his grandson Michael Turner and his wife Mary J. Turner, his three great-grandchildren, and his entire network of family and friends. J.J. Vinci will be missed.

Social media marketing class set for Tuesday

February 13, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Despite the snowy and cold winter weather, the chamber calendar continues to be filled with events and activities.

The second session of KeyBank’s 2017 Workshop Series is scheduled for this Tuesday, Feb. 14. The workshop will explore Social Media Marketing and will be presented by Patrick Ganino. Patrick will focus on making social media work for your business and will share information on best practices for a posting schedule, proper posting techniques, effective e-blasts and effective Facebook ads. Please contact the chamber for registration information and keep an eye out for future sessions of the KeyBank Seminar Series. I want to 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 Connecticut Tourism Advisory Council meeting that is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Hartford. Tourism is a major economic generator in Middlesex County and throughout our great state. The meeting on Tuesday will continue the important discussions about how tourism marketing and promotion will be administered in this challenging budgetary environment.

Two exciting grand opening celebrations are scheduled for Wednesday in Middletown. Dutch Point Credit Union will celebrate its newest branch on Wednesday morning in Middlesex Corporate Center at 213 Court Street. DPCU aims to improve members' financial well-being through financial solutions and education. I look forward to attending the grand opening event with Mayor Dan Drew and other community leaders. We wish Dutch Point well as they establish their presence in Middletown. Fino’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Newfield Street in Middletown will host their event on Wednesday afternoon. I would like to congratulate owner Alex Cecunjanin and his team for opening this terrific new dining establishment. Alex and his family already do great work at Red Fox Restaurant in Middletown, and I look forward to joining Mayor Drew, Middletown Small Business Development Center Counselor Paul Dodge and other leaders to celebrate the opening of Fino’s. We wish them the best and thank them for their commitment to Middletown.

The Distinguished Citizen Committee will meet this Wednesday at Noon to select the recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award. Each year at the chamber’s Annual Dinner, a special award is presented to one or more members of the business community who have demonstrated outstanding and unselfish service to the community. Candidates must live or work in Middlesex County, must be at least 21 years old, must be recognized as having been an inspiration to others,  and must be generally recognized as having unselfishly given his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. The committee is comprised of previous recipients of this award. I look forward to seeing them all and thank them for their continued service to our community.

A busy week continues on Thursday morning as the Executive Committee for Workforce Alliance meets in New Haven. Workforce Alliance, under the leadership of Bill Villano, strives to deliver employment solutions that connect people with jobs or training, and employers with skilled workers in South Central CT. The chamber enjoys a strong and longstanding partnership with Workforce Alliance on a number of workforce development fronts.

Our Board of Directors’ February Luncheon, sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, will be held on Thursday afternoon at Baci Grill in Cromwell. The chamber board is truly representative of the business community in Middlesex County. We have members from all industry sectors and from all towns in our region. I know they all look forward to another productive meeting and I continue to appreciate their support. I also want to thank Pratt & Whitney for sponsoring the luncheon and for their ongoing support of our chamber.

Goodspeed Musicals’ Board of Directors meets on Saturday morning in East Haddam. The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam and The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester continue to be very important tourist attractions in our region. I am honored to serve on the board for Goodspeed Musicals and I look forward to another good meeting this weekend.

February’s Member Breakfast Meeting, featuring United States Senator Richard Blumenthal will be held on Friday, February 24, at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. Networking begins at 7 a.m., Breakfast Buffet opens at 7:45 a.m., and the Meeting Program runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Sen. Blumenthal has some important committee assignments down in Washington D.C., including Veterans Affairs, Judiciary, Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Armed Services. We look forward to welcoming him back to Middlesex County for this important event. I would like to thank Hospital for Special Care for sponsoring the event and for their continuing support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Hospital for Special Care is a fantastic hospital, and their team continues to do terrific work addressing the special health needs of the many communities they serve. We look forward to another successful chamber Member Breakfast Meeting on Feb. 24. 

Immediately following the breakfast meeting, the chamber will host an economic development session in partnership with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. The CTSBDC provides no-cost advising services to both prospective and existing business owners to help them start or expand their business. This session will feature a presentation from James Jackson, Business Advisor for Middlesex County, on CTSBDC’s services that are available in our region, and from Joe Ercolano, statewide Associate Director, on business resilience and disruption planning. We value our strong partnership with CTSBDC and look forward to a productive session on Feb. 24. 

2017’s Legislative Event Series continues on Monday, February 27, 2017 at the Inn at Middletown. The meeting begins at 8 a.m., and will end at 9:30 a.m. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz will serve as keynote speaker and will participate in a question and answer session. At this special meeting, Speaker Aresimowicz will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. This event is sponsored by our friends at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. We thank UKS, especially chamber Executive Committee member and Legislative Committee Co-Chair Rich Carella, for its strong and continued support of this event. 

The next Business After Work networking reception will be held Monday, Feb. 27 at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. In addition to a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests, this event will feature outstanding networking and will provide our friends at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel with the opportunity to showcase their terrific facility. I want to thank General Manager Lori Brooks, Director of Group Sales and Business Travel Gina Molde, Director of Sales Jamie O’Connor, Director of Catering Jen Gokey, and the entire team for hosting our group. We look forward to this great networking event on Feb. 27.

Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) is offering several two-part workshops to prepare the community for the possibility that a bill to legalize marijuana will come before state legislators this spring. The workshops will be held at the Middlesex YMCA in Middletown and at the Valley Shore YMCA in Westbrook. The first workshop offers participants the latest news on marijuana and its impact on youth, health, and society. In the second workshop, participants will write and practice giving their three-minute testimonies to several volunteer legislators. The Middlesex YMCA will hold the first workshop on February 22 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with the second workshop to be held March 2 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Valley Shore YMCA will hold the first workshop on March 8 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with the second workshop to be on March 15 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. We thank MCSAAC under the leadership of President Tony Salvatore and Director Betsey Chadwick for focusing on this critical issue.

We are in the heart of winter, but the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.

Middlesex County Substance Abuse Council to target opioid epidemic, legalizing pot

February 6, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

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

A number of important chamber committee and division meetings will take place this week throughout Middlesex County. The chamber’s Executive Committee will meet on Monday at the chamber office from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Our Executive Committee, led by Chairman Greg Shook and comprised of business leaders from key industry sectors throughout Middlesex County, is the chamber’s top governing body. I continue to appreciate the dedication of all its members to our chamber and to our region. We look forward to another productive meeting.

Our Women’s Business Alliance and Real Estate Council will co-host a joint networking event called Create with Clay on Wednesday evening, Feb. 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Creative Girl Studios in Middletown. Members will have the opportunity to create clay pins or pendants as Laurie-Lynn Zlotowski of Creative Girls Studio helps every step of the way. All materials will be included. Refreshments and snacks will be provided and members can bring their own beer or wine if they wish. Register online at www.middlesexchamber.com. The cost to attend is $30.

Chamber divisions continue to be critical pieces of the overall chamber infrastructure and I thank all of our chairs and co-chairs for their leadership and support. Durham and Middlefield Divisions meet on Wednesday morning at A Second Chance CPR and First Aid Training in Durham, and our Cromwell Division meets on Thursday morning at Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. Both of these meetings will feature a number of reports from key local officials along with an update on the legislative session that is underway in Hartford.

Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council’s Executive Committee meets at the chamber office on Friday morning, Feb. 10. 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. This meeting will focus on the recent movement in our state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the massive and continuing threat posed by opioids in our community. MCSAAC, under the leadership of President Tony Salvatore and Director Betsey Chadwick, will continue to focus on these critical issues and many other substance abuse related issues affecting our region.

KeyBank’s Workshop Series continues next Tuesday, Feb. 14, with a session on Social Media Marketing presented by Patrick Ganino. This seminar will focus on making social media work for your business, and will include information on best practices for a posting schedule, proper posting techniques, effective e-blasts and effective Facebook ads. Please contact the chamber for registration information and keep an eye out for future sessions of the KeyBank Seminar Series. I want to again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this important initiative.

February’s Member Breakfast Meeting, featuring United States Senator Richard Blumenthal will be held on Friday, February 24, at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. Networking begins at 7 a.m., Breakfast Buffet opens at 7:45 a.m., and the Meeting Program runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Sen. Blumenthal has some important committee assignments down in Washington D.C., including Veterans Affairs, Judiciary, Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Armed Services. We look forward to welcoming him back to Middlesex County for this important event. I would like to thank Hospital for Special Care for sponsoring the event and for their continuing support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Hospital for Special Care is a fantastic hospital, and their team continues to do terrific work addressing the special health needs of the many communities they serve. We look forward to another successful chamber Member Breakfast Meeting on Feb. 24.

Immediately following the breakfast meeting, the chamber will host an economic development session in partnership with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. The CTSBDC provides no-cost advising services to both prospective and existing business owners to help them start or expand their business. This session will feature a presentation from James Jackson, Business Advisor for Middlesex County, on CTSBDC’s services that are available in our region, and from Joe Ercolano, statewide Associate Director, on business resilience and disruption planning. We value our strong partnership with CTSBDC, and look forward to a productive session on Feb. 24.

2017’s Legislative Event Series continues on Monday, February 27, 2017 at the Inn at Middletown. The meeting begins at 8 a.m., and will end at 9:30 a.m. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz will serve as keynote speaker and will participate in a question and answer session. At this special meeting, Speaker Aresimowicz will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. This event is sponsored by our friends at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. We thank UKS, especially chamber Executive Committee member and Legislative Committee Co-Chair Rich Carella, for its strong and continued support of this event.

The next Business After Work networking reception will be held Monday, Feb. 27 at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill. In addition to a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests, this event will feature outstanding networking and will provide our friends at the Sheraton Hartford South with the opportunity to showcase their terrific facility. I want to thank General Manager Lori Brooks, Director of Group Sales and Business Travel Gina Molde, Director of Sales Jamie O’Connor, Director of Catering Jen Gokey, and the entire team for hosting our group. We look forward to this great networking event on Feb. 27.

Mark your calendars for a few key dates in March which is shaping up to be another busy month. Members should save the dates of March 13, for our Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma which will be a sold out event. This breakfast event will be followed by a Small Business Lending Forum and Mini Expo featuring representatives of bank, non-bank and community lenders. Members should also save the date for March 28 which is the Annual Business After Work Auction and Taste of Downtown Event at the Italian Society Hall. Both of these events are extremely popular, so please stay tuned for additional details and be sure to save the dates.

I want to close this week’s column by noting that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is still accepting nominations for the 2017 Distinguished Citizen Awards. Each year at the chamber’s Annual Dinner, a special award is presented to one or more members of the business community who have demonstrated outstanding and unselfish service to the community. Candidates must live or work in Middlesex County, must be at least 21 years old, must be recognized as having been an inspiration to others,  and must be generally recognized as having unselfishly given his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. Nominations must be received by the Chamber of Commerce at 393 Main St, Middletown on or before this Friday, February 10, 2017.

It may be cold outside, but the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.

3 important Middlesex County business meetings lie ahead

January 30, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

A busy January wraps up this week and the chamber team is on the move as the month of February begins.

Last Monday morning, chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese and Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall attended an event at the Middletown Elks Lodge hosted by United States Senator Chris Murphy. Sen. Murphy has been visiting Connecticut manufacturing facilities throughout the past year, and this event celebrated his 100th visit and the overall importance of manufacturing to Connecticut’s economy. I applaud the senator for his efforts in this area and appreciate his support of many of our members in this critical industry sector.

Jeff and Lorenzo also attended Middlesex United Way’s Annual Meeting on Thursday morning in Haddam. I want to again congratulate the fine community individuals that were honored at the event, 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, along with Kevin Wilhelm and his team for another successful event.

The chamber’s 2017 Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, was held last Friday morning at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. It was a terrific session and I want to thank the legislators who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the event. They are: Senators Paul Doyle, Paul Formica, Len Suzio, and Art Linares, and State Reps. Devin Carney, Christie Carpino, Joe Serra, Melissa Ziobron, Bob Siegrist, Buddy Altobello, and Matt Lesser. The event featured a good discussion between our members and these elected leaders on important topics such as the state budget, transportation, energy, tourism and environmental policy. I also want to thank Comcast for sponsoring the event. Vice President of State Government Affairs Rob Earley did a fine job with his remarks on behalf of the company, and our Legislative Committee co-chairs, Rich Carella and Maureen Westbrook, did an outstanding job as moderators. The chamber has some additional legislative events coming up, including a meeting with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz on February 27, and Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano on March 20. We are also in the process of scheduling meetings with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides. We will continue to stay engaged throughout this important legislative session.

I would like to take a moment to congratulate Roto Frank North America for receiving the 2016 Customer Value Champion award from the International Roto Group. The prestigious award was presented by Dr. Eckhard Keill, CEO and chair for Roto Frank AG, at the January Roto Group Leadership Conference held in Munich, Germany. The Customer Value Champion award measures the long term performance and development of a company in the marketplace, based on an independently performed customer value analysis. Roto Frank North America President and CEO Chris Dimou is a member of our Board of Directors and is a terrific corporate leader and citizen.

February will be off to a fast start this week with three important chamber division meetings throughout Middlesex County. Our Portland & East Hampton Division meets on Wednesday morning at Portland Library. This meeting will feature an Economic Development Update for the town of East Hampton along with other local and legislative updates. Our Central Business Bureau meets on Thursday morning at the chamber office. This meeting, hosted by Middlesex Community College, will feature updates from Mayor Dan Drew and many of the city’s key department directors. On Friday, the Chester, Deep River, Essex Division will hold their February meeting at Essex Savings Bank in Essex. Lt. Eric Peck, Commander, Troop F, Westbrook, State Police will be in attendance. Our divisions continue to play a critical role in the chamber’s success.

The chamber’s February Member Breakfast Meeting, featuring United States Senator Richard Blumenthal, will be held on Friday, February 24, at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. Networking begins at 7:00 a.m., Breakfast Buffet opens at 7:45 a.m., and the Meeting Program runs from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Senator Blumenthal has some important committee assignments down in Washington D.C. including Veterans Affairs, Judiciary, Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Armed Services. We look forward to welcoming him back to Middlesex County. I would like to thank Hospital for Special Care for sponsoring the event and for their continuing support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. HSC is a fantastic hospital, and it continues to do terrific work addressing the special health needs of the many communities they serve. We look forward to another successful chamber Member Breakfast Meeting on Feb. 24.

The chamber’s next Business After Work networking reception will be held Monday, Feb. 27 at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill. In addition to a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests, this event will feature outstanding networking and will provide our friends at the Sheraton Hartford South with the opportunity to showcase their terrific facility. I want to thank General Manager Lori Brooks, Director of Group Sales and Business Travel Gina Molde, Director of Sales Jamie O’Connor, Director of Catering Jen Gokey, and the entire team for hosting our group. We look forward to this great networking event on Feb. 27.

I want to close this week’s column by acknowledging the loss of a friend, mentor and a fantastic man, Brother James Michael Boyle, C.F.X. of the Xaverian Brothers Community at Xavier High School. Brother James’ life was spent helping hundreds of young men. He was an educational leader who truly cared, and he definitely made a positive difference in our region. He was Assistant Principal at Xavier High School in Middletown from 1967 to 1974, and Principal from 1976 to 1982. After his return to Xavier High School in 1995, he served at times as an Administrative Assistant and Director of the Brothers Community until his retirement. The funeral service held last Friday at St. Pius X Church in Middletown was a true celebration of this truly caring man. He was a man of deep faith and was always committed to helping others. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family, the Xaverian Brothers Community, and his vast network of friends at this difficult time. Brother James Boyle will be missed.

James F. “Jim” Murray, a longtime fixture in the city of Middletown, also passed away last Monday. Jim was a veteran of the United States Army and retired from Pratt & Whitney after a 30 year career with the company. More recently, Jim did a terrific job as a Main Street guide for the Downtown Business District where he worked out of the chamber office. He got to know the downtown businesspeople on a personal level, and was always willing to offer a helping hand. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s daughters, Lisa and Sheryl, his brothers Richard and Dennis, his sister Eileen, his four grandchildren, and his entire network of family and friends. Jim Murray was a good man, he was Irish to the core, and he will be missed. 

Both of these men lived full lives and they were both admired by many people. May their families find comfort in this fact, and may they rest in peace.

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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