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.

County welcomes Italian bakery, auto repair shop, cellphone firm

May 22, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

As the summer fast approaches in Middlesex County, the economic activity continues to heat up along with the weather.

I attended three exciting grand opening celebrations late this past week at various locations throughout the county. Anna’s Café on Main Street in Centerbrook held its event on Thursday afternoon. Anna's Café, dedicated to producing authentic Italian cannoli products, recently spun off of the Cannolis On The Run Food Truck. I was happy to join Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman to officially welcome Fran D’Urso and the entire team at Anna’s Café to the Middlesex business community. On Friday afternoon, I joined Middletown Councilman Tom Serra and other city leaders to officially welcome Jesse Clemonts and the team at Cricket Wireless to the fold. Cricket Wireless is located on Main Street in Middletown, and we are happy to have them as part of the important Central Business District. Finally, on Saturday morning, I joined Haddam First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo at the Grand Re-Opening of New Image Auto in Higganum. We certainly wish Michelle Adametz, and the entire New Image team, nothing but success as they strive to provide high quality auto repair service to the communities they serve. Attending these grand opening celebrations is one of the most rewarding aspects of leading the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. We will continue to support entrepreneurship and business development in our region.

This week once again features a number of important chamber meetings throughout the county. Our Westbrook Division will meet on Tuesday morning at the Valley Shore YMCA. Attendees will receive an update from the chamber’s Legislative Committee along with local updates from town officials and other stakeholders. The group will also take a tour of the Valley Shore YMCA facility. Our East Haddam & Haddam Division will meet on Thursday morning at Nehemiah Brainerd House B & B in Haddam. This meeting will also feature a legislative update, local updates, and a tour of the beautiful Nehemiah Brainerd House B & B. As I have noted many times, our divisions continue to play a critical role in our effort to truly keep our eyes and ears to the ground in our member towns.

While we never stray from our grassroots approach, our chamber is fortunate to be the largest freestanding chamber in the state and one of the metro chambers of commerce in Connecticut. I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from the metro chambers on Tuesday afternoon in New Haven. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state, from all industry sectors and of all sizes. These meetings always feature discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community. This particular meeting will include a discussion on the Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly which is entering its critical final stretch at the State Capitol in Hartford. I look forward to another productive meeting of this important group.

Back in Middletown, the Community Foundation of Middlesex County will celebrate 20 terrific years with an Open House and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. The event will take place at the new home of the CFMC, the historic Caleb Fuller House on Main Street in Middletown. Community Foundation of Middlesex County’s mission is to improve the quality of life for the people of the county now and in the future. President and CEO Cynthia Clegg and her team do an outstanding job of supporting a number of important community initiatives. I appreciate their longtime support of our chamber, and I look forward to attending the event on Wednesday.

Middlesex Community College continues to be an important stakeholder in Middletown and throughout our region. The school recently announced that Dr. Anna Wasescha, its president since 2011, will be leaving her post to take a new position back in her home state of Minnesota. I look forward to attending a Farewell Open House which is scheduled for this Thursday on the MxCC campus. President Wasescha has done an excellent job in her leadership role at the college, and all of us at the chamber wish her the best as she embarks on this new phase of her career.

On Friday morning, the Executive Committee for the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) will meet at the chamber office in Middletown. MCSAAC is recognized as one of thirteen public/private partnerships (Regional Action Councils) across the State of Connecticut. Established in 1991, MCSAAC is a council of the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County. Its purpose is to reduce the incidence of alcohol and other drug abuse in our region. The meeting on Friday will focus on the current budget negotiations in Hartford and how the Regional Action Councils may be affected as we move forward. I appreciate the continued good work of MCSAAC President Tony Salvatore, Director Betsey Chadwick, and the entire MCSAAC team, and I hope to see that work continue for years to come.

Looking ahead, the month of June will get off to a real fast start with a number of important events and activities. The chamber’s Annual Real Estate Luncheon is scheduled for Thursday, June 1st at Angelico’s Lake House in East Hampton. This annual event, sponsored by Liberty Bank, brings together our many active member realtors who continue to do important work in Middlesex County. The event will also feature the presentation of the 2017 Mary Ellen Klinck Real Estate Agent of the Year Award, which is presented to an agent who has made outstanding volunteer contributions to our community, while exhibiting professionalism and success in the real estate field. Mary Ellen Klinck is the former chair of the chamber’s Real Estate Council, and former chair of the chamber’s Board of Directors. She is the owner and president of Century 21 Root Agency in East Haddam and is a wonderful local individual. We look forward to another successful Real Estate Luncheon on June 1st in East Hampton. I will share additional details in next week’s chamber column.

Speaking of major events, the sold out, 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament will be held on Friday, June 2 at Portland Golf Course. I would like to take a moment to once again thank all of our sponsors and supporters, our Golf Committee which meets throughout the year, all members who donated gifts and prizes, the terrific team at Portland Golf Course, and chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who does a wonderful job with this tournament on an annual basis. We also look forward to honoring our 2017 Robert Briggs “Good Guy” Award Recipient, Lyman Farm Inc. CEO Steve Ciskowski. The Robert Briggs Good Guy Award is presented annually in recognition of contributions made to the community and also to the chamber’s Golf Tournament. Steve has done a great job in a professional capacity at Lymans, and we continue to appreciate his support of our Golf Tournament, and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. We look forward to the sun shining on Portland on June 2!

In closing, I want to once again announce that the chamber’s 2017 Annual Awards Dinner will be held on Wednesday, June 7 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We are very excited to honor four outstanding Middlesex County individuals with our 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award, William F. & Sharon K. Griffin, Kenneth W. MacCormac, and Phil Ouellette. We will also honor the recipient of the 2017 Chief Michael L. Green Award, William J. Warner of the Middletown Police Department, and the winners of the chamber’s three scholarships. Finally, the event will mark the official changeover of the chamber’s chairmanship. Essex Savings Bank President Greg Shook, who has done a wonderful job in this important leadership position, will pass the chairman’s gavel to Rick Morin of Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski. The Annual Awards Dinner gives our members and our staff the opportunity to acknowledge Greg’s great work and leadership in this past year. It is also an opportunity to honor top notch individuals, and to send a few high performing Middlesex County high school students off to college with some additional funds for tuition and books. Registration information can be found at www.middlesexchamber.com, and I ask that all members consider attending this important chamber event.

Memorial Day is almost here, the calendar is packed, and the chamber team is on the move. The sun always shines on Middlesex County!

Essex Steam Train to host this week’s Business After Work

May 15, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

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

I look forward to attending this evening’s Grand Opening celebration for HK Fitness in Higganum at 5:00 p.m. HK Fitness is a full service family owned fitness center built to serve the Haddam- Killingworth community. I look forward to joining First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo and the chamber’s Haddam Division chairman Mike Bennett as we welcome Merle Mckenzie and the entire HK Fitness team to the Middlesex business community. We certainly wish them the best moving forward.

This week features a number of other important meetings across Middlesex County and in other parts of the state.

The chamber’s Women’s Business Alliance will host a networking event at Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton on Tuesday evening. This event, titled “Networking by the Lake” will begin at 5:00 p.m. The Women’s Business Alliance (WBA) is a council of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce that provides challenges and opportunities to educate, enrich, and explore issues. It is a very active chamber council and I appreciate the commitment of the WBA Steering Committee and its entire membership.

As I have noted many times, the chamber’s divisions continue to play a critical role in our organization. The Cromwell Division, one of our most active, will hold its May meeting this Wednesday at TPC at River Highlands. Travelers Championship Sales Director Jason Soucy will make his annual appearance at this meeting to preview this year’s tournament. The 2017 Travelers Championship is scheduled for June 19–25 at TPC at River Highlands. We are so fortunate to have this major PGA Tour event in Middlesex County on an annual basis. Tournament Director Nathan Grube continues to work hard to attract a top notch player field which already includes Jason Day and Rory McIlroy and a number of other top players. Excitement is building for this year’s tournament, and the countdown is on.

Wednesday afternoon features the May meeting of Goodspeed Musicals’ Board of Directors 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. The Goodspeed Musicals team continues to attract excellent shows to these two great venues. Thoroughly Modern Millie is currently running at the Goodspeed until July 2, and Deathless, A New Musical, is running at the Terris Theatre from June 2 to July 2. I am honored to serve on the board for Goodspeed Musicals and I look forward to another productive meeting on Wednesday.

One of the key issues that the chamber focuses on a daily basis is workforce development. We believe strongly that being a bridge between job seekers and employers is a key part of our core mission. I sit on the Executive Committee for Workforce Alliance which, 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 Connecticut. The chamber enjoys a strong and longstanding partnership with Workforce Alliance on a number of workforce development fronts. I look forward to attending Workforce Alliance’s Executive Committee meeting on Thursday morning in Hamden where these important workforce focused conversations will continue.

A busy week continues on Thursday afternoon when the chamber’s Board of Directors holds its May meeting at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown. Vin Capece and his team at the hospital have hosted this meeting in the month of May for many years. We continue to appreciate the support of Vin and the entire team at the Middlesex Health System which is a major employer and critical provider of care in our region. We look forward to another constructive chamber board meeting and I want to again thank Vin for hosting our group.

Thursday evening features May’s Business After Work Networking Reception at the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat facility in Essex. The event will feature a terrific spread of food, drink and as always, the best networking around. The Valley Railroad Company, which operates the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, has been serving the lower Connecticut River Valley since 1971. Their unique facilities and programs attract visitors from all over the state and the northeast region. In fact, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is one of the top tourist attractions in Connecticut. We are very proud of the work that Kevin Dodd and the entire team is doing to make sure that Middlesex County continues to be a great place to live, work and play. I know our membership certainly looks forward to the Business After Work event on Thursday evening.

In addition to supporting our members and pursuing strategic economic development, the chamber also values mentoring and shaping the leaders of tomorrow. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Year End Celebration Picnic will be held this Friday, May 19 at the picnic grounds, Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, and I would like to thank Helene Vartelas, Chief Executive Officer of CVH, for annually hosting this picnic for the mentors and mentees of this important community program. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, initiated in 1992, is a partnership between the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Middletown Board of Education. The program provides students attending Middletown Public Schools with mentors in the community. Mentors are good listeners, and individuals who want to help young people bring out the strengths that are already there. Mentors are employees of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce member business affiliates, employees from the City of Middletown, and private individuals. I look forward to celebrating another successful year of mentoring with Program Coordinator Sylvia Webb, mentors, mentees, sponsors, supporters and friends of the program.

I want to take a moment to mention a terrific surprise retirement party which honored Phil Pessina on May 6th at Baci Grill. Phil served in the Middletown Police Department for 33 ½ years, retiring in November of 2006, and just recently retired from the Southern Connecticut State University Police Department where he served as the Deputy Chief of Police and the Incident Management Team Planning Chief. Phil also serves on the Middletown Common Council, and has been a terrific supporter of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce for many years. I enjoyed the event, congratulate him on his retirement, and thank him for his service.

With summer fast approaching, members should be prepared for a full calendar of events and activities taking place throughout Middlesex County. In the month of June, our Annual Awards Dinner will be held on Wednesday, June 7 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell, a Business After Work networking reception, hosted by Mattabesett Canoe Club in Middletown, will be held on June 12 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm., and the 20th Annual Cruise Night on Main Street will be held on Wednesday, June 14 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. In July, our Business After Work networking reception will be hosted by Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell on July 12, and the Citizen Bank 5K Summer Fun Run will be held on Wednesday, July 19 in downtown Middletown. Rounding out the summer events, the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania will be held on August 9, 2017, and our Business After Work will be held at Water’s Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook on August 22. I will certainly share much more on these major events as we get closer, but members should be sure to save the dates.

It may be a bit cooler than we would like, but the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.  

UConn President Herbst will lead off mentor recognition breakfast

May 8, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

The 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament, originally scheduled for last Friday, was postponed to Friday, June 2 due to inclement weather. Our Golf Committee, players, staff, and all other tournament supporters were looking forward to a great day on the course, but Mother Nature had other ideas. We still look forward to a sold out tournament on June 2 and will continue to provide updates on the rescheduled event as we get closer.

The next installment of the chamber’s KeyBank Workshop Series is scheduled for tomorrow, May 9 at the chamber office in Middletown. This session, Lead By Being Your Highest Self, will teach attendees how to be bold, brave, and intentional, and will identify ways to re-focus one’s attention, beliefs and perceptions to support their success. Attendees will also learn how to shift from focusing on problems and fighting fires to proactively creating solutions. I want to take a moment to thank Dr. Wendy Shumway for presenting this important content, and KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their strong support of this chamber initiative.

Wednesday evening features the Graduation Dinner for the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Culinary Training Program which will be held in the Vinal Technical High School Dining Room. Through funding from the Connecticut Department of Labor, the Culinary Training Program is designed to assist area restaurants by training their employees in the cook-chef occupation with the goal of upgrading their skills. Participants receive 60 hours of classroom training followed by on the job training. I would like to thank all of the restaurants that participated in this year’s program: Connecticut Wedding Group, Herd Restaurant, Iguanas Ranas Taqueria, Lan Chi's Vietnamese Restaurant, Perk on Main, Radisson Hotel Cromwell, and WAVES. I also want to acknowledge our instructors who did a terrific job this year, Chef Louis Marinelli and Chef Ryan Barnes, and finally, I want to thank Commissioner Scott Jackson and the Department of Labor for supporting this important job retention initiative in Middlesex County.

The 30th Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast is scheduled for this Thursday, May 11 at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. The chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council serves as a link between member businesses and educational leaders from Middlesex County Schools. Its mission is to facilitate and encourage the development of mutually supportive partnerships, and to prepare students for what is an increasingly global and competitive economy. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, initiated in 1992, is a partnership between the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Middletown Board of Education. This program provides students with mentors from a variety of professional fields in our community. Mentors are good listeners, people who care, and people who want to help young people bring out the strengths that are already there. The keynote speaker for the Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast is UConn President Susan Herbst. UConn’s first female president, Susan Herbst was appointed in December of 2010. In addition to her academic career, she is a scholar of public opinion, media, and American politics, and is the author of four books. We look forward to welcoming her back to Middlesex County and look forward to another successful Member Breakfast Meeting. Liberty Bank, an outstanding corporate citizen in our region and throughout the state, is a longtime sponsor of this important annual chamber event. I continue to appreciate the work and support of Liberty’s CEO Chandler Howard and his entire team.

The chamber’s Expo Committee will meet immediately following the breakfast meeting on Thursday at the Radisson. The 2017 Middlesex County Business to Business Expo, which will once again feature a number of events and activities, is scheduled for Wednesday, October 11, 2017.

Two important chamber division meetings are scheduled for this week. Our Durham & Middlefield Division will hold its May meeting on Wednesday at Cooper Atkins Corp. in Middlefield. Chamber Legislative Committee Co-Chair Rich Carella will be on hand to provide an update on the chamber’s legislative activities as the Regular Session of the General Assembly progresses in Hartford.  The meeting will also feature local updates from town officials and a brief preview of the 2017 Durham Fair. Our Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division will hold its May meeting on Friday at Chester Village West. This meeting will feature remarks from Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. Lt. Gov. Wyman has been a fixture at chamber meetings since her days as State Comptroller. We continue to appreciate her longtime support of our organization. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will hold its May meeting immediately following the division meeting at Chester Village West. As I have noted many times, the county based divisions and industry based councils and committees continue to play a critical role in the operation of our chamber.

A Grand Opening celebration for HK Fitness in Higganum is scheduled for next Monday evening at 5:00 p.m. HK Fitness is a full service family owned fitness center built to serve the Haddam- Killingworth community. I look forward to joining First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo and the chamber’s Haddam Division chairman Mike Bennett as we welcome Merle Mckenzie and the entire HK Fitness team to the Middlesex business community.

May’s Business After Work Networking Reception is fast approaching. Scheduled for next Thursday, May 18 from 5-7:00 p.m. at the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, the event will feature a terrific spread of food, drink and as always, the best networking around. The Valley Railroad Company, which operates the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, has been serving the lower Connecticut River Valley since 1971. Their unique facilities and programs attract visitors from all over the state and the northeast region. In fact, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is one of the top tourist attractions in Connecticut. We are very proud of the work that Kevin Dodd and the entire team is doing to make sure that Middlesex County continues to be a great place to live, work and play. Our membership certainly looks forward to the Business After Work event next Thursday evening.

Looking ahead to June, the chamber’s 2017 Annual Awards Dinner is scheduled for Wednesday, June 7 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We are very excited to honor four outstanding Middlesex County individuals with our 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award, William F. & Sharon K. Griffin, Kenneth W. MacCormac, and Phil Ouellette. We will also honor the recipient of the 2017 Chief Michael L. Green Award, William J. Warner of the Middletown Police Department, and the winners of the chamber’s three scholarships. Finally, the event will mark the official changeover of the chamber’s chairmanship. Essex Savings Bank President Greg Shook, who has done a wonderful job in this important leadership position, will pass the chairman’s gavel to Rick Morin of Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski. I will have much more on the event and our award recipients in subsequent columns, but excitement is building and members should be sure to save the date.

Finally, I want to remind our members that the Travelers Championship returns to the month of June for 2017. This year’s tournament is scheduled for June 19–25 at TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell. The Travelers Championship is one of the premier events on the PGA Tour and part of the FedExCup series. We are lucky to have it in Middlesex County and in our state. Tournament Director Nathan Grube and his team are working hard to attract a top notch player field which already includes Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. Additional information will be shared as the tournament gets closer, but members should be sure to save the date.

May is off and running, the calendar is packed with events and activities, and the chamber team in on the move.

Community Health Center to launch knowledge, tech center in Middletown

May 1, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

The chamber team continues to be on the move as a busy month of May begins in Middlesex County.

I look forward to attending today’s Ground Breaking celebration for the Community Health Center’s new 30,000 square foot Knowledge & Technology Center at 675 Main Street. The event will also celebrate the 45th Anniversary of CHC. The Community Health Center has been a long time member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and has been a key player in our community on a number of fronts. This project will be an important economic and community development initiative for a critical Middletown neighborhood- the North End. The chamber supported this project since its inception, and I congratulate Mark Masselli and his team and look forward to being a constructive partner as it moves towards completion.

Tomorrow morning, May 2, our Manufacturers’ Council will meet at Whelen Engineering Co. in Chester. The meeting will feature a brief presentation from DECD Deputy Commissioner Bart Kollen on the many incentives that are available to manufacturers in the state, in addition to a guided tour of Whelen’s outstanding facility. Whelen designs and manufactures reliable and powerful warning lights, white illumination lighting, sirens, controllers, and high-powered warning systems for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. It is an outstanding company that we are lucky to have in Middlesex County. We have a number of terrific member manufacturing companies that plan to attend along with a number of other interested members from related industries. I know our members certainly look forward to the visit and the tour, and I thank company President George Whelen V for hosting us.

This week also features two important chamber division meetings. Our Portland and East Hampton Division will meet on Wednesday, May 3, at Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton. This meeting, co-sponsored by Belltown Motors, will feature local updates from key town officials along with an update from chamber Legislative Committee co-chairman Rich Carella. On Thursday, our Central Business Bureau will meet at the chamber office from 8 am - 9 a.m. Hosted by Adelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services, the meeting will feature updates from key city department directors along with Mayor Dan Drew and will preview the major downtown summer events, Cruise Night on Main and Middletown Motorcycle Mania. Our divisions continue to play a critical role in the operation of the chamber.

The sold out, 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament will be held this Friday, May 5 at Portland Golf Course. I would like to take a moment thank all of our sponsors and supporters, our Golf Committee which meets throughout the year, all members who donated gifts and prizes, the terrific team at Portland Golf Course, and chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who does a wonderful job with this Tournament on an annual basis. We also look forward to honoring our 2017 Robert Briggs “Good Guy” Award Recipient, Lyman Farm Inc. CEO Steve Ciskowski. The Robert Briggs Good Guy Award is presented annually in recognition of contributions made to the community and also to the chamber’s Golf Tournament. Steve has done a fine job in a professional capacity at Lymans, and we continue to appreciate his support of our Golf Tournament, and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. We look forward to the sun shining on Portland on Friday!

The Annual Meeting for The Lyman Farm Inc. is scheduled for this Saturday at the Lyman Orchards facility in Middlefield. Owned and operated by the Lyman Family since 1741, Lyman Orchards is recognized as the 12th oldest family-owned business in America. For generations of Connecticut families and visitors, Lyman Orchards has been a year-round destination for great food, family fun, and championship golf. Lyman Orchards is indeed, Connecticut’s sweet spot. I look forward to attending the meeting and celebrating the company’s continued success.

A 95th birthday celebration for George Hamrah is scheduled for this Sunday, May 7 at the Waverly Inn in Cheshire. I look forward to attending with my wife Patty and a number of George’s family members and friends. George, along with his brother Albert, an outstanding corporate citizen and a longtime supporter of me and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I’m sure the party will be full of laughs as we celebrate George and this milestone birthday. We look forward to a good time.

The 30th Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast is scheduled for Thursday, May 11 at the Radisson in Cromwell. The chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council serves as a link between member businesses and educational leaders from Middlesex County Schools. This important chamber group also puts on the Annual High School Career Fair Expo. The 2017 edition of the High School Career Fair Expo was held last week and was a smashing success. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program is a partnership between the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Middletown Board of Education that provides students with mentors from the community. The keynote speaker for the Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast on May 11 will be UConn President Susan Herbst. We look forward to welcoming President Susan Herbst back to Middlesex County. Liberty Bank is a longtime sponsor of this important annual chamber event. I continue to appreciate the work and community support of Liberty’s CEO Chandler Howard and his entire team. Liberty Bank is an outstanding corporate citizen in our region and throughout the state. We look forward to another successful Member Breakfast Meeting.

The chamber’s May Business After Work Networking Reception will be held on Thursday, May 18 at the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat facility in Essex from 5-7 p.m. This event will feature a terrific spread of food and drink for members and their guests, and as always, the best networking around. The Valley Railroad Company, operating the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, has been serving the lower Connecticut River Valley since 1971. The company’s mission is to keep alive the rich mechanical, industrial, and transportation heritage of our state through the ongoing operation of vintage steam and diesel locomotives, passenger coaches, and the facilities and infrastructure that support these. Their unique facilities and programs attract visitors from all over the state and the northeast region. In fact, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is one of the top tourist attractions in Connecticut. We are very proud of the work that Kevin Dodd and the entire team is doing to make sure that Middlesex County continues to be a great place to live, work and play. Our membership certainly looks forward to the Business After Work event on May 18.

The calendar is packed with events and activities, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.


Congressman Courtney to keynote Middlesex Chamber breakfast

April 24, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Another busy week for the chamber team kicks off this morning with our April Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Congressman Joe Courtney. Congressman Courtney’s district includes many of the down-county towns within the chamber’s service area. His remarks will touch on the important issues that he is working on as he represents his constituents in Washington, D.C. Congressman Courtney serves on some very important committees, including the House Armed Services Committee, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, the Readiness subcommittee, House Education and Workforce Committee, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee. This event, sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, will also serve as the official kick off of Export Week 2017 in the State of Connecticut. The U.S. Commercial Service and the Connecticut District Export Council have teamed up to create a series of events throughout Connecticut and throughout this week. Connecticut Export Week 2017 will educate businesses on initiating and or expanding their global market. There is a series of events scheduled for Monday after the Member Breakfast Meeting at the Radisson Hotel. Anne Evans, Director of the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration which is based in Middletown, has done a great job putting this week of important activities together, and we appreciate her longtime partnership and support. I want to once again thank Congressman Courtney for speaking to our membership at the Member Breakfast Meeting, and Pratt & Whitney for its support of this event and of so many community-based initiatives.

Tourism Advocacy Day is also scheduled for today, April 24. This important event will be held at the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol in Hartford. I look forward to attending along with chamber Vice President Johanna Bond and some of our members from this critical industry sector. Tourism Advocacy Day is an initiative of The Connecticut Tourism Coalition which is an alliance of advocates from all sectors of the Connecticut tourism industry. They organized this day to advocate for a more sustainable source of annual funding for tourism which is a proven economic driver in Middlesex County and throughout the state. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to be a strong supporter of tourism in our region.

Our Legislative Leadership Event Series is set to conclude this Tuesday with a visit from House Minority Leader Themis Klarides. Sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, the event will take place at the Inn at Middletown from 8-9:30 a.m. At this special meeting, Rep. Klarides 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. We value our relationship with legislative leadership and certainly look forward to this event. This meeting will wrap up a great run of chamber legislative events which included our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with Middlesex County’s legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. I appreciate Rep. Klarides’ willingness to visit with our group once again, along with the sponsorship support of Kronenberger & Sons Restoration. Brian Kronenberger is a key member of our Legislative Committee and of our Board of Directors. We look forward to a productive discussion Tuesday at the Inn at Middletown.

On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce. This working group continues to offer the support and expertise of the private sector, while also advocating for important legislative priorities such as a lockbox for transportation initiatives in our state, and the pursuit of legislation that encourages Connecticut businesses to invest and grow opportunities for good, well-paying jobs. This group will continue to stay engaged on the many issues facing the business community in our state.

The chamber will be well represented at a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony celebrating the newly renovated “Short Stay” area at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Cromwell. The event will be held on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. We wish the entire Autumn Lake Healthcare team continued success with this important facility that is dedicated to the highest standards of nursing and rehabilitative care.

Our East Haddam and Haddam Division will meet this Thursday, April 27 in Haddam. The meeting, hosted by Connecticut River Expeditions, will include updates from the chamber’s Legislative Committee as well as local town updates from key personnel. Connecticut River Expeditions provides the general public with access to the lower CT River, along with education to all passengers on its ecology and beauty. I thank Captain Mark Yuknat and his team for hosting our group as he does on an annual basis.

The 2017 High School Career Fair Expo is scheduled for this Thursday at the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink at Freeman Athletic Center on the campus of Wesleyan University. Presented by the chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council, The Middlesex Consortium of Schools, and Wesleyan University’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, this 12th Annual Career Fair Expo will be attended by over 1200 students from all over Middlesex County. The Career Fair Expo is an exploration event, a way to introduce our high school students to the many different career fields out there. We believe that it is very important to connect local students to the many industry sectors that are critical to the economy in our region and in our state, and this event is an important part of that effort. Over 260 presenters, representing over 130 businesses, are set to network throughout the event with students from all over Middlesex County. I would like to once again express a big thank you to those business and career professionals who will be on hand to present and share their career experiences with the students. This major annual event is made possible by sponsorship support from Eversource and Pratt & Whitney to the chamber’s Business & Education Partnership, and Wesleyan University for the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink facility to hold this event.  This is truly a great partnership, and we very much appreciate our Business & Education sponsors. We look forward to another terrific Career Expo on Thursday.

On Tuesday, May 2, our Manufacturers’ Council will meet at Whelen Engineering Co. in Chester. The meeting will feature a brief presentation from DECD Deputy Commissioner Bart Kollen on the many incentives that are available to manufacturers in the state, in addition to a guided tour of Whelen’s outstanding facility. Whelen designs and manufactures reliable and powerful warning lights, white illumination lighting, sirens, controllers, and high-powered warning systems for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. It is an outstanding company that we are lucky to have in Middlesex County. I know our members certainly look forward to the visit and the tour, and I thank company President George Whelen V for hosting us.

The sold out, 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament, will be held on Friday, May 5 at Portland Golf Course. Our Golf Committee has done a terrific job once again, and I am so appreciative of all of our sponsors, our players, those who are donating gifts, those who purchased tee signs, and many other members of our chamber who offer their support in a number of different ways. I will have more as we get closer, but it is safe to say that our members and staff certainly look forward to another great tournament.

The 30th Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast is scheduled for Thursday, May 11 at the Radisson in Cromwell. The chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council serves as a link between member businesses and educational leaders from Middlesex County Schools. As I noted earlier, this important chamber group also puts on the Annual High School Career Fair Expo. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program is a partnership between the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Middletown Board of Education that provides students with mentors from the community. The keynote speaker for the event will be UConn President Susan Herbst. We will certainly have more to share on this important breakfast event as we get closer, but members should certainly save the date.

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

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