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.

This year’s Motorcycle Mania was biggest one yet

August 14, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Downtown Middletown was rocking last Wednesday evening as the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania, held in honor of one of its founding sponsors, Dan M. Hunter was held on Main Street and the surrounding areas. The event, featuring over 6,500 bikes, and over 12,000 spectators, was presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines & the Hunter Family, and driven by Haymond Law. This year’s Motorcycle Mania event was the biggest, and best one yet. The entertainment was terrific, the vendors did very well, the restaurants were packed, and we are proud that the event continues to defend its title as the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England. The show bikes that were entered for awards were unbelievable, and I am happy that Middlesex County was well-represented when the bike awards were presented. In addition to Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines, the Hunter Family, and Haymond Law, event sponsors also included: City of Middletown, Middletown Downtown Business District, Bank of America, Brookfield Indian Motorcycle, Dunkin’ Donuts, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Gengras Motorcycles, Home Team Supply, Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, Liberty Bank, All American Productions, Middlesex Music Academy, Lyman Orchards Golf Club, First & Last Tavern, Willowbrook Spirit Shoppe, and WMRD/WLIS Radio. We thank them all for their outstanding support.


I also want to take a moment to once again acknowledge the fine work of the City of Middletown personnel that worked to make it a safe and enjoyable evening for everyone. From Director Bill Russo and the team at Middletown Public Works Department, Geen Thazhampallath and the team at the Parking Department, Fire Chief Rob Kronenberger, Fire Marshal Gary Gessaro and the entire Middletown Fire Department and all of the emergency services personnel, everyone did a truly professional job. I want to especially thank the Middletown Police Department who worked very well with our staff and volunteers to make sure that the event was secure and well-organized. All of the officers and support staff were extremely helpful once again and we appreciate it very much. I thank Chief Bill McKenna, Sgt. Dave Godwin and the entire MPD for their support of the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania. A special thank you also goes out to Mayor Dan Drew and members of the Common Council for their continued support of all of our downtown events. Finally, I want to express my sincere appreciation to Event Chairman Rich Greco and our over 60 volunteers for their unbelievable support of Motorcycle Mania. This event could not happen without our volunteers and we appreciate them very much. Another successful Middletown Motorcycle Mania is in the books, and we are truly grateful for the total team effort that made it possible.

While it might not be quite as busy now that Mania is behind us, this week also features some important chamber events and activities.

The KeyBank Workshop Series will continue on Tuesday morning, August 15, with two sessions on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training. The first session begins at 8 a.m. and the second at 10:15 a.m. Both sessions are held at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys, Sara Simeonidis and Allison Dearington, from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company’s exposure to charges of sexual harassment which can be very damaging. This session meets the state of Connecticut’s requirement for two hours of sexual harassment training for supervisors and managers. Please visit www.middlesexchamber.com or contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I want to again thank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support.

Thursday features an important meeting of our Cromwell Division at 8:00 a.m. at Covenant Village of Cromwell. The meeting will feature reports from Mayor Enzo Faienza and other town officials. Our Board of Directors also meets on Thursday, at 11:30 a.m. at Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. In addition to reports from chamber members and key staff, the meeting will feature an update from Nine Town Transit Executive Director Joe Comerford who will address some of the transportation related changes that are planned for our region. We look forward to two productive meetings of these important chamber groups, and continue to appreciate the support and engagement of our members.

Chamber members in the Westfield section of Middletown should mark their calendars for August 22 for an important meeting of our Westfield Division. As part of the effort to keep our members in the Westfield section fully informed on the progress of the FedEx project, the meeting on Centerpoint Drive will focus on the 525,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art distribution hub which is currently under construction. Representatives from FedEx Ground and Barton Malow will attend the meeting to provide an update on the project, and to address any questions or concerns from our members. The meeting will also feature remarks from Mayor Drew and other key city officials that have an impact on the Westfield Division. Our chamber supported this project from the beginning and worked with the city to help bring FedEx to town. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to make sure this major project is a success.

A busy next Tuesday continues in the evening as our friends at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa host a Business After Work networking reception at its beautiful Westbrook facility. This annual event on the shoreline has become very popular with our membership over the years. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is a strong and active member of our chamber and we appreciate their willingness to host this event. Looking ahead to later in the week, our August Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 24, at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This exciting event, sponsored by our friends at People’s United Bank, will feature UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall as keynote speaker. I will have more on both of these important chamber events in next week’s column.

Unfortunately, I must once again close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of a longtime friend and member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, T. Gerald “Gerry” Dyar. Gerry Dyar was a member of our Board of Directors, Chairman of our Transportation Committee, and a recipient of our 2010 Distinguished Citizen Award. He had an outstanding professional career that included time in the musical and stereo/audio industry, the data processing industry with The Travelers Companies, and as a key provider of strategic, long-range financial planning for business owners and their businesses. He was a longtime resident of Westbrook, and was a key person who pushed for the merger of the Westbrook Chamber and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. He served as the first Chairman of our Westbrook Division, and was an extremely important voice for the Westbrook business community over the course of many years. Gerry was also a true transportation advocate. He served as a member of the I-91 Transportation Investment Area Board of the statewide Transportation Strategy Board and the statewide I-95 corridor study group, and was critical to the improvement and retention of the Shoreline East train station in Westbrook. Prior to all of these successes, he served our country in the U.S. Army at the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, NC. He completed his active duty as the Signal NCO of the Center with the rank of Sergeant. He then served two years in the Army Reserve as the Signal NCO of the 76th Infantry Division with the rank of Sergeant First Class. Gerry was a good and decent man who was widely admired by his fellow chamber members and his colleagues. He certainly made a lasting impact on our region and on our chamber. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Helen, to whom he was married for over 60 years, his children, grandchildren, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. T. Gerald “Gerry” Dyar will be missed by many.

Motorcycle Mania returning to Middletown

August 7, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Another busy week is upon us in Middlesex County, and Main Street Middletown is getting ready to rock once again. But before diving into the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania, I want to mention a few other important meetings and events that are scheduled for this week.

The chamber’s Executive Committee, our top governing body, will meet on Monday at the chamber office. This important group, led by Chairman Rick Morin, is comprised of member business leaders from key industry sectors throughout Middlesex County. These local business leaders are not only excelling in their professional fields, but they are all community minded and are all strong corporate citizens. I continue to appreciate the dedication of all of our Executive Committee members, and look forward to another productive meeting.

As I often note, encouraging and supporting the development of new businesses is a key goal of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I am very excited that this week will feature two grand opening celebrations for new Middlesex County businesses that are off to a great start. On Tuesday, I will join Mayor Dan Drew and other city leaders at Antonio’s Market and Catering on South Main Street to celebrate the opening of this new local business. Antonio’s Market and Catering offers a full deli, butcher, prepared foods, bakery, ice cream, Italian imports, fresh pasta and more. Antonio’s parents, Matt and Carmela Lockwood, own Jerry’s Pizza, Matty's Next Door Sports Bar, and Carmela’s on the Extension in Middletown, so he is no stranger to serving good food to local folks. We certainly wish him and his team nothing but the best as we move forward. I also look forward to joining Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield and Economic Development Coordinator Mary Dickerson on Thursday afternoon to officially welcome Beautiful Again Boutique, LLC to the local business community. Beautiful Again Boutique is a consignment boutique offering high quality items at a discounted price. On behalf of the chamber, I also want to wish Liz Rogers and her team the best of luck with this exciting new business. It should surprise no one that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to support business development in our region.

Main Street Middletown is ready to rock as the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is scheduled for this Wednesday evening in downtown Middletown. This event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, is held in memory of a founding sponsor, Dan M. Hunter, and is driven by Haymond Law. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for the 12th installment of this annual city event which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. In addition to Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., the Hunter Family, and Haymond Law, event sponsors include: City of Middletown, Middletown Downtown Business District, Bank of America, Brookfield Indian Motorcycle, Dunkin’ Donuts, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Gengras Motorcycles, Home Team Supply, Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, Liberty Bank, All American Productions, Middlesex Music Academy, Lyman Orchards Golf Club, First & Last Tavern, Willowbrook Spirit Shoppe, and WMRD/WLIS Radio. Motorcycle Mania benefits Middletown youth programs, and past proceeds have supported the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation and Community Services Department Youth Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. There is a $10 entry donation, and for Award Bikes, a $15 entry donation. Bike Awards at the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania include: The Vern A. Hunter Vintage Bike Award, in Loving Memory of Vern and Barbara Hunter - presented by Hunter's Ambulance and Hunter Limousines Ltd., Best Vintage European Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines Ltd., Best Vintage Japanese Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines Ltd., Best Vintage British  Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines Ltd., Best Vintage American Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines Ltd., Dan M. Hunter "Functionality with Style" Award - presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines Ltd., The Haymond Law Award – presented by Haymond Law Office, Liberty’s Choice Award - presented by Liberty Bank, The Gengras Elite Award – presented by Gengras Motorcycles, DBD Farkle Award - presented by Downtown Business District, The All-American Bike Award - presented by Bank of America, The Fat City Cycle Award – presented by Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, The C. Oscar Hedström Award,” presented by Brookfield Indian Motorcycle, The Indian Motorcycle of Springfield Choice Award – presented by Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, Best Home Town Motorcycle Award - presented by Home Team Supply and Mayor’s Choice Award - presented by Middletown Mayor Dan Drew. Entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by WMRD/WLIS Radio, which will broadcast live in front of The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and Radio 104.1, which will broadcast in the Gazebo on the South Green. The popular Connecticut band Diamondback, the first band to ever play Middletown’s Motorcycle Mania, will perform on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Patrones, an energetic rock & roll cover band, will perform by Brewbakers. Cromwell Martial Arts will perform an exciting martial arts demonstration in front of the Showmobile at 5:45 p.m. The demo will include forms, self-defense and weapons from kenpo karate and modern arnis.  Finally, the All American Productions Patriotic Rockabilly Fashion Show featuring 20 models will take place on the Showmobile at 6 p.m. I want to take a moment to again offer a special thank you to the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco, for all of its hard work in putting this major event together. Finally, I want to once again thank the City of Middletown for its strong and enduring support of the event. From Mayor Drew, to members of the Common Council, to the Police, Fire, Parking, and Public Works Departments, the city’s support is critical to the operation of this event, and it is very much appreciated. Main Street will be rocking Wednesday night and we all look forward to another great event. The Rain Date for the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is next Wednesday, August 16.

Switching gears a bit, I want to provide a quick update on the FedEx Ground project that is under development in Middletown. As I have noted many times, the 525,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art distribution hub which is currently under construction in the Westfield section of town is a huge win for Middletown, and for Middlesex County. Jeff Pugliese represented the chamber on a tour of the site last week with members of the City Council. In order to keep our members in the Westfield section fully informed on the progress of the project, we have scheduled a meeting of our Westfield Division on Tuesday, August 22 at the Centerpoint Connecticut offices on Centerpoint Drive. Representatives from FedEx Ground and Barton Malow will attend the meeting to provide an update on the project, and to address any questions or concerns from our members. The meeting will also feature remarks from Mayor Drew and other key city officials that play a role in this important economic development initiative. Our chamber supported this project from the beginning and worked with the city to help bring FedEx to town. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to make sure this major project is a success.

Chamber members should also mark their calendars for two exciting events coming up in August. On Tuesday, August 22, Water’s Edge Resort and Spa will host a Business After Work networking reception at its beautiful facility in Westbrook. This annual event on the shoreline has become very popular with our membership over the years. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is a strong and active member of our chamber and we appreciate it. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the support of Director of Sales Keith Lindelow, Corporate Sales Manager Karen Robidoux, and especially the Dattilo Family for their constant support of the chamber. We look forward to a great event on the 22nd. The chamber’s August Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This exciting event, sponsored by our friends at People’s United Bank, will feature UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall as keynote speaker. Coach Edsall recently returned to the position as Head Coach at UConn, and we are thrilled that he is back leading the Huskies on the gridiron. His remarks will include some of his thoughts on coaching and leadership, and a preview of the upcoming season of Husky football which begins on Thursday, August 31 vs. Holy Cross. We look forward to a great event and I thank Coach Edsall for speaking to our membership, and People’s United Bank for sponsoring.

I want to close by encouraging everyone in Middlesex County to visit one of the many outstanding tourist attractions that we have in our region. There is plenty of summer left, and plenty of family friendly options right in your back yard. This chamber has always recognized tourism as a strong economic driver in Middlesex County and in the surrounding areas. Middlesex County is home to some of the state’s best tourism attractions including Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Goodspeed Musicals, Gillette Castle, Lyman Orchards, Saybrook Point Inn, Water’s Edge Resort and Spa, Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort, Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, and more. Many tourists from other parts of Connecticut and beyond also visit Middlesex County to participate in Wesleyan University’s events and activities, and to experience the Connecticut River and the beautiful shoreline in our region. Fair season is also fast approaching, and the best and largest of them all, the Durham Fair, is scheduled for September 21 – 24 on the historic fairgrounds.

Middlesex County is hopping with activity, and the chamber is on the move.

Business community loses generous man in Joe Talevi, 88

July 31, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

July gives way to August this week as a busy summer continues in Middlesex County.

Before previewing some of the exciting events and activities coming up, I want to note that I enjoyed my visit to SEIU Local 511 Connecticut Employees Union Independent in Middletown last Thursday for its 50th Anniversary Celebration. As I noted last week, I appreciate the union’s longtime membership in our chamber, and I congratulate its President, Ron McLellan, Vice President Carl Chisem, and their entire team. We look forward to maintaining a strong working relationship in the future.

This week, in addition to being week four of the six week Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program, features an important meeting of the Central Business Bureau (CBB) on Thursday morning at the chamber office. The CBB meeting will once again feature reports from Mayor Dan Drew, a number of important city directors, the DBD, the chamber, and other local entities. This key chamber committee continues to bring together all downtown stakeholders on a monthly basis for these important discussions. We look forward to another productive meeting on Thursday morning.

I want to make a quick mention that the official unveiling of the new 365 Synthetic Snow Park at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield that was scheduled for this Saturday has been postponed to September 2. I will share additional details about the event as we move through August. We certainly look forward to this exciting new addition to our region.

Now that the month of August is upon us, planning for the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is entering its final phase. This major annual event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will be held next Wednesday, Aug. 9 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Middletown Motorcycle Mania is held in memory of Dan M. Hunter, one of the event’s founding sponsors. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for the 12th installment of this annual city event which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. Motorcycle Mania benefits Middletown youth programs, and past proceeds have supported the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation and Community Services Department Youth Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. There is a $10 entry donation and $15 entry donation for award bikes.

In addition to Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., the Hunter Family, and Haymond Law, event sponsors include: City of Middletown, Middletown Downtown Business District, Bank of America, Brookfield Indian Motorcycle, Dunkin’ Donuts, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Gengras Motorcycles, Home Team Supply, Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, Liberty Bank, All American Productions, Middlesex Music Academy, Lyman Orchards Golf Club, First & Last Tavern, and WMRD/WLIS Radio.

Entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by WMRD/WLIS Radio, which will broadcast live in front of The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and Radio 104.1, which will broadcast in the Gazebo on the South Green. The popular Connecticut band Diamondback, the first band to ever play Middletown’s Motorcycle Mania, will perform on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Patrones, an energetic rock & roll cover band, will perform by Brewbakers. Finally, the All American Productions Fashion Show will take place on the Showmobile at 6 p.m.

Bike Awards at the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania include: The Vern A. Hunter Vintage Bike Award, in Loving Memory of Vern and Barbara Hunter - presented by Hunter's Ambulance and Hunter Limousines, Favorite Vintage European Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines, Favorite Vintage Japanese Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines, Favorite Vintage British Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines, Favorite Vintage American Bike Award – presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines, Dan M. Hunter "Functionality with Style" Award - presented by Hunter’s Ambulance & Hunter Limousines, Liberty’s Choice Award - presented by Liberty Bank, The Haymond Law Award – presented by Haymond Law Office, The Gengras Elite Award – presented by Gengras Motorcycles, The DBD Farkle Award - presented by Middletown Downtown Business District, The All-American Bike Award - presented by Bank of America, The Fat City Cycle Award – presented by Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, The Rock ‘n Roll Bike Award – presented by Middlesex Music Academy, Best Home Team Motorcycle Award - presented by Home Team Supply, and Mayor’s Choice Award - presented by Middletown Mayor Dan Drew.

I want to take a moment to offer a special thank you to the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco, for all of its hard work in putting this major event together. Finally, I want to once again thank the City of Middletown for its strong and enduring support of the event. From Mayor Drew, to members of the Common Council, to the Police, Fire, Parking, and Public Works Departments, the city’s support is critical to the operation of this event, and it is very much appreciated. Main Street will be rocking next Wednesday night, and we all look forward to another great event.

In addition to Motorcycle Mania, next week also features two grand opening celebrations for new Middlesex County businesses. On Tuesday, August 8, I look forward to joining Mayor Dan Drew and other city leaders at Antonio’s Market and Catering on South Main Street to celebrate this terrific new business. Antonio’s Market and Catering offers a full deli, butcher, prepared foods, bakery, ice cream, Italian imports, fresh pasta and more. Antonio’s parents, Matt and Carmella Lockwood, own Jerry’s Pizza, Matty's Next Door Sports Bar, and Carmela’s on the Extension in Middletown, so he is no stranger to serving good food to local folks. We certainly wish him and his team nothing but the best as we move forward. I also look forward to joining Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield and Economic Development Coordinator Mary Dickerson next Thursday afternoon, August 10, to officially welcome Beautiful Again Boutique, LLC to the local business community. Beautiful Again Boutique is a consignment boutique offering high quality items at a discounted price. On behalf of the chamber, I also want to wish Liz Rogers and her team the best of luck with this exciting new business. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to support business development in our region.

Chamber members should mark their calendars for two exciting events coming up in August. On Tuesday, August 22, Water’s Edge Resort and Spa will host a Business After Work networking reception at its beautiful facility in Westbrook. This annual event on the shoreline has become very popular with our membership over the years. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is a strong and active member of our chamber and we appreciate it. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the support of Director of Sales Keith Lindelow, Corporate Sales Manager Karen Robidoux, and especially the Dattilo Family for their constant support of the chamber. We look forward to a great event on the 22nd. The chamber’s August Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This exciting event, sponsored by our friends at People’s United Bank, will feature UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall as keynote speaker. Coach Edsall recently returned to the position as Head Coach at UConn, and we are thrilled that he is back leading the Huskies on the gridiron. His remarks will include some of his thoughts on coaching and leadership, and a preview of the upcoming season of Husky football which begins on Thursday, August 31 vs. Holy Cross. We look forward to a great event and I thank Coach Edsall for speaking to our membership, and People’s United Bank for sponsoring.

As I noted at the close of last week’s column, I was very saddened by the recent passing of my good friend and longtime chamber member Arnold Joseph “Joe” Talevi. I was honored to be asked by the family to offer some remarks about Joe at his funeral liturgy last Wednesday. Joe Talevi was a wonderful man, and without question, a self-made man. He was an outstanding businessman who loved his community and loved to give back. In fact, he was always giving, and never asking. He supported a number of important community initiatives throughout his life. He was an honorary member of the Italian American Civic Order, and he also started “The Chancellors” – A Boy’s Club to help youth in East Hampton. Joe even took a crew of his workers to Oklahoma to help build what is now one of the world’s largest drug rehab facilities. Above all else however, he was a devoted family man. I got to know Joe, and his wife Kathy, back in the 1970’s when they got involved with the activities of Xavier and Mercy High Schools. I was honored to teach three of their sons in school, and to coach two of them on the football field. When I came to the chamber in the 1980’s, Joe and Kathy were right there with me as we worked together on many issues of importance to the regional business community. Joe received many honors along the way including Mercy and Xavier’s Distinguished Citizen Award, and Xavier’s highest honor, the St. Francis Xavier Award. He is also an inductee in Xavier’s Hall of Honors. Joe was the recipient of the chamber’s “Good Guy” Award in 1989. If there was ever a proper description for Joe Talevi, it is Good Guy. I am grateful for his many years of friendship and support, and appreciate the example he set for all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Kathy, to whom he was married for 63 years, his children and their spouses, his eight grandchildren, his sisters, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. Joe Talevi will be missed by many. May he rest in peace.

Powder Ridge in Middlefield to unveil its 365 Synthetic Snow Park

July 24, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

A busy summer continues in Middlesex County as another week full of meetings and activities begins.  

Thanks to the tremendous commitment of our membership, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is the largest free standing chamber in the State of Connecticut. We are also fortunate to be a part of the Metro Chamber working group which includes the eight largest chambers in our state. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of Connecticut businesses, and the monthly meetings of the leaders of these organizations always feature productive discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community. I look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow chamber executives on Tuesday afternoon in Hartford. This chamber, and chambers around the state will continue to provide the business community with a strong voice.

It is hard to believe, but week three of the 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program kicks off today at a number of locations throughout the city of Middletown. As I have previously noted, nearly 40 area youth have been placed into this six-week long program which provides valuable work experience in a wide variety of professional fields. During these six important weeks, our young people not only learn the fundamentals of employment, such as getting to work on time and ready to contribute, but also the pride that comes with putting in a solid work week and receiving a paycheck that was earned through hard and honest work. Every week when I mention this program, I make sure to thank the over 30 businesses and organizations in Middletown that are serving as host worksites this summer. It is critical that we have host worksites stepping up to the plate to provide the work and supervision that is necessary to truly make this an effective workforce development initiative. I would also like to take a moment to once again thank our 2017 team of funding partners for their great contributions to this program. Without them, this program would simply not be possible. Our 2017 team of funding partners is as follows: The City of Middletown, under the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, Peach Pit Foundation, Community Foundation of Middlesex County (Sams Family Fund, Coles Family Fund, Herb and Ellen Patterson Memorial Fund, MiddleOak Unrestricted Fund, Chuck and Rachel Wiltsie Fund), Liberty Bank Foundation, Jarvis Products Corporation, MiddleOak, Pegasus Manufacturing, Greenwald Industries, Stone Investment Properties, Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, and Middlesex United Way. I want to also make sure that I note again, that the original and primary funder of this program for many years is Workforce Alliance. Despite the fact that funding is not coming through the workforce board this year due to the state’s budget issues, President and CEO Bill Villano and his team have done a great job of processing applications, keeping the towns in their service area in the loop, and advocating for funding for youth employment in Connecticut. I thank Bill and his team, and all of our program supporters, for their continued dedication to this important initiative.

While the chamber continues to work hard on the economic and workforce development fronts, another key goal for us is to be an effective partner in the promotion of the outstanding tourist attractions that we have in Middlesex County. This chamber has always recognized tourism as a strong economic driver in Middlesex County and in the surrounding areas. Middlesex County is home to some of the state’s best tourism attractions including Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Goodspeed Musicals, Gillette Castle, Lyman Orchards, Saybrook Point Inn, Water’s Edge Resort and Spa, Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort, Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park and more. Many tourists from other parts of Connecticut and beyond also visit Middlesex County to participate in Wesleyan University’s events and activities, and to experience the Connecticut River and the beautiful shoreline in our region. The Travelers Championship in June and the Durham Fair in September also generate huge crowds on an annual basis. This Tuesday afternoon, the chamber will host its third "Let's Make a Deal" event, this time at Chicago Sam’s Sports Bar and Grille in Cromwell. Hosted by our Tourism Steering Committee, this gathering is designed to help our tourism partners collaborate to develop attractive package deals in our region. The mission of the chamber’s Tourism Steering Committee is to entice visitors from all over to come and discover all that this beautiful county has to offer. At the end of the event, all packages that have been created will be displayed and participants will vote on the best deal of the day. The winner of the best "Discover Middlesex County Package" will receive a six-month banner ad on the chamber’s website. We look forward to another great event.

Sticking with the tourism theme, Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield is another key economic driver in our region. On Saturday, August 5, I look forward to visiting the property to support the unveiling of 365 Synthetic Snow Park. Local skiers will no longer have to wait until winter to hit the slopes now that Sean Hayes and his team have installed a 500-foot run that will be expanded to over 2,800 feet by next summer. Powder Ridge, along with its sister property Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park in Portland, continues to be a major economic driver in our region. I congratulate Sean Hayes on his continued success and thank him for his support of our chamber.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to strongly support the tourism industry in our region and in our state.

Stepping away from the tourism theme for a moment, I also want to mention that I look forward to joining Mayor Dan Drew and other local leaders on Thursday morning at the 50th Anniversary Celebration for the SEIU Local 511 Connecticut Employees Union Independent at its Randolph Road headquarters. Sal Perruccio founded this important local union in 1967, and under his leadership as President, it became one of the first unions in the state to join a business organization. Sal’s son Steven also served as President of SEIU Local 511 and supported our chamber along the way. I continue to appreciate their membership and appreciate the invitation to attend.

As we look ahead to the rest of the calendar year, I want to announce that the chamber is now accepting nominations for a series of important awards that will be presented in 2017. Our Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Committee is now accepting nominations for the 2017 William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award. This award is presented annually at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting to a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces in recognition of his or her distinguished service to the citizens of Connecticut and selfless commitment to public service. This award is given in memoriam of Bill Pomfret who served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II and was a member of the American Legion for 60 years, holding offices of State Commander, State Treasurer and Commander of Middletown Post 75. He graduated from Middletown High School in 1935 where he served as Class President. Bill served on the Middletown Common Council, was the first President of the Ahern Whalen Baseball League, and was the founder and first President of the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame. He served for years as Administrator of the state’s Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Fund for Veterans and their dependents.  Bill also served in many other civic, veteran, sports, and youth organizations. To nominate a candidate for this award, please submit the name of the individual, a detailed resume and/or a biography, supporting documents detailing their military and community service, and any other information you believe the committee should have. Nominations must be received at the chamber office by Friday, August 25 at 4:30 pm. The chamber is now also accepting applications for the Small Business of the Year Awards. These awards are presented to eight Middlesex County businesses that continue to excel in their industry sector. There will be awards presented in the following categories: Business of the Year (1‐30 employees); Business of the Year (31+ employees); Business Growth & Expansion Award; Manufacturer of the Year; Minority Owned Business of the Year; Outstanding New Business under 5 years; Retail Business of the Year; and Tourism/ Hospitality Business of the Year. For information on how to nominate a business, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. These award nominations are also due on Friday, August 25 at 4:30 p.m. We look forward to honoring our small business champions at Middlesex County's Premier Business Showcase on October 11. More info to come!

Now that August is almost upon us, planning for the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is entering its final phase. This major annual event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will be held on Aug. 9 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Middletown Motorcycle Mania is held in memory of Dan M. Hunter, one of the event’s founding sponsors. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for the 12th installment of this annual city event which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. I will have much more on Middletown Motorcycle Mania in next week’s column, and more information can be found at http://middletownmotorcyclemania.com.

On a sad note, I recently learned of the passing of a longtime friend and chamber member, Arnold Joseph “Joe” Talevi. His funeral liturgy will be held on Wednesday, July 26 at 11 a.m. at Saint John’s Church. Calling hours will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25 at Biega Funeral Home. I will have much more on Joe’s passing in next week’s column, but our thoughts and prayers are certainly with his family at this difficult time.


Ready, set, go for Citizens Bank 5K Summer Fun Run

July 17, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

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

Before covering some of the many upcoming events and activities in our region, I want to quickly recap what was another outstanding Business After Work Networking Reception hosted by the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell last Wednesday evening. The Hawaiian Luau theme was a big hit with over 275 members in attendance, as was the terrific spread of food and drink. The hotel looked great as always, and I want to thank GM Anthony Covino, Sales Director Dan Miller and the entire Courtyard team for all of their thought, hard work, and dedication to not only this annual event, but to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Our next Business After Work networking reception will be held on August 22 at the beautiful Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook. I will certainly have much more on that event as we move through the summer.

This week kicks off with a trip to Bristol for a meeting with the Chamber Insurance Trust (CIT). CIT is a voluntary alliance of all participating Chambers of Commerce across Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.  Created to bring the combined buying power of thousands of chamber members from across the state, CIT's complete range of insurance options are designed with the input from local Chamber of Commerce executives and members to offer small, mid-sized, and large businesses competitively-priced benefit packages. I look forward to meeting with many of my fellow chamber executives from around the state as we collectively navigate challenging times within the insurance industry. I am sure it will be another productive meeting.

Tuesday afternoon features an Open House Retirement celebration for a longtime friend and chamber supporter, Middletown Fire Marshal Al Santostefano. Al is a longtime and active supporter of many of the chamber’s downtown initiatives. He has served as Chairman of the Holiday on Main Street festivities, and the chamber’s annual Business After Work Auction and Taste of Downtown. He has also been very active with the Cruise Night on Main Planning Committee, the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, and has supported a number of other chamber causes along the way. He has been so supportive over the years, that the chamber’s “Al Award” was created in 2010 and is presented annually to a member of our Central Business Bureau who provides service above and beyond what is required or expected. He is also a past recipient of the chamber’s Chief Michael L. Green Award which is presented to a member of the police, fire or emergency management community in Middlesex County who is dedicated to giving back to the people and institutions in our region. In addition to this support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Al is also chairperson of MARC Community Resources and has supported countless other community initiatives along the way. Al Santostefano is a model citizen and a great friend to me and to our chamber. I thank him for his longtime service and support, and wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.

Tuesday evening features the Certificate Presentation Ceremony for the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Side Street to Main Street Supplemental Program Business Know-How Class 6. This event will be held at the chamber from 6:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Generously funded with a grant from Eversource Energy, the program is an intensive four-session course which provides practical knowledge for starting and building a small business in Connecticut. The program is targeted for minority small business owners in Middlesex County and surrounding areas within the Eversource Energy footprint. Designed as a companion to the chamber’s award-winning Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program sponsored by Aetna, Inc., Business Know-How offers a bridge for business owners hoping to participate in the program, now entering its 21st year this fall. I want to once again thank Eversource for its support of this important community and economic development initiative. This program would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of Program Coordinator Jennifer De Kine and Facilitator Jim Jackson of The Essex Group, and I want to thank them once again for their outstanding effort.

Speaking of business development in our region, I look forward to joining Cromwell town leaders, and our Cromwell Division Chairman Rodney Bitgood, at a Grand Opening Celebration for California Dreamin' Tanning Salon and Spa in Cromwell on Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. On behalf of the chamber, I wish Kendall Amenta all the best as she opens her new business on Willowbrook Road. We look forward to seeing her succeed right here in Middlesex County.

Hundreds of runners, supporters, and volunteers will flock to downtown Middletown on Wednesday evening for this year’s Citizens Bank 5K Summer Fun Run. This unique family-oriented festival and road race is a July tradition in Middletown, and this year’s event features a flatter and faster 5K course which I know makes many of the runners happy. The half-mile Kids Fun Run begins at 6:30 p.m. and the 5K Road Race begins at 6:45 p.m. The post-race festivities and award presentations will be held between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The committee charged with planning and executing this event does a fine job every year, and I want to thank them once again for their hard work and dedication. I also want to thank Citizens Bank, and it’s Connecticut State President Lisa Maass, for sponsoring this annual family friendly event, and for its longtime support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and of so many community initiatives. Finally, we should all once again recognize the efforts of the city personnel who work hard to make this event safe and successful on an annual basis, just as they do for all of the city’s downtown events. Anyone interested in registering for the race or learning more can visit jbsports.com, and anyone interested in volunteering at the event can contact Cathy Duncan at the chamber office. We all look forward to another fun evening in downtown Middletown on Wednesday.

A busy week continues on Thursday morning in New Haven for a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. They serve the public through the American Job Centers, one of which is located on South Main Street in Middletown. The chamber continues to partner with Workforce Alliance on a number of initiatives that are connecting job seekers to employers. These include: The Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program, the Middlesex County Job Seeker and Employer Outreach Initiative, the Middlesex County Career Fair, and many more. We continue to appreciate the longtime support and partnership of Workforce Alliance President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team. I look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow executive committee members.

Speaking of workforce development, week two of the 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program begins today at over 30 host worksites located across Middletown from a variety of different industry sectors. The chamber continues to be proud of this important initiative which places young Middletown residents into constructive summer employment for six weeks. While six weeks might not seem like a long time, it provides a solid foundation and a great glimpse into what life in the workforce is like. During the six weeks, our young people not only learn the fundamentals of employment, such as getting to work on time and ready to contribute, but also the pride that comes with putting in a solid work week and receiving a paycheck that was earned through hard and honest work. I will continue to provide updates on the program as the work experience rolls along, and we all continue to appreciate the support of our host worksites and of our program funders. This program is helping to develop the workforce of tomorrow, something that is critically important to the business community in our state.

Looking ahead to August, the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will be held on Aug. 9 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. This event is held in memory of Dan M. Hunter, a founding sponsor of Middletown Motorcycle Mania. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for the 12th anniversary of this annual Middletown event which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. In 2016, there were over 6,000 motorcycles on display along with thousands of spectators. All bikes are welcome to come out for the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, an event that is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. I will have more on the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania as we get closer, but everyone should save the date of Aug. 9, and the rain date of Aug. 16.

It’s the heart of summer in New England, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.

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