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 week’s Business After Work is a Swashbuckler’s Soiree

March 27, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

I would like to begin this week’s column by congratulating the Community Health Center on gaining approval for its proposed 31,000 square foot office building at the intersection of Main Street and Grand Street. I look forward to attending the groundbreaking ceremony on May 1st, which is also the 45th anniversary of the Community Health Center. Led by its Founder and President, Mark Masselli, CHC has been a long time member of the chamber and a key player in our community on a number of fronts. The chamber was supportive of this project as it went through the local approval process because it will be an important economic and community development initiative for a critical Middletown neighborhood, the North End. I look forward to the groundbreaking and the project’s completion which is a major win for downtown.

This week caps off a very busy March for the chamber team. Our Westbrook Division will meet on Tuesday morning at the Westbrook Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The meeting will feature updates from local officials, a chamber update, and a member roundtable with our Westbrook-based members. We look forward to a productive session and thank First Selectman Noel Bishop for hosting.

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. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state, and these meetings always feature productive discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community.

The 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown is scheduled for tomorrow evening at The Italian Society of Middletown on Court Street. A number of Middletown’s terrific downtown restaurants will be featured, and they will once again offer delicious samplings from their menus. Complimentary beer, wine, soda and a "Special Drink" of the evening will also be provided for attending members of our chamber and their guests. The Live Auction begins at 5:45 p.m. This portion of the event includes approximately 100 items which may be previewed in advance, and a Silent Auction will also be held throughout the event. Members will also have the opportunity to purchase keys for a treasure chest that could potentially unlock a surprise worth more than $200, a drawing for a movie viewing at Metro Movies 12, and much more. This year’s event is titled “Pirates of Middlesex County Swashbuckler’s Soiree.” Chamber members will enjoy delicious samplings from the following restaurants that are confirmed to attend: Celtic Cavern, First and Last Tavern, Illiano’s Restaurant, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Mondo, NoRA Cupcake Co., Perk on Main, and Tuscany Grill. We expect a packed house at the Italian Society Hall on Tuesday night and certainly look forward to another great event.

Our highly successful Legislative Event Series continues in the month of April. We look forward to welcoming Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff to a special leadership event on Monday, April 10 at the Courtyard by Marriott. This event will begin at 9 a.m. At this special meeting, sponsored by Eversource, Sen. Duff will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. This important series concludes on Tuesday, April 25, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special leadership event at the Inn at Middletown. The event, sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, will begin at 8 and will also give the chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. These events are follow-ups to our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with our legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay engaged during this important legislative session.

Members should also save the date of April 20 for another exciting Business After Work. This event will be held on the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, which will be docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown, and will feature a terrific spread of food, drink and of course, the best networking around.

Congressman Joe Courtney will keynote the chamber’s April Member Breakfast Meeting on Monday, April 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. The Congressman’s district includes some important down county towns within the chamber’s service area, and we look forward to welcoming him back to a Member Breakfast Meeting. Congressman Courtney has some important committee assignments down in D.C., 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 will be held as part of Connecticut Export Week 2017, which is a unique initiative of the District Export Council and U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the Department of Commerce. Pratt & Whitney is the sponsor of this important chamber Member Breakfast Meeting, and we continue to appreciate the strong support of this outstanding corporate citizen.  More information will be made available as we get closer, but members should be sure to save the date of April 24.

I want to take a moment to mention the good work being undertaken by the chamber’s Health Care Council. The council has recently developed four simple questions that will assist individuals as they seek to better understand their prescription health. When prescribed medication, individuals should be sure to ask their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist: Why do I need it? What are my alternatives? What are the complications of the medicine? What if I don’t take it? These might sound like simple questions, but they are critical to properly understanding your prescription health. This is just one of the many important initiatives coming out of our Health Care Council, and I want to once again thank Middlesex Hospital CEO Vin Capece and his team for supporting the council in a variety of ways.

The chamber’s 34th Annual Golf Tournament is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at Portland Golf Course. The chamber Golf Tournament is always a sold-out and outstanding event, and I continue to appreciate the hard work and effort of our Golf Committee. We look forward to another successful chamber Golf Tournament, and expect the sun to shine in Portland on May 5!

Finally, I want to close this week’s chamber column by recapping the outstanding 20th Graduation Awards Ceremony for the award winning Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program which was held last Tuesday evening at the chamber building on Main Street. The chamber conference area was packed with graduates, their proud families, and friends, program alumni, representatives from the program’s longtime funder, Aetna, Inc., and other program supporters. This important event officially brings the graduate total to 248 since the inception of this groundbreaking initiative in 1997. Side Street to Main Street is a one year long entrepreneurial and business development course with a rigorous curriculum, designed to assist minority small business owners in the community who have not had formal business training. As I noted last week, it continues to be an effective way in which we encourage the development of small, minority-owned businesses which are now part of the central fabric of the Middlesex County business community. We were so pleased to have chamber Chairman Greg Shook and Councilman Tom Serra, who represented Mayor Drew and the city of Middletown, and Middletown Director of Office of Equal Opportunity Faith Jackson in attendance at the event along with Aetna’s Senior Director of Corporate Community Investments and Employee Programs Chris Montross who got to see firsthand the great work that this program is doing for our community. I would like to thank Aetna, Inc. once again for its support of this, and of so many community initiatives. We look forward to Class 21 which will begin in the fall.

Spring is upon us, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County. 

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

March 20, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UConn Coach Auriemma to keynote sold-out member breakfast

March 13, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached one of my favorite weeks of the year, the week that includes Saint Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day is a truly global celebration of Irish heritage and tradition, and I am very proud that the residents and businesses of Middlesex County have warmly embraced the holiday. Whether you plan to celebrate by wearing your favorite green tie, sweater or shirt, by enjoying a nice plate of corned beef and cabbage, or by enjoying a hearty libation or two, I hope that everyone in our region enjoys a very happy, healthy and safe Saint Patrick’s Day.

A busy work week kicks off with Monday’s sold out Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Coach Auriemma and the Lady Huskies, fresh off their conference tournament victory at Mohegan Sun last week, are gearing up for another national run. We very much look forward to this Member Breakfast which has become a very popular event for our chamber over the course of the past few years. I again want to thank the Coach for speaking to our membership, and MiddleOak CEO Gary Vallo and his team for sponsoring this major chamber event. Go Huskies!

The breakfast event with Coach Auriemma will be immediately followed by a Small Business Lending Forum and Mini Expo featuring representatives of bank, nonbank and community lenders. I would like to thank our partners at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center for their support of this event and of the business community in Middlesex County and throughout the state. We also appreciate the participation of our terrific panelists: Allison Standish-Plimpton, VP, Producing Team Leader for KeyBank, William Curtin, Vice President, Small Business Banking Group at Liberty Bank, Sheila Hummel, Program Administrator, Small Business Express Program for the Department of Economic and Community Development, Fernando Rosa, Deputy Executive Director at HEDCO, Inc. and David Raccio, Vice President, BDC Capital/CDC New England. We look forward to a productive session for our small businesses.

The chamber’s KeyBank Workshop Series continues with Tuesday’s session on “Time Management.” Attendees will learn practical techniques that they can use immediately to gain control over their day. The program will also cover planning and prioritizing more effectively while managing interruptions and distractions. I would like to thank Jim Jackson of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center for leading this important discussion at Tuesday morning’s seminar which runs from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Please contact the chamber for registration information and keep an eye out for future sessions of the KeyBank Seminar Series. We again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this important initiative.

Tourism Advocacy Day is scheduled for Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol. I look forward to attending along with chamber Vice President Johanna Bond and some of our members from this important 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.

The chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its March meeting this Thursday at The Griswold Inn in Essex. In addition to reports from committee chairs and key staff, the meeting will feature remarks and Q&A with State Comptroller Kevin Lembo. It is important that the business community in Middlesex County has a strong working relationship with our state officials. I thank Comptroller Lembo for visiting with our board, and I continue to appreciate the strong and ongoing support of all of the members of our Board of Directors.

I look forward to a visit from our friends from Nutmeg Technologies, a new chamber member, for a meeting and Business Announcement Picture on Wednesday afternoon at the chamber. We look forward to working with its President, Lisa Smith, Director of Customer Care, Business & Community Deirdre Tindall, and their entire team. We wish them luck and success.

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

Next Tuesday evening, March 21, the 20th Graduation Awards Ceremony for the award-winning Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program will be held at the chamber office from 6:15pm- 9:30pm. The program is a year-long entrepreneurial and business development course, with a rigorous curriculum, designed to assist minority small business owners in the community who have not had formal business training. We are so proud of this program and the fact that it has changed so many lives over the course of its twenty year history. I want to once again thank Aetna, Inc. who has funded and supported this program since the beginning. I will share additional details on the program and the ceremony in next week’s column.

Our Auction Committee is busy planning for the 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown to be held once again at the Italian Society of Middletown. This year’s event is titled Pirates of Middlesex County Swashbuckler’s Soiree. Taking place from 5 to 8 p.m., this event will feature complimentary beer, wine, soda and a specialty drink. Some highlights include a taste of downtown, a live auction beginning at 5:45 p.m., a silent auction, a treasure chest that has keys available for purchase to unlock a surprise worth more than $200, a drawing for a movie viewing at Metro Movies 12 and much more. More information will be made available as we get closer but it is safe to say that our members are looking forward to another Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown.

There is strong economic development activity and a lot of optimism throughout Middlesex County right now. I continue to be bullish on our region, am very excited about the rest of 2017.

The calendar still reads winter, but spring is on the horizon, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Local pediatric dentist takes over Dr. Pat Carta’s practice

March 6, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

March is off to a fast start in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Last Monday featured a terrific grand opening at Sweet Tooth Pediatric Dentistry on Saybrook Road in Middletown. Dr. Erica Pitera is off to a great start with her practice which was formerly known as the office of Dr. Patricia Carta. Dr. Pat passed away recently, and Dr. Erica and her team are proud to carry on Dr. Pat’s legacy of bringing quality dental care to the local youth population. Erica is a Cromwell native, and we are proud of the fact that she is building her practice locally and contributing to the fabric of our business community. I was happy to attend the grand opening with Mayor Dan Drew, Middletown Small Business Development Center Counselor Paul Dodge, and other local dignitaries. We all wish Dr. Erica and her team nothing but the best moving forward.

This week features a number of important chamber meetings and other events throughout our region and elsewhere. The Durham and Middlefield Division meets on Wednesday morning at Durham Town Hall, and the Cromwell Division meets on Thursday at Courtyard by Marriott. These meetings will feature reports from the local municipal leadership in these towns, along with other discussions on matters of importance to the business community. Our Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council meets on Thursday morning at the chamber office where planning will continue for the 2017 High School Career Fair Expo which is scheduled for April 27th at Wesleyan’s Freeman Athletic Center. The chamber’s county based divisions and industry based councils continue to be very important outlets for our members and we appreciate everyone’s support of these important meetings.

Connecticut Business Day 2017, sponsored by CBIA and the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (CACCE), is scheduled for this Wednesday at the State Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Governor Dannel P. Malloy will address the business community at 10:15 a.m. Following the Gov.’s remarks, the group will visit with legislators from all over the state to discuss important business related issues that are under consideration this legislative session. To register for Connecticut Business Day, please contact Jeff Pugliese at 860-347-6924 or jeffrey@middlesexchamber.com. A contingent of chamber members and staff will leave the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell at 9:15 a.m. We look forward to another productive Connecticut Business Day in Hartford.

Excitement continues to build for our next Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma. Coach Auriemma always does a terrific job with his remarks, and I know that our members are looking forward to this year’s visit which will be a sold out event, once again, on Monday, March 13, right before the start of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Members who are interested in attending should register right away as this event will surely sell out. I would like to again acknowledge the support of event sponsor MiddleOak, especially CEO Gary Vallo who sits on our Executive Committee and is a terrific chamber supporter. We look forward to welcoming the coach back to Middlesex County.

The breakfast event with Coach Auriemma will be immediately 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 would like to thank our partners at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center for their support of this event and of the business community in Middlesex County and throughout the state.

On March 15, the Connecticut Tourism Coalition will host its first Tourism Advocacy Day at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Similar to Business Day, Tourism Advocacy Day will include meetings with House and Senate leaders as well as one-on-one meetings with individual representatives to stress the importance of tourism in Connecticut. I look forward to attending the event along with chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who staffs all of our tourism efforts here at the chamber.

Our Legislative Event Series continues on Monday, March 20 when we welcome Senator Len Fasano to a special event at the Courtyard by Marriott. Senator Fasano is now the Senate Republican President Pro Tempore, and he will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. I want to once again thank The Connecticut Water Company for sponsoring, and especially Maureen Westbrook who serves on our Executive Committee, and as co-chair of our Legislative Committee. Maureen’s co-chair, Rich Carella, introduced the Speaker of the House at last Monday’s chamber legislative event at the Inn at Middletown. Rich’s firm, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C., sponsored the event and we continue to appreciate their great support. Last Monday’s event featured a very productive discussion between the speaker and over 50 of our members from all different industry sectors. We look forward to the event with Sen. Fasano and also look forward to meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides at two separate events in the month of April. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay very engaged throughout this important session of the General Assembly.

Members should save the date of March 28 for the 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown to be held once again at the Italian Society of Middletown. This year’s event is titled Pirates of Middlesex County Swashbuckler’s Soiree. Taking place from 5:00 pm- 8:00 pm, this event will feature complimentary beer, wine, soda and a specialty drink. Some highlights include a “taste of downtown” where attendees will learn about the wide variety of food available in downtown Middletown, a live auction beginning at 5:45 p.m., a silent auction, a treasure chest that has keys available for purchase to unlock a surprise worth more than $200, a drawing for a movie viewing at Metro Movies 12, and much more. More information will be made available as we get closer, but it is safe to say that our members are looking forward to another Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown.

I must again end this week’s chamber column on a sad note after recently attending calling hours for two longtime supporters and friends. Henry "Hank" Novicki passed away on Feb. 21 at the age of 92. He was a longtime employee of Pratt & Whitney and was a strong community servant in many ways. He was very involved in local politics and participated in many volunteer initiatives throughout his great life. Hank was also a proud Veteran who served with the U.S. Army during World War II and was a member and past commander of the Catholic War Veterans Post 1166. Our thoughts and prayers are with his three daughters, his son, his sisters-in-law, his nine grandchildren and his entire family.

Rita (Tynan) Hassett also passed away on Feb. 21 at the age of 83. As her obituary notes, Rita was a loving wife, mother, sister, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was a strong woman of faith and also supported a variety of community service initiatives throughout her life. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Richard, their six children, and her entire network of family and friends at this difficult time.

Hank Novicki and Rita Hassett were both strong supporters of mine back in my Xavier High School and MX Corporation days. I will always be grateful for their support and counsel over the years. I was honored to coach Hank’s son, Bill Novicki, and Rita’s son, Kevin Hassett, who were both good football players but more importantly, fine young men. Hank and Rita led lives that were well lived, and their families should be proud. They will both be missed by many.


 

Lack of quorum at Middletown zoning meetings unacceptable

February 27, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

I must, unfortunately, begin this week’s chamber column on a disappointing note after learning that the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission has not had a quorum for its last two meetings. The Planning and Zoning Commission is very important to economic development in the city. Business owners and project developers spend a lot of time, energy and resources preparing for these meetings. The fact that hearings on these projects are delayed due to lack of quorum is unacceptable. These commission members are elected officials and they have a responsibility to attend these meetings and allow the process to run its course. I encourage the Planning and Zoning Commission to recommit to having quorums for its meetings and to allow the City of Middletown to continue its progress.

March arrives this week in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

The 2017 Legislative Event Series continues this Monday morning at the Inn at Middletown. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz will serve as keynote speaker and will participate in a question and answer session with our members. 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. I also want to thank Speaker Aresimowicz for taking the time to visit with our group during what is certainly a very busy time for him and legislative colleagues. We look forward to a productive discussion.

Our February Business After Work networking reception will be held this Monday evening 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 again 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 this major networking reception. This Business After Work event has become an annual tradition in Rocky Hill, and we look forward to another fun evening.

The chamber’s Westbrook Division will hold its February meeting on Tuesday morning at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa. The meeting will feature updates from Town of Westbrook officials, a chamber update, and a presentation from the chamber’s Affordable Housing Committee. The Westbrook Division is a key part of the chamber’s shoreline infrastructure, and we continue to appreciate the support of co-chairs Phil Cocchiola and Mary Brewster, and all of our Westbrook-based members.

Our Portland and East Hampton Division will meet on Wednesday morning at Angelico’s Lake House in East Hampton. This meeting will also feature reports from key local officials, in addition to updates on the economic development activity happening in both towns. We also continue to appreciate the support of our Portland chair, Mary Dickerson, and our East Hampton chair, Dean Markham, along with all of our committed members in these two important member towns.

Wednesday morning will also feature the March meeting of our Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee. The Environment, Land Use, and Energy Committee is comprised of attorneys, engineers, environmental specialists, developers and other professionals. The committee focuses on important environment, land use and energy issues that have a direct impact on the business community in Middlesex County. The committee is led by Andrew Lord and Tim Myjak, and I thank them for their longtime leadership of this important chamber group.

Central Business Bureau (CBB) will meet on Thursday morning from 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. in the chamber conference room. Hosted by NoRA Cupcake Company, the meeting will feature city updates from Mayor Dan Drew and other key officials, updates from a number of Middletown stakeholders, and a preview of the 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28 at Italian Society of Middletown. We look forward to another productive meeting of the Central Business Bureau which is led by Tom Byrne, another longtime chamber supporter and President of Connecticut Rental.

A busy week closes on Friday morning with a meeting of the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division at Chester Town Hall. The Chester, Deep River and Essex Division, led by its chairman, Geoff Jacobson, continues to focus on the important issues facing the business community in these three member towns. This meeting will feature local updates and a presentation from Kristina Martineau, Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Regional School District 4.

I look forward to attending a special ceremony on Friday afternoon which will mark the renaming of the train station in Westbrook in honor of the late Eileen Daily. Eileen served as a State Senator in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1993 through 2012. She represented a large portion of Middlesex County during her time in office and served in key leadership roles including five terms as co-chair of the budget-writing Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee. At the local level, Eileen served as First Selectwoman in Westbrook from 1983 to 1989, a member of the Westbrook Board of Selectmen from 1989 to 1991, and served on the Westbrook Board of Education from 1976 to 1983. Eileen was a strong supporter of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce throughout her career. In September of 2014, we honored her with the prestigious Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award, an honor that was well deserved. The train station in Westbrook would not be there today if not for Eileen’s leadership and commitment to her district. I appreciate the invitation to this event which will honor this outstanding woman who was a dedicated public servant and a good friend to many of us.

Excitement is building for our March 13 Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma which will be a sold-out event once again. Coach Auriemma always does a terrific job with his remarks, and I know that our members are looking forward to this year’s visit which will take place right before the start of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. I would like to again acknowledge the support of event sponsor MiddleOak, especially CEO Gary Vallo who sits on our Executive Committee and is a terrific chamber supporter. Members who are interested in attending should register right away. We look forward to welcoming the coach back to Middlesex County.

The breakfast event with Coach Auriemma will be immediately 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 would like to thank our partners at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center for their support of this event and of the business community in Middlesex County and throughout the state.

Finally, the Legislative Event Series continues on Monday, March 20 when we welcome Senator Len Fasano to a special event at the Courtyard by Marriott. Senator Fasano is now the Senate Republican President Pro Tempore, and he will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. More information will be available as the meeting approaches, but I want to thank Connecticut Water for sponsoring and especially Maureen Westbrook who serves on our Executive Committee and as co-chair of our Legislative Committee.

Spring is on the horizon, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.

Upcoming Events