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.

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.

Wednesday is Hawaiian luau-themed Business After Work

July 10, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

We have the reached the middle part of July in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

This week kicks off with an important meeting of the chamber’s Executive Committee, today at the chamber office. The chamber’s Executive Committee, our top governing body, represents all industry sectors in Middlesex County and continues to be very active and engaged. This is the first Executive Committee meeting that will be led by our new Chairman, Rick Morin of Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski. I continue to appreciate the support of all of our Executive Committee members, and we certainly look forward to another productive meeting.

Workforce development continues to be an important component of the chamber’s overall mission. The work experience portion of one of our key workforce development initiatives, the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program, kicks off today at over 30 worksites across Middletown. We are proud to put nearly 40 kids to work this summer in constructive employment environments throughout the city. This important program would of course not be possible without the support of our host worksites. These local, community minded businesses and organizations have stepped up to the plate this year to provide the work experience and supervision necessary to make this program work. I thank all of them on behalf of the chamber for their support. Our 2017 host worksites are as follows: Allstate Insurance, Amazing Grace Food Pantry, The Buttonwood Tree, Cavanaugh & Company LLC, Change Inc., Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Finesse Cuts LLC, Futures Inc., Godfrey Memorial Library, Goodwill Industries/Easter Seals, Habitat for Humanity Restore of Middlesex County, ID Mail Systems, Inn at Middletown, Liberty Bank, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Middlesex YMCA, Middletown United Fathers Community Garden, North End Action Team, Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater, One MacDonough Place, Pamela Roose Specialty Hand Knits, Pegasus Manufacturing Inc., Russell Library, Seasons Federal Credit Union, Shiloh Youth Intergenerational Program, Strike-A-Pose with Erica Hair & Spa Salon, Suburban Stationers, Tschudin Chocolates & Confections, William Raveis Real Estate, YMCA Camp Ingersoll, and Tonia’s Tailoring.

As I noted last week, the continuing uncertainty surrounding the state budget has led to a major reduction in funding for this program and the elimination of similar programs around the state. However, thanks to the leadership of the City of Middletown and an outstanding team of private and community funders, we are able to administer this year’s program. I want to again take a moment to thank our team of funders for the summer of 2017, for without them, this program would not be possible at all. They are: The City of Middletown, under the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, Peach Pit Foundation, Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Liberty Bank Foundation, Jarvis Products Corporation, MiddleOak, Pegasus Manufacturing, Greenwald Industries, Stone Investment Properties, Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, and Middlesex United Way. As I have repeatedly noted in the past, this program is truly developing the future of the workforce, and we appreciate everyone’s strong support. I will continue to provide updates on the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program as the summer progresses.

Chamber members and staff are looking forward to Wednesday’s Hawaiian Luau themed Business After Work networking reception at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. The Courtyard team always does a great job with this annual event and we expect a large crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of networking and festivities in Cromwell. I want to once again thank the Courtyard by Marriott, led by GM Anthony Covino and Sales Director Dan Miller, for hosting this event on an annual basis and for their strong and longtime support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

As I noted last week, the Joey Logano Foundation Driving Hope Home Golf Tournament, Dinner, Car Show and Auction will be held on Thursday in Southington. The Joey Logano Foundation invests in organizations offering second chances to children and young adults during times of crisis, and works to inspire others to live a life of generosity. The tournament, which will benefit the Joey Logano Foundation, the Connecticut Foster Care Program, and the Ronald McDonald House of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, will be held at the Southington Country Club. After the tournament, the Dinner, Car Show and Auction will be held at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. We wish Joey and his team the best and look forward to supporting this important event. For more information, please visit www.joeyloganofoundation.com.

Business development is another critical piece of the chamber’s mission. We are very proud of the Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program which has been supporting minority business development in our region since 1996. This program has been so successful, that a supplemental Business “Know-How” program was created in 2012 to extend the reach of this important curriculum. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Side Street to Main Street Supplemental Program Business “Know-How” Class 6 Certificate Presentation Ceremony will be held next Tuesday evening from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the chamber’s Main Street facility. Business “Know-How", generously funded with a grant from Eversource Energy, is an intensive four-session program 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 foot print. 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 appreciate Eversource’s support of this important community and economic development initiative, and we look forward to the ceremony next Tuesday.

Runners, supporters and fans of the Citizens Bank 5K Summer Fun Run should save the date of next Wednesday for the 2017 race which will once again be held in downtown Middletown. This unique family-oriented festival and road race will once again attract a huge field of runners and a number of supportive spectators. 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 for their hard work. Finally, we should all recognize the efforts of the city personnel who work hard to make this event safe and successful on an annual basis. I look forward to another fun evening in downtown Middletown next Wednesday.

Looking ahead to August, the chamber will host two sessions of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training on August 15, with the first session beginning at 8:00 a.m., and the second session at 10:15 a.m. The definition of sexual harassment, liability (your own and your organization's), and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets the State of Connecticut's requirement for two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers. This important workshop is a key component of our Key Bank Workshop Series which has been very successful. I once again want to thank Key Bank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their outstanding support of this important chamber initiative.

August also features a major Business After Work networking reception on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall on Thursday, Aug. 24. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink at this annual event which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. The Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by People’s United Bank, will feature an update from the coach on the upcoming season of Husky football which begins on Thursday, August 31 vs. Holy Cross. Coach Edsall recently returned to the position as Head Coach at UConn, and we are thrilled that he is back leading the Huskies. I will have more on both of these important chamber events as we get closer.

The sun always shines on Middlesex County!

Happy 4th of July, Middlesex County; many events on summer agenda

July 3, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

This week, here in Middlesex County and around our great country, we celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July holiday is synonymous with patriotism, fireworks, and enjoying the summer weather with family and friends. While we enjoy these celebrations and take pride in our national heritage, we should all take a moment to recognize the servicemen and servicewomen of the United States Armed Forces who protect this independence on a daily basis. I know that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are dedicated to those we lost and to those who have served, but we must also honor them on the day that we celebrate the birth of our nation. I hope that we all keep our servicemen and servicewomen in our thoughts and prayers, not only today, but every day. I wish everyone in Middlesex County a safe, happy and healthy Independence Day, because America is certainly worth celebrating.

In addition to the Fourth of July holiday, this time of year also brings the start of the annual Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. The work experience portion of the 2017 program begins next Monday, July 10 at 30 different host worksites across Middletown from many different industry sectors. The chamber is proud of all of its workforce development initiatives, but this program is especially important because it deals with our youth population. Unfortunately, due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the state budget, the program is much smaller this year than in years past. However, thanks to the leadership of the City of Middletown and a number of terrific private funders, we are able to put nearly 40 kids to work this summer in constructive employment environments throughout the city. I thank all of them on behalf of the chamber for their unbelievable support of the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program and the many other community initiatives that they support in our area. 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, Liberty Bank Foundation, Jarvis Products Corporation, MiddleOak, Pegasus Manufacturing, Greenwald Industries, Stone Investment Properties, Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, and Middlesex United Way. 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, 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. This program is not possible without Workforce Alliance, and I thank their entire team for their professionalism and support. In addition to the team of funders, I also want to take a moment to thank the over 30 businesses and organizations in Middletown that will serve 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. All of these local supporters are providing a quality work experience to youngsters who need it, and in most cases, it is their very first work experience. As I have noted in the past, this program is truly developing the future of the workforce, and we appreciate everyone’s strong support. I will continue to provide updates on the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program as the summer progresses.

While most of the chamber’s divisions and committees are on summer hiatus, the work of the Central Business Bureau continues. CBB will meet this Thursday morning, July 6, at 8 a.m. at the chamber office. This meeting, sponsored by Cinder + Salt, will feature reports from Mayor Dan Drew and a number of City of Middletown Department Directors who will cover a variety of issues that are important to the downtown business community. The Central Business Bureau continues to be an effective way in which we connect downtown businesses to key city officials and other community leaders. We look forward to another productive meeting.

Looking ahead to next week, the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell will host a members-only Business After Work networking reception on Wednesday, July 12 from 5-7 p.m. We expect a great crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of luau themed networking and festivities in Cromwell. The Courtyard team, led by GM Anthony Covino and Sales Director Dan Miller, always does a terrific job with this annual event which will feature a great spread of food and drinks, and outstanding summer networking for our guests.

Another major event happening next week is the Joey Logano Foundation Driving Hope Home Golf Tournament, Dinner, Car Show and Auction on Thursday in Southington. The Joey Logano Foundation invests in organizations offering second chances to children and young adults during times of crisis and works to inspire others to live a life of generosity. The tournament, which will benefit the Joey Logano Foundation, the Connecticut Foster Care Program, and the Ronald McDonald House of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, will be held at the Southington Country Club. After the tournament, the Dinner, Car Show and Auction will be held at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. I have known Joey and his family since Joey was a youngster driving go karts around our neighborhood in Middletown. I am proud of the man he has become, and appreciate his strong desire to give back to the community. For more information, please visit www.joeyloganofoundation.com.

It is hard to believe, but the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines & the Hunter Family, is only five weeks away. This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, August 9 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in downtown Middletown. This major summer 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 edition of the event which will once again showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. 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 August 9, along with the rain date of August 16.

While there is certainly a lot to celebrate in Middlesex County this summer, I must unfortunately close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of Peter A. LaMalfa, Sr. at the age of 85. Pete LaMalfa was a veteran of the United States Navy and the Korean War, and we are grateful for his service. I was honored to coach his son, Peter, and have known the family since the 1970’s. Pete was involved with the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce for many years, starting with his time as owner of Pete’s Barber Shop in Portland, to his work in the real estate field later in his career. He was a terrific member of our Board of Directors and a former Chairman of our Portland Division. He also supported the chamber’s Golf Committee and Golf Tournament over the course of many years. In addition to his chamber activity, Pete was also a strong supporter of many other community organizations in Portland and in Middlesex County. Peter LaMalfa was a good man, a family man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Joan, to whom he was married for 59 years, his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. Peter LaMalfa will be missed by many.

CTvisit to offer free training Monday for tourism-related businesses

June 26, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

It is hard to believe, but once again, the Travelers Championship has come and gone, after another fantastic week at TPC River Highlands. Record crowds made their way to Cromwell to watch some of the best golfers in the world competing at the highest level. The course and the surrounding areas looked terrific, and the staff and volunteers were professional and helpful as always. Tournament Director Nathan Grube and his team did a fantastic job once again, and we of course have to recognize the continuing support of Travelers Companies led by Chief Executive Officer Alan Schnitzer, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer Andy Bessette, and their entire leadership team. The Town of Cromwell also shined once again, and I want to thank Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Manager Tony Salvatore, Chief of Police Denise Lamontagne, and the entire town government structure for doing a truly professional job managing the event. The chamber’s 2017 Travelers Championship Member Breakfast was held last Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. The event featured as guest speaker, PGA Tour Pro and 2016 Travelers Championship winner, Russell Knox. I would like to again thank Russell for speaking to our chamber; and we wish him continued success on the PGA Tour. Another great Travelers Championship week is in the books, but the countdown to the 2018 version is already underway. As I have repeatedly noted, this state is so fortunate that the Travelers Championship has Connecticut as its home, and it is certainly comforting to know that the tournament  will continue to be held right here in Middlesex County for many years to come.

In addition to the Travelers Championship, last week also featured some important meetings, events and announcements that were held throughout Middlesex County. The chamber’s Haddam & East Haddam Division held the final meeting of its division year last Thursday morning at The Gelston House in East Haddam. It was a very productive meeting that featured a big crowd of chamber members including representatives from key local tourism stakeholders The Goodspeed Opera House, The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, Connecticut River Expeditions, Nehemiah Brainerd House B&B, and the Gelston House. The meeting also attracted a number of other local businesses, in addition to Haddam First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo, East Haddam First Selectman Emmett Lyman, and State Rep. Bob Siegrist. Immediately following the division meeting on the East Haddam side, we traveled to Eagle Landing State Park on the Haddam side for a press conference which announced a long awaited infrastructure project that will bring clean water to the Tylerville area of Haddam. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection discovered extensive contamination of Tylerville’s ground water supply. This has been a major issue for area residents ever since, with those most affected being forced to use bottled water for drinking and for daily sanitary and household needs. Thanks to the leadership of Lizz Milardo, State Sen. Art Linares, State Rep. Siegrist, other key officials in state government, and a number of other individuals along the way, this major problem is now on the way to being solved. This is not only a huge win for Haddam and for Middlesex County, but it is an example of local stakeholders coming together to develop sound public policy that serves the best interests of their constituents. I would like to thank everyone involved, especially Lizz Milardo, Haddam Town Planner Liz Glidden, Sen. Linares and Rep Siegrist, DEEP, the Department of Public Health, Connecticut Water Co.; and everyone who has worked and will continue to work to move this project forward. I was honored to be a part of the press conference, and the chamber looks forward to being a constructive partner in the weeks and months ahead.

The chamber team continues to be on the move as another busy week begins. Our Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Committee will meet today at 8 a.m. in the chamber conference room. This group is charged with planning and executing our annual Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting which is always a huge event for our organization. This year’s event is scheduled for Monday, November 6, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell with guest speaker Colonel Christopher Beckert, Director at Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA. We look forward to another outstanding Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans event, and continue to appreciate the good work of this important committee which is led by its Chairman, Phil Cacciola.

Tomorrow morning, our Westbrook Division will meet at the Westbrook Elks Lodge 1784 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. This is the Westbrook Division’s annual June visit to the Elks Lodge, and we look forward to a productive meeting which will feature local reports and a preview of summer activities on the shore.

Tuesday afternoon includes a visit to New Haven for a meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s metro chambers of commerce. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state, from all industry sectors and of all sizes. These meetings always feature important discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community. I look forward to attending what is always a productive meeting.

 

As I have noted consistently for many years now, tourism is a critical economic driver in Middlesex County and throughout our state. Tomorrow, June 27th at our Main Street offices, chamber members can learn how to make the most of free web listings by attending a free training session provided by CTvisit.com. Attendees will learn how to upload photos and videos of their attractions, upload descriptions and keywords, share social media feeds and TripAdvisor reviews, promote deals, events and packages, and maximize their reach to visitors. Any type of Connecticut-based tourism business, as long as it has a physical destination that is regularly open to visitors, is eligible to be listed on ctvisit.com. Examples include attractions, accommodations, campgrounds, and marinas, events, restaurants, outdoor venues such as parks, beaches, etc, individual Connecticut cities and towns, and arts and cultural venues. Interested members should RSVP online at www.middlesexchamber.com. 

A Grand Opening celebration for Stranded at the Spa is scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m. its Kirby Rd. location in Cromwell. Stranded at the Spa is a day spa that offers various services from facials to massages to salon haircuts and styling. I look forward to joining Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza, Cromwell Town Manager Tony Salvatore and other local dignitaries as we collectively welcome Wanda Szarek and Malgorzata Szarek and her team success and best wishes as they embark on this new endeavor.

The 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program will kick off its work experience on Monday, July 10th, and we are proud to announce that nearly 40 youngsters from the City of Middletown will work through this year’s program,

A mandatory orientation session will be held this Thursday, June 29, at the chamber office, led by chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall. The orientation session will take place at 12:00 p.m., and will introduce and explain to our young workers a number of important workplace requirements such as properly filling out tax withholding forms and work time recording sheets, signing an employee code of conduct contract, and stressing the importance of professionalism in the workplace. Liberty Bank personnel will be on hand to provide a presentation on the importance of responsible financial literacy. I will have much more on the 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program in next week’s chamber column including information on our terrific host worksites, and a description of the application and placement process. Thanks to the City of Middletown and an outstanding team of private funding partners, we are able to continue to operate this important program despite an expected elimination of state funds. This program continues to develop the workforce of tomorrow, and we are very proud of it.

As you can see, the activity level in Middlesex County continues to be very high. However, I must unfortunately close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of two longtime chamber members, Hugh Cox and Russell St. John. Hugh Loomis Cox passed away on June 16th at the age of 88. Hugh had a terrific professional career that included a stint at Pratt & Whitney, and a 40 year run at Raymond Engineering, Inc. which was later a subsidiary of Kaman Corp. He was a member of the Governor's Task Force on Contracting Reform, the Academy of Distinguished Engineers, and was a board member for the Valley Railroad Company where he was integral in the restoration of a number of important bridges and crossings. In addition to his professional success, Hugh also supported a number of community initiatives throughout his life including the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Wadsworth Mansion, local Boy Scout and Indian Guides groups, and local municipal bodies including planning and zoning boards. In 2006, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce was honored to present Hugh with our prestigious Distinguished Citizen Award. Hugh Cox was a great man, and his family should be proud of a life well lived. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of 65 years, Judith, his three sons, three grandchildren and one great grandchild, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time.

Another strong and longtime chamber member, Russell George St. John, passed away on June 17th, also at the age of 88. A Hartford native, Russ was a proud veteran of the CT. National Guard. He served in post war Germany as part of NATO and we very much appreciate that service. Russ had a passion for transportation, with a particular interest in trains. He worked for the Connecticut Central Railroad in Middletown where he actively grew the freight business in Central Connecticut and eventually became President of the railroad. The Connecticut Central Railroad was bought by Providence and Worcester, and Russ continued to work for P&W until his retirement in 2016. Russ was a longtime member of the Connecticut Public Transportation, and supported our chamber by serving on our Transportation and Rail Council and Legislative Committee over a period of many years. Russ St. John was a great man who always had a smile and was always willing to help his fellow citizens. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anne, to whom he was married for 57 years, his three children, three grandchildren, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. Hugh Cox and Russ St. John will be missed by many, but their families can take comfort in the fact that they led their lives with dignity and respect. May they rest in peace.

A third longtime chamber supporter, Peter A. LaMalfa, Sr., also passed away recently. I will have more on Peter’s passing in next week’s column.

Last week was car cruise, this week is Travelers

June 19, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

We have once again reached one of the best weeks of the year in Middlesex County, Travelers Championship Week.

This year’s tournament is packed with an outstanding Player Field which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Justin Thomas, and 2016 Champion, Russell Knox, who will serve as guest speaker at Tuesday morning’s Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Travelers Championship Member Breakfast Meeting at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Russell is currently ranked 39 in the Official World Golf Rankings and we look forward to welcoming him back to Middlesex County for this important event. The chamber’s Member Breakfast Meeting has become a key part of tournament week and we very much appreciate the longtime sponsorship of The Travelers Companies. As I have repeatedly noted during the lead up to tournament week, the Travelers Championship is a major economic generator that fills our area hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. This major PGA event not only attracts most of the best golfers in the world, but it also attracts huge crowds to Cromwell, and generates millions of dollars for charity. It is hard to believe, but this is now the eleventh year that Travelers has served as title sponsor of the event. I would like to take a moment to once again thank Chief Executive Officer Alan Schnitzer, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer Andy Bessette, and the entire Travelers family for their strong and continued support. We also have to recognize the year-round effort put forth by Tournament Director Nathan Grube and his team. Nathan has provided a countdown to the tournament at every chamber Member Breakfast Meeting in the past year, a countdown that has led to today. I am honored to have been invited to once again participate in Monday’s Opening Ceremonies at the course, and I look forward to joining the huge crowds that will head out to the TPC throughout this exciting week. For more information, please visit www.travelerschampionship.com. We are very fortunate to have this major tournament in Middlesex County and in the State of Connecticut, and I join everyone in our region who looks forward to a great week out at the TPC at River Highlands.

In addition to the Travelers Championship Member Breakfast Meeting, Tuesday also features the Middlesex County Spring Career Fair at the Radisson Hotel from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Over 50 companies from throughout the labor market area will be seeking people whose skills run from professional, technical, manufacturing and administrative. Attendees will be able to find all types of job opportunities, from entry level to highly skilled positions. The unemployed, underemployed, as well as individuals seeking new career opportunities are invited to come meet with prospective employers and receive advice from career counselors. Manufacturing, healthcare and temporary employment agencies are just a sampling of some of the industries that will be on hand. Before the job fair, a special Meet and Greet will be held from 9:30-10:45 a.m. at the hotel. This gathering is designed to connect employers in the key fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Advanced Manufacturing, Finance and Healthcare, to qualified job seekers that are interested in careers in those fields. To view a complete listing of companies participating, please visit www.ctjobfairs.com. The chamber is proud to partner with the Connecticut Department of Labor and Workforce Alliance on these important workforce development initiatives. I want to take a moment to once again thank the Department of Labor, under the leadership of Commissioner Scott Jackson, and Workforce Alliance, under the leadership of President & CEO Bill Villano, for not only their support of the Middlesex County Career Fair, but for their longtime support of workforce development in Middlesex County and throughout our state. We look forward to a productive day in Cromwell on Tuesday.

A busy Tuesday continues in the afternoon as chamber VP Jeff Pugliese and I will attend the Official Ground Breaking Ceremony for The Greater Middletown Military Museum at Veterans Memorial Park. The Greater Middletown Military Museum is an outstanding organization that is dedicated to preserving the rich military history that is connected to our city and the surrounding area. The chamber was proud to support this initiative from the beginning, and Jeff and I both look forward to the event on Tuesday. We will continue to support our veterans in a variety of important ways.

This week also features meetings of the chamber’s East Haddam & Haddam Division at the Gelston House on Thursday morning, and the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council Advisory Board on Friday morning at the chamber office.

Switching gears a bit, I want to take a moment to recap a major event that was held last week in Middletown.

Downtown was packed once again last Wednesday evening as the 20th Annual Cruise Night on Main, powered by NAPA, turned out to be a huge success. Almost 1000 cars, beautiful weather, outstanding vendors, and a fun atmosphere attracted thousands of people to Main Street, the South Green, and bordering streets. I want to take a moment to once again thank the Cruise Night Planning Committee, our outstanding sponsors and supporters, the volunteers who worked hard all night, the chamber staff, and everyone who contributed to another successful downtown event. One of the real highlights of this major annual downtown event is the presentation of the Sponsors Awards. The Sponsor Awards for the 2017 Cruise Night on Main were as follows: The Best In Show Award, Powered by NAPA, was presented to Joe Lajoie of Broad Brook for his 1969 Orange Chevrolet C/20; Jackson Chevrolet Choice Award, presented by Jackson Chevrolet, was presented to Ed Makuck  Northford for his 1956 Yellow & Black Chevrolet Belair Convertible; Main Drag Award, presented by Middletown Downtown Business District, was presented to Tony Della Camera of Northford for his 1956 Green & White Canadian Bolt Lucerne; Liberty’s Choice Award, presented by Liberty Bank, was presented to Jerry Augustine of Middletown for his 1953 M38A1 Green Jeep; Apple Rehab Choice Award,  presented by Apple Rehab, was presented to Charles Flechner of Middletown for his 1955 Sky Haze Green Ford Thunderbird; AAA Diamond Award, presented by AAA Cromwell, was presented to Mark Hueffman of North Haven for his 1987 Black Buick Grand National; The Smokin’ Hot Award, presented by Servpro of Middletown/New Britain, was presented to Dan Bellini of Berlin for his 1957 Blue Chevrolet Belair; The Restored to Glory Award, presented by City Church, Middletown, was presented to Ronnie & Pat Dacurto of North Branford for their 1968 Blue Chevrolet Camaro; The Fat City Cycle Award, presented by Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, was presented to Sal Emanuele of Middletown for his 1965 Beige Chevrolet Nova SS, and the Mayor’s Choice Award, presented by Mayor Daniel Drew, was presented to Bob Gasparri of Waterbury for his 1957 Turquoise & White Chevrolet 210. I congratulate all of the winners and thank them for coming to the event. We would be remiss if we did not also thank the City of Middletown for its strong and continued support of this, and, of all downtown events. The Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works Department, Parking Department, and all other city personnel that supported the event were outstanding as usual. Finally, I thank Mayor Dan Drew and the Middletown Common Council for recognizing the importance of bringing this event to the downtown area every year. The 20th Annual Cruise Night on Main is in the books, and we are already looking forward to next year.

Before wrapping up for the week, I want to make a quick mention that I enjoyed the Catholic Charities Diocese of Norwich Middletown Behavioral Health Clinic Five Year Anniversary Open House that was held last Thursday evening at its Broad Street location. The Catholic Charities Diocese of Norwich continues to be dedicated to meeting the social service needs of all people in its vast service area. I thank them for the invitation to the Open House and commend them on their enduring good work.

Summer officially arrives this week in Middlesex County, Travelers Championship week is here, and the chamber team is on the move. The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

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