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.

Middletown to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with celebration

January 16, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Middlesex County and throughout our great country. MLK Day is a special day, one that celebrates not only his birthday, but the huge impact that the great civil rights leader had on the United States of America. There are many celebrations around Middlesex County today that will honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. I am proud that chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall will represent our organization at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Committee of Greater Middletown event this afternoon at The Church of Holy Trinity in Middletown. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce also has a longtime and enduring partnership with the Middlesex County Chapter of the NAACP, and I am truly honored that the organization’s business award bears my name. As I do every year on MLK Day, I would like to take a moment to recognize all of those who volunteer their time in the service of others. We are all in this together, and it is in this spirit, that we honor Dr. King’s legacy.

Last week was a busy one from start to finish with a number of chamber meetings held throughout the county on a variety of important topics.

Our Automotive Council held its first meeting of the year on Tuesday night at Cantina Cafe Ristorante in Middletown. 50 chamber members and their guests packed the meeting which featured remarks and a question and answer session with Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Michael Bzdyra and Deputy Commissioner Judeen Wrinn. Both of these officials did a great job with their comments, and I thank them for attending the meeting and for their service in state government.

The chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the year was held last Wednesday evening at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. A huge crowd of over 200 chamber members attended the event which showcased all that Powder Ridge has to offer. Powder Ridge Owner and CEO Sean Hayes and his team put out a fantastic spread of food and drink and the place looked great as always. I would like to thank Sean for the hard work that he and his team put in to make this event a huge success.

The Business After Work event also served as the official kickoff for the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for this week, January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the Middlesex region. Participating restaurants are offering a pre-fixed menu to give Middlesex County’s residents and visitors the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. Each participating restaurant will offer a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). The final list of participating restaurants is as follows: Amici Italian Grill, Eli Cannon's Tap Room, El Pulpo & Tapas Bar, Esca Restaurant and Wine Bar, First and Last Tavern, Herd Restaurant, La Boca Mexican Restaurant, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill, Tavern at the Armory, and Tuscany Grill in Middletown; Baci Grill, Cromwell Pizza & Pasta, and Sheffield's Restaurant and Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell; Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant, Rossini's Italian Restaurant, The Tavern on 66, and WAVES in East Hampton; Fire at the Ridge and Ridgeside Tavern in Middlefield; Griswold Inn in Essex; Red House in Deep River; and, On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on www.middlesexchamber.com for more information and for details on the Taste of Middlesex County menu offerings. I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the work of chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who has put in a lot of time and energy into making this Taste of Middlesex County a successful initiative. Bon Appétit!

Jeff Pugliese and I had a great visit to Flo-Tech in Middletown last Thursday morning. Flo-Tech, a company that specializes in printing, imaging and document driven processes, is led by CEO and Founder Leo Bonetti. Jeff and I had a very productive discussion with Leo and Flo Tech’s VP of Manufacturing & Engineering Pete Massaro which touched on the company’s high quality products and the challenges that they face within the imaging industry. I thank Leo for reaching out to us and for his membership in our chamber. We certainly look forward to working with him and his team in 2017 and beyond.

On Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the Grand Opening celebration for Energy Fitness Zone in Cromwell. I was joined at the event by Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza, Cromwell Division Chairman Jay Polke, and other key local officials. We all wish Julie Cranick and her entire team nothing but great success moving forward. We are happy to welcome them to the Middlesex business community.

The first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting of the year is scheduled for this Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Our keynote speaker, and recipient of our 2017 Role Model Award, is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. Rich is a Massachusetts native who has Connecticut ties through his brother Larry who lives in Durham. Before his time out west in LA, Rich had major league stops with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, LA Angels, New York Yankees, and Oakland Athletics. He has had a long and interesting career so far, and he just signed a three year deal to remain in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. We look forward to welcoming Rich who will touch on what life is like as a pitcher in the big leagues, and some of the challenges he has endured and overcome along the way. Rich will also share some the causes and issues that are important to him off the field. We look forward to another chamber Role Model Breakfast Meeting, and thank our friends at Webster Bank for sponsoring and for the bank’s longtime support of our chamber.

This Wednesday, the chamber will host a special luncheon of appreciation for the Middletown Motorcycle Mania and Cruise Night on Main Planning Committees at First and Last Tavern. Tony Scacca and his team will host the event and will provide a delicious First and Last spread for our group. The 20thAnnual Cruise Night On Main is scheduled for June 14, and the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is scheduled for August 9. The chamber very much appreciates the efforts of the Cruise Night on Main Planning Committee, led by Chairman Foster Charles, and the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco. We look forward to both of these major events in downtown Middletown later on in 2017.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is once again offering 21st Century Advanced Office Training Programs. These programs are free to the public, are designed to provide individuals with the necessary skills to compete in today’s demanding workforce, and aim to increase productivity while at work. Classes include: Microsoft Word 101, Microsoft PowerPoint 101, Microsoft Access 101, Microsoft Publisher 101, Microsoft Excel 101, Word Press 101, Intermediate Excel, Basic Grant Writing, Career/Personal Coaching, Mastering Microsoft Word, Social Media, and Tools to Land your Dream Job. An orientation session for the free 21st Century Advanced Office Training Programs will be held this Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 3:30 p.m. at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, 393 Main St. Those who are interested can contact chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall at 860-347-6924 or lorenzo@middlesexchamber.com.

The chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its January meeting this Thursday at the Middletown Elks Lodge. In addition to reports from chamber committee chairs and key chamber staff, the meeting will feature remarks from CT. Department of Labor Commissioner Scott Jackson. The chamber is proud of its many workforce development initiatives, and we look forward to welcoming Commissioner Jackson as we collectively work to be a bridge between job seekers and employers in our state.

The Advisory Committee for the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) has changed the date of their January meeting from Friday, January 27 to Monday, January 23. MCSAAC, a council of the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County, works to reduce the incidence of alcohol and other drug abuse in our region. Director Betsey Chadwick and her team continue to do great work on these important issues.

The chamber’s Legislative Committee has been hard at work preparing our organization’s 2017 Public Policy Agenda and planning our 2017 legislative events. Our 2017 Legislative Breakfast will take place on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. This event, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. The Legislative Breakfast represents a great opportunity, on an annual basis, for our members to network with these important elected leaders. The chamber remains committed to promoting a positive business climate in Middlesex County, and we will certainly stay engaged with our Middlesex County delegation and with legislative leadership throughout this important session.

Finally, I want to close this week’s column by acknowledging the passing of a great friend and mentor of mine, Wally Camp. I will have much more on Wally’s passing in next week’s column, but I ask that everyone keep him and his family in their thoughts and prayers in the coming days and weeks. Wally Camp will be missed.

First Business After Work of new year this week at Powder Ridge

January 9, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

2017 is off to a real fast start in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

The first session of our 2017 KeyBank Seminar Series kicks off this Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the chamber offices on Main Street in Middletown. The seminar, which focuses on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, will cover critically important topics including the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace, what makes your company or organization liable in these situations, and how to best protect your company or organization from these potentially damaging charges. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will lead the session which meets the State of Connecticut’s requirement for two hours of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for supervisors and managers. Please contact the chamber for registration information and keep an eye out for future sessions of the KeyBank Seminar Series. I want to again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this important initiative.

A number of important chamber committee and division meetings will take place throughout Middlesex County this week. On Tuesday evening, our Automotive Council will meet at Cantina Café Ristorante in Middletown. Commissioner Michael Bzdyra and Deputy Commissioner Judeen Wrinn of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles will visit with the council to discuss some of the important issues facing their department in the new year. This council is designed to promote good business relationships within the automotive industry in Middlesex County. I thank our co-chairs, Rich Jukonski of Jukonski Auto Sales, Ltd., and Michael Turner of Portland Automotive, for their longtime leadership of the Automotive Council. We look forward to a good meeting. The Durham and Middlefield Division will meet on Wednesday morning at Middlefield Community Center, and the Cromwell Division will meet on Thursday morning at Cromwell Town Hall. Local updates and an update on the recently opened legislative session will take place at both meetings. Our divisions continue to play a critical role in the operation of our chamber. We look forward to two productive meetings.

The chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the new year will be held this Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I want to thank Sean once again, not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to this Powder Ridge project which is creating jobs and additional tourism buzz for our region. Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort offers skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, tubing and much, much more. Powder Ridge also has Fire at the Ridge Restaurant and Lounge and the Ridgeside Tavern right on site, and both offer outstanding and unique dining experiences. I know our members and their guests look forward to this exciting first Business After Work event of the year on Wednesday evening in Middlefield.

The Business After Work will serve as the official kickoff for the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This will be a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Save your appetite for the week of January 16-22, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. The current list of participating restaurants is as follows: Amici Italian Grill, Eli Cannon's Tap Room, El Pulpo & Tapas Bar, Esca Restaurant and Wine Bar, First and Last Tavern, Hachi, La Boca, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill, Tavern at the Armory, and Tuscany Grill in Middletown; Baci Grill, Cromwell Pizza & Pasta and Sheffield's Restaurant and Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell; Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant, Rossini's Italian Restaurant, The Tavern on 66, and WAVES in East Hampton; Fire at the Ridge and Ridgeside Tavern in Middlefield; Griswold Inn in Essex; Red House in Deep River, and On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on www.middlesexchamber.comfor more information and for further details on the menu offerings.

The first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting of the year is scheduled for next Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Our keynote speaker, and recipient of our 2017 Role Model Award, is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. Rich is a Massachusetts native and has Connecticut ties through his brother Larry who lives in Durham. We look forward to welcoming Rich who will touch on what life is like as a pitcher in the big leagues, and some of the challenges he has endured and overcome along the way. Rich is having a fine career, and he just signed a three year deal to remain in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. We look forward to another chamber Role Model Breakfast Meeting, and thank our friends at Webster Bank for sponsoring and for the bank’s longtime support of our chamber. Please visit www.middlesexchamber.com for registration information.

Immediately following the breakfast with Rich Hill, the chamber will host an Innovation Places Stakeholders Meeting at the Radisson Hotel. The Innovation Places program seeks to support entrepreneurs and leaders developing places that will attract the talent high-growth enterprises need. This is a statewide initiative and Middletown’s application for an implementation grant is being led by the chamber. The Middletown team is a strong group of local stakeholders that already work well together in a variety of areas. This meeting will define what each stakeholder can bring to this important Innovation Places initiative, and will explore how we can effectively channel all of the great things going on in Middletown with the goal of creating a true innovation ecosystem. This is a very important initiative for our region and we will be sure to share additional information as the process moves forward.

The 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly began last Wednesday, Jan. 4th at the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol in Hartford. The chamber’s Legislative Committee has been busy working on our organization’s 2017 Public Policy Agenda and planning our 2017 legislative events. The chamber remains committed to promoting a positive business climate in Middlesex County, and we will certainly stay engaged with our Middlesex County delegation and with legislative leadership throughout this important session. Our 2017 Legislative Breakfast will take place on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. This event, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. The Legislative Breakfast represents a great opportunity, on an annual basis, for our members to network with these important elected leaders. We look forward to another successful event and will have more information on confirmed legislators as we get closer.

I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of a great friend to me and to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Robert P. “Bob” Byrne. Bob Byrne was a member of the selection committee that hired me to become president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I am eternally grateful to him not only for this opportunity, but for all of his support and friendship over the years. He was a past chairman of our Board of Directors, was honored with our Distinguished Citizen Award in 1994, was recognized with our “Good Guy” Award by the chamber’s Golf Committee, and supported our organization in so many other ways. He was the retired owner, operator and founder of Connecticut Rental in Middletown which is now run by his son, Tom, who is also an outstanding friend to our organization. Tom, who now serves as chairman of our Central Business Bureau, is a chip off the old block in so many ways. I am so appreciative of his support and friendship and offer our heartfelt sympathy to Tom, Bob’s daughters Donna Byrne, Dianna Peterson, Patricia Sobieski and Sharon Boyle, his step-daughter Erin Anderson, his brother, James, his 12 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and his vast network of family and friends at this difficult time. Bob Byrne was a terrific man. He was a stand-up guy who led a good life and loved his family above all else. May he rest in peace, and may his family find comfort in the fact that he was loved and admired by so many. Bob Byrne will be missed.

Business After Work, Taste of Middlesex County ahead

January 2, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Happy New Year, Middlesex County.

Now that 2016 is in the books and the new year is upon us, I would like to wish everyone in Middlesex County and throughout the great State of Connecticut a very Happy New Year.  The beginning of a new year always brings optimism and the chance for a fresh start. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is excited about the year ahead. We look forward to continuing our work on behalf of the business community in Middlesex County on a number of fronts. We will continue to develop our divisions and committees so that members can engage with state and local officials and address issues of importance to their region or their industry sector. We will continue to host large scale Member Breakfast Meetings with terrific speakers, and outstanding networking events that benefit our members. We will continue to reach out to non-member businesses and organizations and invite them to come aboard. Finally, we will continue to implement vital workforce development and educational training programs that are helping to develop the community and create and retain jobs. I am very optimistic about 2017, and you can bet that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will be on the move in the New Year.

The first week of the year is a busy one with three important division meetings being held at different sites throughout the county. On Wednesday, the Portland and East Hampton Division will hold its January meeting at WAVES in East Hampton. The meeting will feature economic development and other important updates from both towns along with a chamber update. The Central Business Bureau will hold its first meeting of the year on Thursday morning at the chamber office. Mayor Dan Drew and a number of city department directors will provide reports to the downtown business community. Finally, the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division will meet on Friday morning at the River COG office in Essex. Town reports from all three towns will take place, and a member of the River COG team will provide an update on their activities. Our divisions continue to play a pivotal role in the success of the chamber, and I appreciate the support of our division chairs, town officials and chamber members who support these meetings on a monthly basis.

Starting in January of 2017, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will reintroduce its Seminar Series under the new title, KeyBank Workshop Series. Our first session, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, 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 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.

The chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the new year will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to this Powder Ridge project which is creating jobs and additional tourism buzz for our region. Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort offers skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, tubing and much, much more. Powder Ridge also has Fire at the Ridge Restaurant and Lounge and the Ridgeside Tavern right on site, and both offer outstanding and unique dining experiences. I know our members look forward to this exciting first Business After Work event of the year on Jan. 11.

The first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting of the year is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Our keynote speaker, and recipient of our 2017 Role Model Award, is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. Rich is a Massachusetts native and has Connecticut ties through his brother Larry who lives in Durham. We look forward to welcoming Rich who will touch on what life is like as a pitcher in the big leagues, and some of the challenges he has endured and overcome along the way. Rich is having a fine career, and he just signed a three year deal to remain in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. We look forward to another chamber Role Model Breakfast Meeting, and thank our friends at Webster Bank for sponsoring and for the bank’s longtime support of our chamber.

Also planned for the month of January is the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This will be a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Save your appetite for the week of January 16-22, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. The current list of participating restaurants is as follows: Amici Italian Grill, Eli Cannon's Tap Room, El Pulpo & Tapas Bar, Esca Restaurant and Wine Bar, Hachi, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park, Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill, Tavern at the Armory, and Tuscany Grill in Middletown, Baci Grill and Sheffield's Restaurant and Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell, Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant, Rossini's Italian Restaurant, and WAVES in East Hampton, Fire at the Ridge and Ridgeside Tavern in Middlefield, Griswold Inn in Essex, and On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on www.middlesexchamber.com and keep an eye for additional participating restaurants as we get close to Jan. 16.

The 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly begins Wednesday, Jan. 4th at the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol in Hartford. The chamber’s Legislative Committee has been busy working on our organization’s 2017 Public Policy Agenda and planning our 2017 legislative events. The chamber remains committed to promoting a positive business climate in Middlesex County, and we will certainly stay engaged with our Middlesex County delegation and with legislative leadership throughout this important session. Our 2017 Legislative Breakfast will take place on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Courtyard by Marriot in Cromwell. This event, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. The Legislative Breakfast represents a great opportunity, on an annual basis, for our members to network with these important elected leaders. We look forward to another successful event and will have more information to share as we get closer.

2017 is upon us, and the chamber team is off to a strong start in the new year.

From the Middlesex Chamber: Closing out the year on a positive note

December 26, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

The holiday season continues in Middlesex County, and the chamber team is looking to close the year out on a positive note as we look ahead to 2017.

Last Sunday, I was honored to attend and speak at a special birthday party in honor of Carolyn Adams who is retiring after over 42 years in business. Carolyn Adams Country Barn, which is closing in early 2017, has been an institution in Durham and Middlesex County for decades. The party celebrated Carolyn’s 92nd birthday, and I was honored to say a few words as did Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis. I appreciate Carolyn’s longtime commitment to our region and longtime support of our chamber. I wish her the best as she enters retirement, and certainly hope she makes time to enjoy her family and her many friends.

I was happy to attend the Liberty Bank Holiday Social which was held in the main lobby of the Main Street facility last Wednesday evening. I very much enjoyed my time as a member of the Liberty Bank Board of Directors, and have always appreciated the bank’s strong support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I am so honored that the board room at Liberty’s headquarters was named after me, and so appreciative of Chandler Howard for bringing my wife Patty and me up to the board room to show us a newly installed plaque which bears my name. It was a very enjoyable and heartwarming evening that gave me the opportunity to see a number of friends and colleagues, and that is what the holidays are all about.

I also very much enjoyed a productive lunch meeting that was held last Monday with Joe Samolis from the City of Middletown, and Wesleyan’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Nate Peters and Chief of Staff to the President Andy Tanaka. I am so proud that the partnership between Wesleyan, the city and the chamber continues to grow stronger as we enter 2017. Excitement is building for the opening of Wesleyan’s downtown bookstore, in partnership with RJ Julia, in late spring of 2017. Nate and Andy and a number of other key Wesleyan leaders are working with Jeff Pugliese on Middletown’s application to become an Innovation Place, or an area that is especially attractive to entrepreneurs, high growth companies and young professionals. This is an exciting initiative, and we will have much more to share in the coming weeks and months.

The chamber’s Holiday Luncheon for staff and past board chairs was held last Thursday afternoon. In a real tribute to our organization, 18 past chairs of our Board of Directors attended the event. This chamber has been so fortunate over the years to have unbelievable leadership in the chairperson’s position. Going all the way back to Harry Burr’s chairmanship in 1990-1991, through this year’s chairman in Greg Shook, the party was attended by the best that Middlesex County has to offer. It was a great way for our past chairs and me to thank the chamber staff which works so hard on a number of different fronts throughout the year. I continue to appreciate everyone’s strong support of our work on behalf of the business community.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge a former chamber employee who is doing great things in his professional career. Kevin Marotta, who was a valued member of the chamber staff in the early 2000’s, has been hired by MSG Networks as senior vice president of marketing and content strategy. In his new role, Kevin will oversee all on and off-air marketing and promotional activities of MSG Networks brands, as well as the development, integration and implementation of cross platform content strategies. Kevin has performed very well in his roles at LeadDog Marketing and for the Madison Square Garden Company, and I know that MSG Networks is getting a true professional and a real team player. I am proud of Kevin and wish him continued success.

Next week’s chamber column will kick off the new year, and will provide additional information on important January events including: the first 2017 session of the chamber’s KeyBank Seminar Series on Jan. 10 which will focus on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, our first Business After Work networking reception of the new year will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield, the first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting of the year on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell featuring  Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, and the 2017 Legislative Breakfast which is scheduled for Jan. 27. As always, information on chamber events and activities can be found at www.middlesexchamber.com.

Also planned for the month of January is the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This will be a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Save your appetite for the week of January 16-22, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. The current list of participating restaurants is as follows: Amici Italian Grill, Eli Cannon's Tap Room, El Pulpo & Tapas Bar, Hachi, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park, Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill, Tavern at the Armory, and Tuscany Grill in Middletown, Baci Grill and Sheffield's Restaurant and Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell, Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant, Rossini's Italian Restaurant, and WAVES in East Hampton, Fire at the Ridge and Ridgeside Tavern in Middlefield, Griswold Inn in Essex, and On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on www.middlesexchamber.com and keep an eye for additional participating restaurants as we get close to Jan. 16.

Thank you again for an outstanding 2016, and on to the new year!

Business networking, dining week ahead in Middlesex County

December 19, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached the holidays in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. The holiday season is a time to reflect on the past year, express appreciation for those most important to us, and look ahead with a positive attitude to the year ahead.  I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce for their terrific support in 2016.  Our chamber is truly lucky to have a dedicated Board of Directors which is led by our outstanding Chairman, Essex Savings Bank President Greg Shook. Greg, and all of our past chairs exemplify what this chamber is all about, working together every day to make sure Middlesex County is a great place to live, work and play. I continue to be proud of my dedicated staff that works hard every day for the business community in Middlesex County. I continue to appreciate the unwavering support of our entire membership. From the members of our Executive Committee and Board of Directors, to our division and committee chairs, to our many supporters throughout Middlesex County, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would like to wish everyone in our region, and throughout the State of Connecticut, a very safe, joyous, and happy holiday season. I also ask that as we celebrate the holidays, we keep in mind the men and women of our armed forces who are serving at home, and around the world, to keep us safe and free. Please also keep in mind those who are less fortunate. May they experience joy and happiness during this holiday season and beyond.

Last week was a sprint from start to finish for me and the entire chamber team. On Wednesday morning, we continued a longtime Middlesex County tradition as we welcomed Governor Dannel P. Malloy to our December Member Breakfast Meeting in Cromwell. Gov. Malloy spoke to a sold out crowd at the Radisson in Cromwell and did a great job as he struck a positive and optimistic tone. In addition to Gov. Malloy, we were honored to welcome Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, various state commissioners, college presidents, state legislators, and many more state and local officials. Eversource President and CEO Jim Judge did an excellent job introducing the governor and offering remarks on behalf of the company. We continue to appreciate the strong support of Jim and the entire Eversource team. Another successful chamber Governor’s Breakfast is in the books. On Wednesday afternoon, four members of the chamber team attended the Client Appreciation Party at Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. It is a pleasure to work with the Courtyard team throughout the year and I thank them for their support of the chamber. We look forward to working with its new General Manager, Anthony Covino, as we look to 2017. Last Thursday afternoon, the chamber’s Board of Directors held its December meeting at The Gelston House in East Haddam. The Gelston House looked terrific as always, and the lunch that their staff served was delicious.  In addition to committee reports and remarks from key staff, Attorney General George Jepsen spoke to our board on some of the many important issues that he and his staff deal with on a daily basis. Anthony Assante, a past chairman of our chamber and longtime supporter of the organization, sponsored the meeting as he does on an annual basis. I thank Anthony and his company, Egidio Assante Wealth Management, and Iso Dedushaj and his team at The Gelston House for another terrific meeting.

Starting in January of 2017, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will reintroduce its Seminar Series under the new title, KeyBank Workshop Series. Our first session, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, 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 training for supervisors and managers. Please 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 support.

Looking ahead to January, the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the new year will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to this project which is creating jobs and additional tourism buzz for our region.

The first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting of the year is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Our keynote speaker, and recipient of our 2016 Role Model Award, is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. Rich is a Massachusetts native and has Connecticut ties through his brother Larry who lives in Durham. We look forward to welcoming Rich who will touch on what life is like as a pitcher in the big leagues, and some of the challenges he has endured and overcome along the way. Rich is having a fine career, and he just signed a three year deal to remain in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. We look forward to another chamber Role Model Breakfast Meeting, and thank our friends at Webster Bank for sponsoring.

Also planned for the month of January is the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This will be a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County, and Johanna Bond from the chamber team who has put in a lot of time and effort on coordination and logistics. Save your appetite for the week of January 16-22, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. More info to come!

I will close this week’s column by once again wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a joyous New Year with family and friends. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to be on the move, and we look forward to another great year in 2017.

Happy Holidays!

For more information on chamber events and activities, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com

 

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