Wishing Middlesex County a Happy St. Patrick's Day

March 14, 2016

By Larry McHugh

We have reached one of my favorite weeks of the year, the week that includes Saint Patrick’s Day (of course, I am Irish.) 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.

We look forward to welcoming UConn Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma to this morning’s sold out Member Breakfast Meeting at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This exciting chamber event, sponsored by MiddleOak, will take place just before the start of the 2016 Women’s NCAA Tournament. Coach Auriemma and the Lady Huskies, fresh off their conference tournament victory at Mohegan Sun last week, are gearing up for another run at a national title. Gary Vallo, MiddleOak CEO and member of the chamber’s Executive Committee, will introduce the coach and will offer some remarks on behalf of the company. Coach Auriemma has visited with our group during this busy time for him and his team for many years, and I truly appreciate his continued support of our chamber. Finally, I want to once again thank MiddleOak for sponsoring, and for their ongoing support of our chamber and of our community. Sharkey_columnphoto1
Speaker of the State House of Representatives Brendan Sharkey spoke to chamber members at a legislative leadership breakfast at the Inn of Middletown on March 11. From left are: chamber president Larry McHugh, Richard Carella of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy; Sharkey, cochair of the Middlesex chamber’s legislative committee Richard Parmalee and co-chair of the Middlesex chamber’s legislative committee Derek Phelps

Immediately following the event with the coach, the chamber will partner with the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), on a Regional Economic Development Forum. The event is designed to help spread the word on how DECD and CERC are working together to help businesses grow in Connecticut. Commissioner Catherine Smith will introduce the regional point of contact from DECD, and will discuss the state’s new initiatives to fuel job growth – while CERC will present an overview of new business and municipal resources for economic growth.  The event will also provide an opportunity for Q&A and a discussion on how we can further work together to foster economic development success. I look forward to introducing Commissioner Smith, and we are happy to welcome her back to Middlesex County.

There is an important community forum scheduled for this Monday evening at the Westbrook Library. The title of the event is Painkiller Use to Opiate Abuse to Heroin Epidemic. It is a horrifying truth that Connecticut loses hundreds of citizens every year to opiate overdoses. Thousands more are addicted and still more are in recovery. State’s Attorney Peter McShane and State Trooper Wayne Buck will discuss the sources of excess opiates including doctor-shopping, pill peddling, heroin sales – and what they’re doing about it. Dr. J. Craig Allen, MD will address trends in painkiller use, how it can lead to addiction and heroin use, and doctors’ response to the crisis. DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon will speak about resources for treatment and prevention at the state level. Rounding out the panel is a young person in recovery who will describe the slow journey back from addiction. This event is sponsored and hosted by Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council.

Looking ahead to later this week, the chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its March meeting this Thursday at The Griswold Inn in Essex. Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan will visit with our group to discuss the many tax related issues that are facing his department and our state. The chamber board meeting will also feature reports from the chairs of our county based divisions and our industry based councils and committees, along with reports from key members of the chamber staff. I thank Commissioner Sullivan for attending the meeting, and I continue to appreciate the strong and ongoing support of all of the members of our Board of Directors.

Last week was another busy one that featured events and activities throughout our region and throughout our state. I was happy to join Essex Savings Bank President Greg Shook, who currently serves as our Vice Chairman, Immediate Past Chamber Chairman Rich Carella of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, our Legislative Committee Co-Chairman Derek Phelps of Fuel Cell Energy, chamber Vice Presidents Jeff Pugliese and

Johanna Bond, and many other business leaders from our chamber and from around the state at Connecticut Business Day 2016 last Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. The event featured remarks from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, an interactive session on legislative engagement, regional breakout sessions with members of local legislative delegations, and a press conference which covered many issues of importance to the business community. It was a successful event and I congratulate the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (CACCE), and all of the business leaders that supported Connecticut Business Day.

After Connecticut Business Day, I was happy to speak to The Kiwanis Club of Middletown at its March meeting held at Cantina Café Ristorante. Kiwanis International is a global organization of members dedicated to serving the children of the world, and the Middletown chapter is made up of a number of terrific local individuals. I enjoyed the meeting very much, and I want to thank Kiwanis Club of Middletown for the invitation and for its wonderful support of the chamber.

The chamber’s 2016 Legislative Leadership Series began last Friday as we welcomed the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives Brendan Sharkey to a special meeting held at the Inn at Middletown. The speaker offered some remarks which focused on this important and difficult legislative session, and then participated in a very productive question and answer session with our group. Updike, Kelly & Spellacy sponsored the event, and Rich Carella did a great job once again introducing our guest. I appreciate Speaker Sharkey’s willingness to visit with our members on an annual basis, and we wish him the best moving forward. Our Legislative Leadership Series continues on Monday, April 11th, when we will welcome Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff to a meeting at the Courtyard by Marriott sponsored by Eversource, and will conclude on April 25th, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano to a special meeting sponsored by Connecticut Water Company. These Legislative Leadership Series events are held every year during the legislative session and are meant to complement our Legislative Breakfast which features members of the Middlesex County delegation. Our 2016 Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, was held on February 19th and it was a very successful event. I want to take a moment to thank all of the members of our chamber that support these events, our sponsors that make these events possible, and the legislators that take the time to visit with our members to listen to the concerns of the Middlesex business community. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to stay engaged throughout this important legislative session.

I enjoyed the Grand Opening Celebration for Cinder and Salt that was held last Friday, March 11th at its 520 Main Street location in Middletown. Cinder and Salt is a lifestyle brand that offers eco-friendly and sustainably designed products including clothes, bags and much more for men, women and children. I was happy to join Mayor Dan Drew, Middletown Small Business Development Center Counselor Paul Dodge, and a number of other local dignitaries and supporters to celebrate this terrific new addition to the Middlesex business community. We wish Rachel Decavage and her team nothing but the best moving forward.

We continue to get closer to the 32nd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The event will once again be held 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 approximately 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. This year’s event is titled “The Mustache Bash”, so please save the date, and all the men that plan to attend, should be well into the process of growing their best mustache.

Saint Patrick’s Day is this week in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move. Sláinte!

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

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