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.

Wesleyan bookstore’s Main Street move business news of week

December 5, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

Last week featured a number of important events and activities including some very exciting news made by Wesleyan University which announced that in partnership with RJ Julia Booksellers, the university is relocating its bookstore to 413 Main Street in Middletown. An official announcement and ribbon cutting was hosted by Wesleyan President Michael Roth last Wednesday afternoon at the downtown site. This is great news for downtown, for the entire city, and for Wesleyan University. The bookstore will be an economic driver which will bring Wesleyan students, faculty and staff to a key part of Main Street on a regular basis. The partnership with RJ Julia, which is one of the premier independent booksellers in the nation, is fantastic for Middletown and is something that we should all celebrate. I was honored to join President Roth and RJ Julia Booksellers owner and CEO Roxanne Coady for the event, and look forward to working with them and their respective teams as this project comes to fruition. President Roth had a vision for moving Wesleyan’s bookstore downtown and I very much appreciate his commitment to seeing the process through. I thank him for his leadership on this project, and on many other fronts. Wesleyan University is a key stakeholder in Middletown and in Middlesex County and it continues to be a valued partner on a number of community initiatives. Roxanne Coady is a true professional and RJ Julia Booksellers is one of the real gems in the State of Connecticut. Its entry into the City of Middletown is really exciting. I also want to thank Mayor Dan Drew, his Chief of Staff Joe Samolis and his team for their hard work and dedication to seeing this process through, and Wesleyan Vice President for Finance and Administration Nate Peters and Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe who were instrumental in this process. Finally, I want to thank Mike Stone who owns 413 Main Street for working so well with all the parties involved, and Jackie Williams of Sterling Realtors for all of her efforts in support of this initiative. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner as this exciting and important Middletown project moves forward. 

The 31st Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is going strong with two busy Saturdays still to come. This Saturday, Dec. 10, is Rotary Club of Middletown Day at Holiday on Main Street. Planned events and activities include the Fun Train, which will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, and free rides for children and adults on two mechanical animals, Maurice the Great Christmas Moose and Sno-Cat The Siberian Snow Tiger. Families will also have the opportunity to meet and greet Santa and take free horse & wagon rides in downtown Middletown. Adelbrook’s Sense-Able Solutions Indoor Winter Wonderland will be held at the lower level of 100 Riverview Center, and the Holiday Photo Booth, offering free holiday themed photos, will be set up in front of Holy Trinity Church. Holiday Story Time, featuring Santa Claus reading stories to children, will be held at Main Street Market from 11:30 a.m. to noon. Volunteers from Rotary Club of Middletown will staff the Popcorn & Hot Pretzels stand in front of the chamber building, and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio will entertain the large crowd that we expect to have once again. Holiday on Main Street concludes on Saturday, Dec. 17.  Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in City parking lots. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.

Our member realtors and other chamber member professionals who support the real estate industry are looking forward to our Annual Real Estate Council Holiday Gathering which his scheduled for this Tuesday at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. The event is once again sponsored by McCue Mortgage, and I thank Bill McCue and his team for their annual support of this chamber event. The Real Estate Council, under the leadership of Co-Chairs David Gallitto and Diane Sayers, does great work throughout the year in support of our member realtors. The Real Estate Council is also once again sponsoring a toy drive so we ask that attendees of the gathering bring an unwrapped toy in support of this important cause. Also on Tuesday, our Women’s Business Alliance Holiday Social & Networking Event will be held at 5 p.m. at the Inn at Middletown. The Women’s Business Alliance (WBA), under the leadership of Barbara Taylor-Hatje, is a council of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce that provides challenges and opportunities to educate, enrich, and explore issues for women in business. Our members look forward to both of these holiday themed chamber events.

I very much look forward to attending the official grand re-opening celebration for First and Last Tavern on Main Street this Thursday afternoon, Dec. 8. New owner Tony Scacca and his team have put a lot of time, energy and resources into the recent renovation of First and Last, and the restaurant looks terrific. All of us look forward to working with Tony and appreciate his commitment to our city and to the Middlesex business community.

I also look forward to attending the MARC Community Resources Holiday Open House this Thursday afternoon, Dec. 8, which will officially welcome their new Development Director Kandyce Aust to the MARC team and to the Middletown community. MARC continues to do great work by providing training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The main chamber event coming up in December is our annual Governor’s Breakfast Meeting which is scheduled for next Wednesday, Dec. 14 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, now approaching his seventh year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors, going back to the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We appreciate the strong support of Eversource who not only sponsors this breakfast meeting on an annual basis, but supports a number of other chamber programs and initiatives. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Malloy and a number of other key state officials as part of a sold out crowd of chamber members and their guests.

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.

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!

The chamber’s 2017 Legislative Breakfast will take place on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This event, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns. 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 delegation and with legislative leadership throughout this upcoming session. More information on the Legislative Breakfast, and on the chamber’s legislative activities, will be shared as the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly approaches.

The holidays are inching closer, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Two Middlesex County businesses to be lauded at Celebrate Connecticut

November 27, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

November comes to an end this week in Middlesex County, and the countdown to the holidays is on.

There are still a busy few weeks ahead however, filled with events and activities throughout our region.

This Wednesday evening, Jeff Pugliese and I will attend the Celebrate Connecticut Awards put on by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) at the Bushnell in Hartford. This event honors one company, and one initiative in each region of the state, and celebrates their contributions to economic and community development. The Middlesex awardees for 2016 are Whelen Engineering and Essex Steam Train and River Boat’s North Pole Express. Whelen Engineering designs and manufactures high-quality audio and visual warning equipment for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. Founded in 1952, Whelen has become a leading provider of innovative sirens, warning lights, white illumination lighting, and controllers. Whelen has the largest staff of design engineers in the United States and the biggest field service force in the industry. With two state-of-the-art facilities in Chester, Connecticut, and Charlestown, New Hampshire, Whelen products are proudly designed, manufactured, and assembled in the U.S.A. Owned and operated by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is a unique historic attraction in the Connecticut River Valley Area. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers various excursions and family themed events throughout the year including the North Pole Express. The North Pole Express is a locomotive-powered sleigh that takes visitors on a magical nighttime journey to the North Pole. Every coach becomes a stage for a live, musical performance of The Night Before Christmas. Families are welcome to come and celebrate the spirit of the season with Santa and Mrs. Claus, participate in sing-a-longs, enjoy delicious hot chocolate and sugar cookies, and receive a small gift from Santa. We look forward to honoring our partners on Wednesday night in Hartford, and continue to appreciate their strong commitment to our region and to our state.

The 31st Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is off to a fast start after a very successful opening night last Friday, and a busy follow up on Saturday. This coming Saturday, Dec. 3, the fun continues with Disabled American Veterans Middletown Chapter 7 Day. Planned events and activities include: free pictures and donuts with Santa at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, the Fun Train which will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, and free rides for children and adults on two mechanical animals, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Sno-Cat, The Siberian Snow Tiger. Families will also have the opportunity to meet and greet with Santa and take free horse & wagon rides. At 11:30 a.m., Holiday Story Time, featuring Middletown Police Chief Bill McKenna, will take place at Vinnie’s Jump & Jive and Junie B. Jones will be on hand for a book signing. Volunteers from DAV Middletown Chapter 7 will staff the Popcorn & Hot Pretzels stand in front of the chamber building, and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio will entertain the large crowd that we expect. Holiday on Main Street continues on Saturday, Dec. 10, and Saturday, Dec. 17.  Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in City parking lots. Holiday on Main Street is an institution in Middletown and in Middlesex County, and we are very proud of it. I want to again thank Pratt & Whitney for their great support, the City of Middletown, and in particular, the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, our longtime event Chairman Al Santostefano, his Vice Chairman Rich Greco, and the entire Holiday on Main Street Committee for their terrific support of this longtime event. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.

This week also features meetings of the chamber’s Central Business Bureau on Thursday at the chamber in Middletown, and the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division on Friday at Aaron Manor in Chester. The CBB meeting will feature town updates from Mayor Dan Drew and a number of city department directors, and the Down County Division meeting on Friday will feature state and local updates and a presentation by Judge Barbara M. Quinn who is Chief Court Administrator for the Connecticut Judicial Branch. Our divisions continue to play a vital role in the chamber’s infrastructure.

The main chamber event coming up in December is our annual Governor’s Breakfast Meeting which is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, now approaching his seventh year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors, going back to the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We appreciate the strong support of Eversource who not only sponsors this breakfast meeting on an annual basis, but supports a number of other chamber programs and initiatives. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Malloy and a number of other key state officials as part of a sold out crowd of chamber members.

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.

Also planned for the month of January is the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business Class. 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. Traditionally, 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 Class 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 was happy that Jeff Pugliese represented the chamber at an event on Friday that celebrated Ray of Life Farm in East Haddam and its commitment to healing through animals. Kids and veterans especially benefit from the services provided by the amazing animals and the dedicated members of the Ray of Light team. Tamera Jackson of Jackson Chevrolet donated a pickup truck to Ray of Light which will help with hauling and other activities at the farm. The event on Friday, which also included U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, honored TJ’s support of the farm and its important initiatives. TJ is a fine corporate citizen and I am proud that she is a member of our Executive Committee and a strong member of our chamber.

I want to close this week’s column by thanking Tony Scacca for hosting a very nice reception at First and Last Tavern on Sunday that celebrated Tony’s recent purchase of the business and the significant remodeling work that was done at the restaurant. Everyone who attended enjoy the great spread of food, fine service and a terrific atmosphere. I look forward to the official Grand Re-Opening for First and Last which is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8 at the restaurant. All of us look forward to working with Tony and appreciate his commitment to our city and to the Middlesex business community.

2016 is winding down, but the chamber continues to be on the move.

J.J. Vinci Oil head, 104, honored for business dedication

November 21, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

It is Thanksgiving time again in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not simply because of the great turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but because it inspires reflection and a true appreciation of what is important in life. I am thankful for my staff at the chamber who works hard on behalf of the business community in Middlesex County on a daily basis. I am blessed with a wonderful family and a network of friends that truly has my back. It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, a dynamic business organization with over 2,125 members that employ over 50,000 people. We have a dedicated Board of Directors, led by Chairman Greg Shook, which truly makes Middlesex County a great place to live, work and play. I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America, a place where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in writing. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone keeps in mind those who are less fortunate during the holiday season. We are all in this together.

This morning in Cromwell, we are happy to welcome United States Senator Chris Murphy as guest speaker at our November Member Breakfast Meeting which is sponsored by The Mohegan Tribe. Senator Murphy, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and the Foreign Relations Committee, will address many of the important issues that face Middlesex County, the state of Connecticut, and our nation. The event will also feature the presentation of the 2016 Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award to Judge Joseph D. Marino of Middletown. Joe Marino has served as Judge of Probate in the District of Middletown since January 1987, an important jurisdiction for mental health cases and family cases in the state. Throughout his outstanding career in public service, Joe has demonstrated his commitment to the community, on the bench, and outside of the bench. He maintains a law practice in Portland, and also supports a number of community service initiatives. He is the founder of a holiday gift drive for residents of local skilled nursing facilities and has coached youth soccer, basketball, and softball. He is the current President of the Middletown Rotary Club, and a member of the Middlesex County NAACP, the Italian Society of Middletown, and is President-Elect of the Middlesex County Bar Association. He is the recipient of the Community Service Award from the NAACP, and the Paul Harris Community Service Fellowship Award from the Middletown Rotary Club. We are proud to honor Judge Marino with this prestigious award, and we look forward to celebrating with him, members of family, and many friends and colleagues. Also, we are honored that Nikki O'Neill, wife of the late Governor, will attend the event to help honor Joe and represent the O’Neill family. I would like to thank Senator Murphy for once again visiting with our membership, and Kevin Brown, Chairman of The Mohegan Tribal Council for sponsoring this important event.

It is hard to believe, but the 31st Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is set to begin this Friday with three tree lightings on Main Street along with a holiday parade. The first tree-lighting, set to take place at 6:00 p.m., will illuminate the big tree on the South Green and will be led by Mayor Dan Drew and Santa Claus. Also on hand on the South Green will be the Middletown High School Chorus, the Woodrow Wilson 7th & 8th Grade Chorus, and the Keigwin Middle School Chorus. Last year, over 2,500 people were able to enjoy the holiday sights and sounds on the South Green, and even more are expected this year. The Carol Sing will begin at 5:00 p.m. prior to the tree-lightings. After the tree is lit on the South Green, there will be a parade up Main Street, led by the Middletown High School Marching Band, the Woodrow Wilson Middle School 8th Grade Band, and Santa Claus, to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce where the tree on the roof will be lit at 6:15 p.m., for the second lighting of the evening. Immediately following the tree lighting, there will be free pictures with Santa, and wagon rides for the whole family until 8:00 p.m.  At 8:15 p.m., there will be festivities in front of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room at 695 Main Street highlighted by the third, and final tree-lighting of the night. Santa will arrive to light the tree and there will be elves on hand to provide all children with complimentary popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate and other treats. Each tree-lighting is free of charge to the public. Holiday on Main Street continues on Saturday, Nov. 26, Saturday, Dec. 3,

Saturday, Dec. 10, and Saturday, Dec. 17.  This Saturday’s event will feature The Civitan Club of Middletown staffing the Popcorn & Hot Pretzels stand in front of the chamber and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio. The Fun Train will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, families will have the opportunity to meet and greet with Santa and take free horse & wagon rides.  At 11:30 a.m., Holiday Story Time will take place at The Inn at Middletown, with Curious George and Mayor Dan Drew. At 1:00 p.m., at the Middletown Fire Department, there will be a Kung Fu Demonstration by Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy.

Santa’s Mailbox will be in front of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce from Nov. 21 to Dec. 9. Children’s names and addresses should be on the letter so Santa can respond accordingly. Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in City parking lots. Join us!

On November 30th, Jeff Pugliese and I will attend the Celebrate Connecticut Awards put on by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) at the Bushnell in Hartford. This event honors one company, and one initiative in each region of the state, and celebrates their contributions to economic and community development. The Middlesex awardees for 2016 are Whelen Engineering and Essex Steam Train and River Boat’s North Pole Express. Whelen Engineering designs and manufactures high-quality audio and visual warning equipment for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. Founded in 1952, Whelen has become a leading provider of innovative sirens, warning lights, white illumination lighting, and controllers. Whelen has the largest staff of design engineers in the United States and the biggest field service force in the industry. With two state-of-the-art facilities in Chester, Connecticut, and Charlestown, New Hampshire, Whelen products are proudly designed, manufactured, and assembled in the U.S.A. Owned and operated by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is a unique historic attraction in the Connecticut River Valley Area. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers various excursions and family themed events throughout the year including the North Pole Express. The North Pole Express is a locomotive-powered sleigh that takes visitors on a magical nighttime journey to the North Pole. Every coach becomes a stage for a live, musical performance of The Night Before Christmas. Families are welcome to come and celebrate the spirit of the season with Santa and Mrs. Claus, participate in sing-a-longs, enjoy delicious hot chocolate and sugar cookies and receive a small gift from Santa. We look forward to honoring our partners on Wednesday night in Hartford, and continue to appreciate their strong commitment to our region.

Chamber members should save the dates for two important events coming up in December. Our Annual Real Estate Council Holiday Gathering will be held Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. The event is once again sponsored by McCue Mortgage, and I thank Bill McCue and his team for their annual support of this chamber event. The Real Estate Council, under the leadership of Co-Chairs David Gallitto and Diane Sayers, does great work throughout the year in support of our member realtors. We also look forward to continuing a longtime chamber tradition next month when we welcome Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to our December Member Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Malloy and a number of other key state officials as part of a large crowd of chamber members and their guests. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

I want to close this week’s column by noting that it was great to see my friend JJ Vinci on Friday who is doing very well at the age of 104. Jonathan Harris, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Consumer Protection, visited the Vinci Oil facility to present JJ with a proclamation from Gov. Malloy in honor of the fact that he continues to attend the necessary classes to keep all of his licenses current and in compliance with state regulations. In fact, JJ was officially dedicated as “The Dean of Occupational License Holders” by the Department of Consumer Protection. Mayor Dan Drew was also on hand to present JJ with a key to the City of Middletown. I appreciate the invitation to attend the event, and congratulate JJ on his continued good work. He is an inspiration to all of us, and a role model on how a business should conduct itself as part of a larger community.

Happy Thanksgiving Middlesex County, and as you enjoy the holiday, please keep in mind the brave men and women of our Armed Forces serving at home and around the globe.

Probate Judge Joe Marino to be honored with public service award

November 14, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

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

Last week was another busy one that featured our 15th Annual Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting, Election Day, an outstanding Business After Work Networking Reception at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam, and most importantly, Veterans’ Day.

The breakfast meeting was very well received by our crowd of over 500 which included businesspeople and many local veterans. Our keynote speaker, Capt. Paul Whitescarver of Connecticut’s Sub Base, did a great job with his remarks. Our 2016 William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award recipient, Larry Riley, graciously accepted this honor by thanking his family and fellow veterans. Our inaugural Veteran Support Business of the Year recipient, AT&T, was represented by AT&T Connecticut President John Emra who stressed in his remarks that hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do as a corporate citizen, but it is a smart business decision since veterans make such good employees. Our Support the Troops Committee Chairman Phil Cacciola and his team did another outstanding job planning and executing the event, and Phil’s remarks were spot on as always. It was another successful Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans event, and I want to once again thank CEO Vin Capece and Middlesex Hospital for sponsoring on an annual basis.

As we all know, Election Day 2016 was held last Tuesday. I again want to applaud and thank all the candidates for their willingness to run and serve our state and our nation. It was a long and at times contentious campaign. Now that the results are in, let’s recommit to the important work that we all must do to ensure our collective prosperity. We at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce certainly look forward to working with all of our elected officials in the months and years ahead. I continue to be very optimistic about our region, state and country.

The Business After Work Networking Reception at the Riverhouse was attended by over 250 chamber members and their guests. They all enjoyed the delicious spread put out by the Riverhouse team along with the terrific networking opportunities that the event provided. I thank Jim Bucko and his team for hosting us once again.

Finally, Veterans’ Day was Friday. There were many ceremonies held throughout Middletown and Middlesex County that honored the service and sacrifice of these brave Americans. As I noted last week, we should not only thank and honor veterans on Veterans’ Day and during Veterans Week, but every single day of the year.

The chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its November meeting this Thursday at the Middletown Elks Lodge. The meeting will feature reports from chamber committee chairs and key staff members, along with other updates on issues of importance to the Middlesex business community. I thank Brown & Brown of CT, McCutcheon Burr & Sons, and MiddleOak for hosting this Board of Directors luncheon.

On Thursday evening, I will serve as Master of Ceremonies at the 39th Annual Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Aqua Turf in Southington. I enjoy this event every year, and am honored to be one of the founders of the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. I look forward to seeing many friends and colleagues, and look forward to celebrating with the inductees and their families.

The chamber’s next Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for next Monday, Nov. 21 where we will welcome United States Sen. Chris Murphy as keynote speaker. This important event is sponsored by The Mohegan Tribe. I look forward to seeing Kevin Brown, Chairman of The Mohegan Tribal Council, who will introduce the senator and will offer remarks on behalf of the tribe. Sen. Murphy, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and the Foreign Relations Committee, will address many of the important issues that face Middlesex County, the state of Connecticut, and our nation. I am also proud to announce that at the breakfast meeting with the senator, the chamber will present our 2016 Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award to Judge Joseph D. Marino of Middletown. The Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award, presented since 2002, is awarded to an individual who has performed outstanding public service for Middlesex County and the State of Connecticut. The award is named after Governor O’Neill because he dedicated himself to public service during his tenure as a state legislator, Lieutenant Governor and Governor. Joe Marino has served as Judge of Probate in the District of Middletown since January 1987, an important jurisdiction for mental health cases and family cases in the state. Throughout his outstanding career in public service, Joe has demonstrated his commitment to the community on the bench and outside of the bench. He maintains a law practice in Portland, and also supports a number of community service initiatives. He is the founder of a holiday gift drive for residents of local skilled nursing facilities and has coached youth soccer, basketball, and softball. He is a member, and current President, of the Middletown Rotary Club, the Middlesex County NAACP, the Italian Society of Middletown, and is President-Elect of the Middlesex County Bar Association. He is the recipient of the Community Service Award from the NAACP and the Paul Harris Community Service Fellowship Award from the Middletown Rotary Club. We are proud to honor Judge Marino with this prestigious award. We look forward to a terrific event next Monday in Cromwell, and I thank Sen. Murphy for visiting with our membership once again, and the Mohegan Tribe for sponsoring the event.

We look forward to continuing a longtime chamber tradition next month when we welcome Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to our December Member Breakfast Meeting. Gov. Malloy, now approaching his seventh year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast in every year of his administration as have all of our sitting governors going back to the administration of Gov. William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We appreciate the strong support of Eversource Energy who not only sponsors this breakfast meeting on an annual basis, but supports a number of other key chamber programs and initiatives. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Malloy and a number of other key state officials as part of a large crowd of chamber members. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

I must close this week’s column with a heavy heart and with some words of remembrance for Salvatore “Sal” Pepitone who passed away recently at the very young age of 50. Sal Pepitone was a wonderful man who I was proud to coach on the football field during my final years at Xavier High School. Sal was a terrific athlete who played college football at Northeastern University and Springfield College. He was inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. Professionally, Sal spent over 20 years as owner and operator, along with his brother in law Tom Sweeney, at Suburban Physical Therapy in Rocky Hill and Cromwell. Tom is another outstanding former player of mine, and I appreciate that Suburban has become a strong member of our chamber. Sal Pepitone was also dedicated to a number of community initiatives, especially youth sports programs in Haddam and in Killingworth. Much more important than all of that however, was Sal’s love and dedication to his family and his friends. All of us who knew Sal well are truly mourning his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Silvana, his parents Joseph and Elba, his brother Joseph, his sisters Denise and  Jo-Ann and their families, and of course, his son Joseph and his daughter Sofia. Our thoughts are also with his entire extended family and his vast network of friends at this difficult time. Sal Pepitone will be missed by many and will never be forgotten. We can all take comfort in the fact that he led a life well lived, and that his kids will continue to be loved and supported by all of us.

This week marks both Election Day and Veterans Day

November 7, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached an important week in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. This week includes Election Day on Tuesday and Veterans Day on Friday. Election Day is not only a day when we choose our elected officials for the next two or four years, but it is a symbol of our democracy, and it represents our commitment to a peaceful transfer of power and responsibility. Veterans’ Day is a special day that is designed to honor all the veterans that have served this nation with distinction and bravery. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to support our active duty and guard personnel, and the many local veterans that have served in the United States Armed Forces. Our 15th Annual Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting will be held this morning at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We are pleased to welcome as guest speaker, Captain Paul Whitescarver, Commanding Officer of The Naval Submarine Base New London. We are very proud that this event has become such a key part of Veterans Week in Middlesex County and we certainly look forward to welcoming the captain to our event. In addition to keynote remarks from Capt. Whitescarver and other important updates, the chamber will present the 2016 William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award to Larry Riley of Middletown. The William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award is presented annually to a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces in recognition of his or her distinguished service to the citizens of Connecticut and selfless commitment to public service. In addition to the presentation of the Pomfret Award, the chamber will present our inaugural Veteran Support Business of the Year. This award, which will be presented annually moving forward, will honor a business that supports active duty military personnel, veterans, and their families through employment, philanthropy, spousal support, and other means. I am proud to announce that our inaugural recipient is AT&T. AT&T supports our armed forces in a variety of ways. From recruiting veterans into their workforce, to actively supporting their existing employees that are involved with the armed forces, to community service efforts that support veteran causes, AT&T is a leading example of a strong corporate citizen stepping up to the plate to support veterans and their families. I look forward to welcoming AT&T Connecticut President John Emra who will accept the award on behalf of the company and will offer some remarks. I want to again thank Middlesex Hospital for sponsoring this major chamber event every year. I know CEO Vin Capece, who is Immediate Past Chairman of our chamber, will do a great job introducing Capt. Whitescarver. I also want to thank the First Company Governor’s Foot Guard, the Middletown PBA Pipes and Drums, and everyone that has a role in making this annual event so special to so many. Most notably, I have to thank our Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Committee which is led by its Chairman, Phil Cacciola. This group, comprised of local veterans that are all dedicated to serving the community, works hard to plan and execute this event every year. The Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting is one of our finest events of the year because it provides us the opportunity to show our appreciation for the troops and the veterans that have served us all so well. As you travel throughout the county this week, be sure to thank a veteran, they have certainly earned it. Finally, be sure to vote on Tuesday. It is very important that we do our civic duty, visit our polling station, and participate in the election process. We are very lucky to live a nation where we choose our leaders at the ballot box, and we should all take seriously our responsibility to vote on Election Day.

The chamber’s KeyBank Workshop Series continues this Tuesday, Nov. 8 with a session titled “Building Your Team- Recruiting U.S. and Non-U.S. Talent.” The seminar will be held at the chamber office from 8 a.m. to10 a.m. Important topics that will be discussed include: legal issues involved in employing and retaining talent for startup companies, confidentiality, non-competition, and non-solicitation agreements, proprietary information and invention agreements, employees vs. independent contractors, incentives and compensation alternatives, immigration issues, hiring foreign nationals and much more. The seminar will be led by Gregg Lallier and Dana Bucin from Updike Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. Attorneys Lallier and Bucin are well versed in legal issues surrounding the employment and retention of talent, and also have an extensive experience in immigration-related issues. We look forward to another productive seminar for our members.

The chamber’s Durham and Middlefield Division will meet this Wednesday morning at A Second Chance CPR & First Aid Training in Durham. The meeting, co-hosted by Sykes Family Chiropractic and A Second Chance CPR & First Aid Training, will feature Stephanie Moran of the Durham/ Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition. Our Cromwell Division will meet on Thursday at Adelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services where local updates will be provided by key municipal and business officials. Our divisions continue to be a critical piece of the chamber’s infrastructure.

Our November Business After Work Networking Reception is scheduled for this Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. Our members and their guests always look forward to the delicious spread of food and drink provided by the Riverhouse team, along with outstanding networking opportunities that the event provides. The Business After Work event will once again feature The Festival of Wreaths Silent Auction. Beautifully decorated wreaths will be displayed for viewing and bidding until the auction closes at 6:45 p.m. The funds that are raised will benefit the Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, and the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program. Liberty Bank is donating the 30 artificial wreaths for chamber member businesses to decorate and we certainly appreciate their great support. We look forward to a fun evening in Haddam on Wednesday night, and I want to once again thank Jim Bucko and the Riverhouse team for hosting this outstanding event.

I look forward to visiting the UConn Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam on Thursday for a meeting and a tour. This facility is a key component of UConn’s Department of Extension and College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. I look forward to my visit and appreciate the faculty and staff at the center which is committed to Middlesex County and to the University of Connecticut.

Later on Thursday, I will attend a celebration of the United States Marine Corps’ 241st Birthday presented by and held at First & Last Tavern in Middletown. This event will benefit the Association for Veterans of Korea, Vietnam, and Saudi Wars. This is one of the many important events scheduled this week throughout our region that are designed to support veteran based causes.

Finally, I will also attend an Open House event on Thursday which is hosted by JCJ Architecture in Hartford. JCJ Architecture is a planning, architecture and interior design firm that enjoys a strong reputation in our state and is a valued member of our chamber. I appreciate the invitation and look forward to the Open House event.

I want to take a moment to congratulate the Town of Cromwell and the Cromwell Downtown Merchants Association (CDMA) on an extremely successful Halloween on Main event which was held in downtown Cromwell on Oct. 29. This event attracted thousands of people to downtown Cromwell, and the guests had the opportunity to enjoy a haunted house, safari animal rides, haunted hayride, fun train rides, candy, bonfires, food vendors and more. Rodney Bitgood and Cara Ehlers serve as co-chairs of the CDMA and they do a great job. They are also strong chamber supporters and outstanding representatives of the local business community. Middlesex County is lucky to be home to many events that not only bring people together, but have an economic impact at the local level.

I will close this week’s column by asking members to save the dates of Nov. 21, which is our Member Breakfast Meeting with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, and Dec. 14 for our Member Breakfast Meeting with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. More information to come on these important chamber events.

Veterans’ Week is upon us in Middlesex County. We appreciate and honor their service not only this week, but every week of the year.

 

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