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.

CTvisit to offer free training Monday for tourism-related businesses

June 26, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last week was car cruise, this week is Travelers

June 19, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middletown lost business champion in Buzzy Levin

June 12, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Middlesex County lost a great man on June 2 when Jerome “Buzzy” Levin passed away. Buzzy was a mentor and close friend, and I will be forever grateful for his support both personally and professionally. Buzzy served as President of Malloves Jewelers until 1992. He was an outstanding local businessman and a strong community supporter. Middletown was lucky to have Buzzy at the helm of this important local business and is lucky today that Buzzy’s son Marc continues to lead Malloves in that same tradition. Buzzy was a strong supporter of Xavier and Mercy and of the old Mx Corporation in the 1970’s. I will never forget how supportive he was of me when my name came up for the chamber job in 1983. Since I started here almost 34 years ago, Buzzy was right there with me every step of the way. In 1996, the chamber was honored to present Buzzy with our Distinguished Citizen Award. If there was ever a proper description for Buzzy Levin, it is Distinguished Citizen. In addition to the chamber, Buzzy supported a number of other local organizations during his time as a key member of the business community including the Congregation Adath Israel Synagogue, the Middletown Elks, the Kiwanis Club, the B'Nai B'rith, the Middletown Jaycees, the Connecticut Retail Jewelers Association, the Middletown Transit Authority, the Middletown Park and Recreation Board, Russell Library, the Middletown High School Building Committee, Middlesex Hospital, Liberty Bank and many more. He served six terms on the Middletown Common Council and was critical to the development of baseball at all levels in this community. Buzzy led a life well lived, and we are all better because we knew him. Our thoughts and prayers and with his wife, Harriet, his children, Marc and Faith and their spouses, his grandchildren, his entire family and network of friends, and his Malloves family at this difficult time. Buzzy Levin was one of the best, and he will be missed by all of us.

A busy June continues in Middlesex County as the chamber calendar continues to be packed with events and activities.

Our 122nd Annual Awards Dinner was held last Wednesday evening at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. The event, which was enjoyed by over 350 chamber members, friends and guests, honored five outstanding Middlesex County citizens and three Middlesex County high school seniors and marked the official passing of the chamber’s chairmanship from Essex Savings Bank President Greg Shook to Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski Partner Rick Morin. I want to take a moment to thank all of our members that attended the Annual Dinner, and I especially want to thank past chamber Chairman and longtime supporter Anthony Assante for doing a fantastic job as Master of Ceremonies. Greg did a terrific job over the past year in the important chamber leadership position of Chairman of the Board. We thank him for his service. I know our staff looks forward to working with Rick as we continue to work every day to move Middlesex County forward.

Another busy week kicks off tonight when Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park hosts a members-only Business After Work networking reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. We expect a nice crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of late spring networking on the Connecticut River. Danny Cronin and his Canoe Club team will put out a great spread of food and drink as always, and the atmosphere on the water will undoubtedly be top notch. I thank Danny for hosting and look forward to a great Business After Work event.

Excitement is building for Middletown’s 20th Annual Cruise Night On Main, powered by NAPA, which will be held this Wednesday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. in downtown Middletown. In addition to the City of Middletown and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, sponsors for this free annual downtown event include Title Sponsor; NAPA; Diamond Sponsors Jackson Chevrolet and Middletown Downtown Business District; Gold Sponsors Apple Rehab, Liberty Bank, and the Flood Law Firm, Silver Sponsors AAA and Serv Pro of Middletown & New Britain, and Bronze Sponsors First & Last Tavern, Middletown Area Transit, Lyman Orchards, Middlesex Music Academy and All American Productions. Additional event supporters include: City Church, Untouchable Towing LLC, Dunkin Donuts, Eli Cannon’s, and Garage Guys Car Club, and assisting at the event is The Eastern Chapter Over the Hill Gang Car Club and the Connecticut Military Car Club. Hundreds of cars are expected to line both sides of Middletown’s scenic Main Street from Washington Street to the South Green. Free parking for the evening is available at the MiddleOak Corporate Center Garage on College Street and the Melilli Parking Arcade Main Street will be closed between Washington Street down to the South Green with vintage cars for viewing, band entertainment and outstanding vendors. Music and food, combined with an array of pre-1992 classic vehicles, will make this a family-friendly and fun event for everyone. Entertainment includes Four Barrel Billy who will play on the Showmobile from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., an All American Productions Fashion Show, and WMRD / WLIS Radio which will be in front of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce playing oldies music. The Over the Hill Gang Car Club DJ will be located by Brew Bakers, spinning tunes from the 50’s & 60’s; Harvest Wood Audio will provide sound on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America, and WCNX Radio will be in the Gazebo on the South Green playing oldies and Beach Ball Trivia. Sponsor awards will be announced at 8 p.m. The awards include Best In Show Award – Powered by NAPA, Veteran’s Choice Award – presented by Jackson Chevrolet, Main Drag Award - presented by Middletown Downtown Business District, Liberty’s Choice Award - presented by Liberty Bank, Apple Rehab Choice Award – presented by Apple Rehab, AAA Diamond Award - presented by AAA Cromwell, The Sparkling Clean Award – presented by Servpro of Middletown & New Britain and Mayor’s Choice Award- presented by Mayor Daniel Drew. This event will benefit Middletown youth programs, including the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. I want to take a moment to thank all of our sponsors and supporters, along with our Cruise Night Planning Committee, for their hard work and dedication to the event. Please join us downtown on Wednesday night for what is sure to be an outstanding 20th Annual Cruise Night on Main.

Another installment of the chamber’s successful KeyBank Workshop Series is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. at the chamber office. This session, titled Reputation Management 101-The Positive and Negative Side of Online Reviews, is presented by Lauren Middleton of Forest City Marketing. The workshop will focus on proper responses to positive and negative reviews, how to encourage clients and customers to review your business, and how to spot fake reviews. Lauren will provide examples of reviews from Facebook, Google Plus, and Yelp. For more information or to register, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. I would like to thank Lauren for taking the time to present this important content, and KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his team for their continued support of this workshop series.

Our divisions and committees continue to be very active across the county. This week, meetings of our Expo Committee, Durham & Middlefield Division, Tourism Steering Committee, Legislative Committee, MCSAAC Advisory Board and Affordable Housing Committee are all scheduled at different points. We continue to appreciate the outstanding support of our membership on so many fronts.

One of the best weeks of the year, Travelers Championship week, is almost upon us. This year’s tournament, taking place June 19- 25, is again packed with an outstanding player field which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, and 2016 champion, Russell Knox, who will serve as guest speaker at our Travelers Championship Member Breakfast Meeting on Tuesday, June 20, at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We look forward to welcoming Russell, currently ranked 38th in the Official World Golf Rankings, back to Middlesex County. The Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by Travelers Companies, begins with networking at 7 a.m., breakfast buffet at 7:30 a.m., and meeting program from 8 to 9 a.m. I will have much on the activities of Travelers Championship week in next week’s column, but please visit www.travelerschampionship.com for more information.

One of the key components of the chamber’s workforce development initiatives, the Middlesex County Spring Career Fair, is also scheduled for Tuesday, June 20 at the Radisson from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Over 40 companies from throughout the labor market area will be seeking people whose skills run from professional, technical, manufacturing and administrative. Prior to the job fair, a special Meet and Greet will be held from 9:30-10:45 a.m. at the hotel. This gathering is designed to connect employers in the key fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Advanced Manufacturing, Finance, and Healthcare, to qualified job seekers that are interested in careers in those fields. I will have more information on the Career Fair and related activities in next week’s column, but please visit www.middlesexchamber.com for more information.

The summer heat is upon us, and the chamber is on the move.  

Travelers Championship, Cruise Night on Main among June events

June 5, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

The first full week of June is upon us in Middlesex County, and the chamber calendar is hot with events and activities.

Our sold out, 34th Annual Golf Tournament, was held last Friday at Portland Golf Course. It was a great day on the course for our golfers, staff members, and other tournament supporters. This major event for our organization would not be possible without all of our sponsors and supporters. I want to extend a special thank you to all of our event sponsors; Cart Sponsor Middlesex Hospital, Dinner Sponsor KeyBank, Fairways Sponsor Chamber Insurance Trust, Hospitality Cart Sponsor Hospital for Special Care, Mulligan Sponsor Pratt & Whitney, Lunch Sponsor ConnectiCare, Putting Green Sponsor People’s United Bank, Scorecard Sponsor Liberty Bank, all event supporters at the platinum, titanium and gold levels, those who purchased tee signs, our snack cart sponsor, those who donated the terrific items we were able to auction off at the dinner portion of the event, and members who donated gifts for each of our golfers to take home. John Kelley and his team at Portland Golf Course were true professionals as usual. The food for the dinner was supplied by Farrell’s Restaurant & Caterers in Portland. The Farrell’s team led by Art & Mary Ellen Hetrick provided a delicious spread once again. Chamber Vice President Johanna Bond did another outstanding job with the planning, organizing, and execution of this event with the support of our staff. One of the highlights of the day was the presentation of the 2017 Robert Briggs “Good Guy” Award to Lyman Farm Inc. CEO Steve Ciskowski. The Robert Briggs Good Guy Award is presented annually in recognition of contributions made to the community, and also to the chamber’s Golf Tournament. Steve does a great job at Lymans, and we continue to appreciate his support of our tournament and our chamber. Another chamber tournament is in the books, but a busy June is only beginning.

On Sunday afternoon, I attended a Retirement Party for Xavier High School Headmaster Brother Brian Davis who is retiring after a strong eight year run as the leader of Xavier. I congratulate Brother Brian on his retirement, and wish him all the best as he enters a new phase of his life. He was a wonderful leader, truly dedicated to the young men who have attended Xavier.

Looking ahead, tomorrow morning, Tuesday June 6, our Prevention Committee will host a seminar focusing on When PTSD Trauma Leads to Substance Abuse. Employers will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of experts who will discuss how to better understand PTSD. The seminar will explore healthy ways employees can respond to, and recover from, traumatic incidents. The panel includes a veteran of the U.S Armed Forces who suffered battlefield PTSD and found his way back to health, along with psychologists who treat patients with PTSD related addictions in both the military and civilian worlds. On behalf of Prevention Committee Chairman Harry Burr, I would like to thank Baci Grill in Cromwell for hosting this informational seminar, our guest veteran speaker, Dr. R. Ross MacLean and Ms. Joanna Crowell for speaking on this very important topic. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

The second in a stretch of major June events is the 2017 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner which will be held this Wednesday at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This year’s dinner will honor four outstanding Middlesex County individuals with our prestigious Distinguished Citizen Award. Our honorees are: William F. & Sharon K. Griffin of Durham who do amazing community based work through the Peach Pit Foundation, Kenneth W. MacCormac who is a past chamber chairman and major community supporter, and Eli Cannon’s Tap Room Owner Phil Ouellette who is the definition of a strong corporate citizen. We will also honor the recipient of the 2017 Chief Michael L. Green Award, William J. Warner of the Middletown Police Department, who has performed his duties as a Police Officer with dignity and professionalism while supporting many chamber and community initiatives along the way. In addition to honoring these outstanding local individuals, the chamber will also present three graduating Middlesex County high school students with scholarships as they enter their collegiate careers. Arianna Masotti of Haddam-Killingworth High School will be honored with the 2017 Judge Raymond E. Baldwin Scholarship, Meghan Long of Mercy High School will be honored with the 2017 Harry H.S. Phillips, Jr. Scholarship, and Andrew Tammaro of Portland High School will be honored with the 2017 Lorraine C. McHugh Scholarship. We are very proud of these fine young students and look forward to celebrating their scholarships with them and their families on Wednesday night. Finally, the Annual Awards Dinner will mark the official changeover of the chamber’s chairmanship. Essex Savings Bank President Greg Shook, who has done a wonderful job in this important leadership position, will pass the chairman’s gavel to Rick Morin of Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski. The Annual Awards Dinner gives our members and our staff the opportunity to acknowledge Greg’s great work and leadership in this past year. It is also an opportunity to honor top notch individuals, and to send a few high performing Middlesex County high school students off to college with some additional funds for tuition and books. We look forward to a terrific evening in Cromwell on Wednesday night, and I appreciate the support of our members who are registered to attend.

In addition to the Prevention Committee Seminar and the Annual Awards Dinner, this week also features meetings of our Executive Committee, Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council, Portland & East Hampton Division, Environment, Land Use & Energy Committee, Cromwell Division, and Chester, Deep River & Essex Division which will include remarks from DECD Deputy Commissioner Tim Sullivan. Also, I want to take a moment to thank Goodspeed Musicals for hosting our Young Professionals’ Alliance at Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre in Chester on Friday night. The event will feature a cocktail reception and a ticket to see Deathless, A New Musical. The Terris Theatre, named after actress Norma Terris, was inaugurated in 1984 by Goodspeed Musicals. Deathless, which is running from June 2 - July 2, 2017 in Chester, is written by Zack Zadek who is 24 years old. This represents a great opportunity for our YPA and other interested members who are excited about Friday night’s event in Chester. I also want to thank Riverhouse Hospitality for providing the hors d’oeuvres for the cocktail reception. For more information on Goodspeed Musicals, please visit http://www.goodspeed.org.

The chamber calendar continues to hop next week with big events in Middletown and throughout the county.

Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park will host a members-only Business After Work networking reception next Monday, June 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. We expect a nice crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of late spring networking on the Connecticut River. Danny Cronin and his Canoe Club team will put out a great spread of food and drink, and the atmosphere on the water will undoubtedly be top notch. Also, be sure to save the date for our July Business After Work on July 12 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell, and our August event on August 22nd at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook.

Middletown’s 20th Annual Cruise Night On Main, powered by NAPA, will be held next Wednesday, June 14, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Hundreds of cars are expected to line both sides of Middletown’s scenic Main Street from Washington Street to the South Green. Music and food, combined with an array of pre-1992 classic vehicles, will make this a family friendly, and fun event for everyone. Cruise Night will benefit Middletown youth programs, including the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. I will have much more on the 20th Annual Cruise Night On Main in next week’s column, but in the meantime, visit www.CruiseNightOnMain.com for more information and plan to join us downtown next Wednesday evening.

After a one year visit to the month of August, the Travelers Championship returns to June in 2017. This year’s tournament is now only two weeks away, and Tournament Director Nathan Grube and members of his team have once again attracted an outstanding player field to Cromwell. This major PGA event not only attracts most of the best golfers in the world, but it generates millions of dollars for charity and serves as a major economic and tourism driver for our state. The chamber’s 2017 Travelers Championship Member Breakfast will be held on Tuesday, June 20th. The event, sponsored by Travelers Companies, will be held at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell and will feature PGA Tour Pro Russell Knox, winner of the 2016 Travelers Championship, as guest speaker. Discounted tickets for the Travelers Championship are still available on the chamber website. All tickets available are general admission “Grounds” tickets. Cost is $28.00 per ticket. For more information, visit www.middlesexchamber.com/pages/TicketPromotions.

Finally, employers and job seekers should save the date of June 20 for the 2017 Middlesex County Career Fair.  Employers can connect with qualified, eager job seekers and learn about state and federal hiring incentives. Employers in the key fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Advanced Manufacturing, Finance and Healthcare can also attend the invitation-only Candidate Meet & Greet event directly before the Career Fair. I will certainly have more on the Travelers Championship and related events, and the Middlesex County Career Fair as we move through the month. As always, more information can be found at www.middlesexchamber.com.

In closing, I was very sad to learn of the passing of Buzzy Levin who was a dear and close friend. I will have much more on Buzzy in next week’s column, but our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.

Keep in mind true meaning of Memorial Day

May 29, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached Memorial Day in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. Every year at this time, I try to focus on the true meaning of this holiday and what it represents. Memorial Day is for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is important that we honor that ultimate sacrifice not only today, but every day of the year. We are truly lucky to live in a country where so many of our citizens are willing to serve, and they are the reason that we are able to enjoy the freedom that we hold so dear. Over one million Americans have lost their lives protecting this sacred freedom.  These men and women, and their families, continue to have our unending thanks and admiration. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is proud to count as members a number of local veterans organizations. Our Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Committee, under the leadership of Phil Cacciola, does a great job throughout the year and we appreciate their support of our chamber and our community, and their service to our nation. Memorial Day is a time for remembrance, reflection and pride. So before we fire up the grills, head to the beach, or put the boats in the water, let us again pause to recognize and honor the true meaning of Memorial Day. There are a number of outstanding Memorial Day Parades held throughout the State of Connecticut including in the City of Middletown. We should all take advantage of these patriotic celebrations in honor of our veterans and most importantly, of those we lost.

Last week was a busy one in our region that featured a number of exciting events and activities. I was honored to participate in the ribbon cutting celebration for the Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore on Main Street in Middletown. This dynamic partnership, which brings together Wesleyan University, R.J. Julia Booksellers and grown Restaurant, will be an important economic driver for an already thriving downtown. The Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore already has a wide selection of books and will host an abundance of community events on a monthly basis. It will attract Wesleyan students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff to downtown on a regular basis, and will further strengthen the university’s strong ties with the community. grown Restaurant, created by Middletown native Shannon Allen and her husband, former UConn and NBA star Ray Allen, features 100-percent organic offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, meals to go, and more. I have known Shannon Allen and her family for many years, and have gotten to know Ray through our mutual connection to UConn. I am so happy to welcome them to downtown Middletown with this exciting new restaurant. Last Tuesday’s Ribbon Cutting featured outstanding remarks from Wesleyan President Michael Roth, R.J. Julia owner Roxanne Coady, Shannon Allen, and Mayor Dan Drew. I also want to thank the owner of the building, Mike Stone, who had a vision for the property and did a great job along with his team as the project came to fruition. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner as this new downtown development is off to a strong start.

Middletown is of course extremely fortunate to have Wesleyan University as a key stakeholder, but we are also lucky to be home to Middlesex Community College which serves thousands of local students on an annual basis. I had the pleasure of saying a few words at last Thursday’s Farewell Open House which was held in honor of MxCC’s departing President, Dr. Anna Wasescha. As I noted last week, President Wasescha has done an excellent job in her leadership role at the college, and all of us at the chamber wish her the best as she embarks on the next phase of her terrific academic career.

While it is a short week due to the Memorial Day holiday, this week is another busy one in Middlesex County. A Grand Opening celebration for Butter Curated Exchanged Goods is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at its Washington Street location in Middletown. Butter features an eclectic mix of antiques and other interesting items. The shop’s owner, Kerry Kincy, has done a terrific job with her setup and I look forward to joining Mayor Drew and other local dignitaries as we collectively wish her and her team success and best wishes as they embark on this new endeavor.

Following the Butter Grand Opening, I will travel across to Main Street to Luce Restaurant for the final meeting of the chamber’s Golf Committee before Friday’s sold out 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament at Portland Golf Course. I would like to take a moment to once again thank all of our sponsors and supporters, our Golf Committee which meets throughout the year, all members who donated gifts and prizes, the terrific team at Portland Golf Course, and chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who does a wonderful job with this tournament on an annual basis. We also look forward to honoring our 2017 Robert Briggs “Good Guy” Award Recipient, Lyman Farm Inc. CEO Steve Ciskowski. The Robert Briggs Good Guy Award is presented annually in recognition of contributions made to the community and also to the chamber’s Golf Tournament. Steve has done a great job in a professional capacity at Lymans, and we continue to appreciate his support of our Golf Tournament, and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I truly appreciate everyone sticking with us through the postponement of the original date in early May, and I know everyone involved looks forward to a great day on the course on Friday.

Before we get to the golf tournament however, there are a few more events I want to highlight that are scheduled a bit earlier in the week.

The 2017 Appetite for Life Kickoff Party is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 31st from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. at Tuscany Grill in Middletown. The Appetite for Life Initiative allows folks to support patients at Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center by patronizing participating restaurants in the month of June. This important annual initiative also honors the life of Tim Reilly who passed away in 2009 after a courageous battle with cancer. Tim co-founded Tuscany Grill in Middletown and Baci Grill in Cromwell along with his wife, Lynne, and his sister, Brenda. I want to thank Brenda and Lynne once again for putting together this special event, and for inviting me to help honor this truly wonderful man who I had as a student at Xavier High School. For more information on Appetite for Life, please visit www.middlesexhospital.org.

A busy Thursday kicks off with the June meeting of the chamber’s Central Business Bureau. In addition to reports from key city department directors and Mayor Dan Drew, the meeting will feature updates on the major downtown events scheduled for this summer, Cruise Night on Main on June 14, and Middletown Motorcycle Mania on August 9. I will have much more on these events as we get closer, but members and residents alike should be sure to save the dates. I would like to take a moment to thank our friends at River Suite Wealth Partners for sponsoring Thursday’s CBB meeting.

Later in the day on Thursday, our Real Estate Council will host its Annual Real Estate Luncheon at Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton. As I noted last week, this annual event, sponsored by Liberty Bank, brings together our many active member realtors who continue to do important work in Middlesex County. In addition to terrific networking and a celebration of this critical industry sector, the event will also feature the presentation of the 2017 Mary Ellen Klinck Real Estate Agent of the Year Award. The Mary Ellen Klinck Real Estate Agent of the Year Award is presented to an agent who has made outstanding volunteer contributions to our community, while exhibiting professionalism and success in the real estate field. Mary Ellen Klinck is the former chair of the chamber’s Real Estate Council, and former chair of the chamber’s Board of Directors. This year’s recipient of this prestigious chamber award is Juliet Cavanaugh of Cavanaugh & Company. We look forward to honoring Juliet’s work, both professionally and in the community, and look forward to another successful Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Real Estate Luncheon.

Next week, the first full week of June, also features a number of important events and activities. On Tuesday morning, June 6, our Prevention Committee will host a seminar focusing on When PTSD Trauma Leads to Substance Abuse. Employers will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of experts who will discuss how to better understand PTSD and its relationship with substance abuse. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. Also, it is hard to believe, but the 2017 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner is scheduled for next Wednesday June 7th at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This event will honor four outstanding Middlesex County individuals with our 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award. They are: William F. & Sharon K. Griffin, Kenneth W. MacCormac, and Phil Ouellette. We will also honor the recipient of the 2017 Chief Michael L. Green Award, William J. Warner of the Middletown Police Department, and will present three graduating Middlesex County high school students with scholarships as they enter their collegiate careers. I will have much more on our Annual Awards Dinner in next week’s column.

I want to close this week’s column by announcing that applications are still available for the 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. They are due one week from today, Monday, June 5 at 4:30 pm at the chamber office. Every year since 2006, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has placed Middletown students into constructive summer employment through the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. Applications for this important community workforce development program can be picked up at all of the local public high schools and middle schools, at the centrally located Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and can be found online at www.middlesexchamber.com.

I truly hope that everyone has a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day with family and friends. However, we should never forget the true meaning of the holiday, and we should never stop honoring those who died in service to this great country.  

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