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.

Congressman Courtney to keynote Middlesex Chamber breakfast

April 24, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Another busy week for the chamber team kicks off this morning with our April Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Congressman Joe Courtney. Congressman Courtney’s district includes many of the down-county towns within the chamber’s service area. His remarks will touch on the important issues that he is working on as he represents his constituents in Washington, D.C. Congressman Courtney serves on some very important committees, including the House Armed Services Committee, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, the Readiness subcommittee, House Education and Workforce Committee, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee. This event, sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, will also serve as the official kick off of Export Week 2017 in the State of Connecticut. The U.S. Commercial Service and the Connecticut District Export Council have teamed up to create a series of events throughout Connecticut and throughout this week. Connecticut Export Week 2017 will educate businesses on initiating and or expanding their global market. There is a series of events scheduled for Monday after the Member Breakfast Meeting at the Radisson Hotel. Anne Evans, Director of the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration which is based in Middletown, has done a great job putting this week of important activities together, and we appreciate her longtime partnership and support. I want to once again thank Congressman Courtney for speaking to our membership at the Member Breakfast Meeting, and Pratt & Whitney for its support of this event and of so many community-based initiatives.

Tourism Advocacy Day is also scheduled for today, April 24. This important event will be held at the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol in Hartford. I look forward to attending along with chamber Vice President Johanna Bond and some of our members from this critical industry sector. Tourism Advocacy Day is an initiative of The Connecticut Tourism Coalition which is an alliance of advocates from all sectors of the Connecticut tourism industry. They organized this day to advocate for a more sustainable source of annual funding for tourism which is a proven economic driver in Middlesex County and throughout the state. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to be a strong supporter of tourism in our region.

Our Legislative Leadership Event Series is set to conclude this Tuesday with a visit from House Minority Leader Themis Klarides. Sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, the event will take place at the Inn at Middletown from 8-9:30 a.m. At this special meeting, Rep. Klarides will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. We value our relationship with legislative leadership and certainly look forward to this event. This meeting will wrap up a great run of chamber legislative events which included our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with Middlesex County’s legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. I appreciate Rep. Klarides’ willingness to visit with our group once again, along with the sponsorship support of Kronenberger & Sons Restoration. Brian Kronenberger is a key member of our Legislative Committee and of our Board of Directors. We look forward to a productive discussion Tuesday at the Inn at Middletown.

On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce. This working group continues to offer the support and expertise of the private sector, while also advocating for important legislative priorities such as a lockbox for transportation initiatives in our state, and the pursuit of legislation that encourages Connecticut businesses to invest and grow opportunities for good, well-paying jobs. This group will continue to stay engaged on the many issues facing the business community in our state.

The chamber will be well represented at a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony celebrating the newly renovated “Short Stay” area at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Cromwell. The event will be held on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. We wish the entire Autumn Lake Healthcare team continued success with this important facility that is dedicated to the highest standards of nursing and rehabilitative care.

Our East Haddam and Haddam Division will meet this Thursday, April 27 in Haddam. The meeting, hosted by Connecticut River Expeditions, will include updates from the chamber’s Legislative Committee as well as local town updates from key personnel. Connecticut River Expeditions provides the general public with access to the lower CT River, along with education to all passengers on its ecology and beauty. I thank Captain Mark Yuknat and his team for hosting our group as he does on an annual basis.

The 2017 High School Career Fair Expo is scheduled for this Thursday at the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink at Freeman Athletic Center on the campus of Wesleyan University. Presented by the chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council, The Middlesex Consortium of Schools, and Wesleyan University’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, this 12th Annual Career Fair Expo will be attended by over 1200 students from all over Middlesex County. The Career Fair Expo is an exploration event, a way to introduce our high school students to the many different career fields out there. We believe that it is very important to connect local students to the many industry sectors that are critical to the economy in our region and in our state, and this event is an important part of that effort. Over 260 presenters, representing over 130 businesses, are set to network throughout the event with students from all over Middlesex County. I would like to once again express a big thank you to those business and career professionals who will be on hand to present and share their career experiences with the students. This major annual event is made possible by sponsorship support from Eversource and Pratt & Whitney to the chamber’s Business & Education Partnership, and Wesleyan University for the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink facility to hold this event.  This is truly a great partnership, and we very much appreciate our Business & Education sponsors. We look forward to another terrific Career Expo on Thursday.

On Tuesday, May 2, our Manufacturers’ Council will meet at Whelen Engineering Co. in Chester. The meeting will feature a brief presentation from DECD Deputy Commissioner Bart Kollen on the many incentives that are available to manufacturers in the state, in addition to a guided tour of Whelen’s outstanding facility. Whelen designs and manufactures reliable and powerful warning lights, white illumination lighting, sirens, controllers, and high-powered warning systems for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. It is an outstanding company that we are lucky to have in Middlesex County. I know our members certainly look forward to the visit and the tour, and I thank company President George Whelen V for hosting us.

The sold out, 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament, will be held on Friday, May 5 at Portland Golf Course. Our Golf Committee has done a terrific job once again, and I am so appreciative of all of our sponsors, our players, those who are donating gifts, those who purchased tee signs, and many other members of our chamber who offer their support in a number of different ways. I will have more as we get closer, but it is safe to say that our members and staff certainly look forward to another great tournament.

The 30th Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast is scheduled for Thursday, May 11 at the Radisson in Cromwell. The chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council serves as a link between member businesses and educational leaders from Middlesex County Schools. As I noted earlier, this important chamber group also puts on the Annual High School Career Fair Expo. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program is a partnership between the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Middletown Board of Education that provides students with mentors from the community. The keynote speaker for the event will be UConn President Susan Herbst. We will certainly have more to share on this important breakfast event as we get closer, but members should certainly save the date.

Spring is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Second half of April to feature meetings, grand opening

April 17, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

April is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber calendar is packed with events and activities.

Tuesday features meetings of two important chamber groups, our Westbrook Division and our Golf Committee. The Westbrook Division will meet at Tanger Outlets at 8 a.m., and the Golf Committee will meet at 5 p.m. at Luce Restaurant in Middletown. The division will continue its monthly discussion on issues of importance to our Westbrook based members, and the committee will continue its planning for our 34th Annual Golf Tournament scheduled for May 5 at Portland Golf Course. The chamber golf tournament is always a sold-out event, and I know our members look forward to the sun shining on Portland on May 5.

Also on Tuesday, I will attend a Grand Opening celebration for Tonia’s Tailoring at its new Saybrook Road location in Middletown. Tonia Herring has provided high quality alteration services on formal gowns and other garments for many years now. She is a graduate of our Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program, and I look forward to joining Mayor Drew and other city dignitaries as we wish her nothing but the best at her new and improved facility.

Thursday is a very busy day for me and the entire chamber team. I look forward to attending the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday morning in New Haven. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. They serve the public through the American Job Centers, one of which is located on South Main Street in Middletown. The chamber continues to enjoy a very strong working relationship with Workforce Alliance and we appreciate the support of President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team.

Later in the day, the chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its April meeting at the Middletown Elks Lodge on Maynard Street. This meeting, hosted by Season’s Federal Credit Union, will feature a presentation from Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon and Business Relations Specialist Sarah Spencer. Kevin and Sarah will cover recent developments at Bradley International Airport with a particular emphasis on the Aer Lingus service to Ireland, the Norwegian Air Service to Scotland, new direct options to Florida and the west coast, and other route development efforts. We look forward to another productive chamber board meeting which will also feature reports from committee chairs and key staff.

A busy Thursday will close with April’s Business After Work Networking Reception hosted by Lady Katharine Cruises. Beginning at 5 p.m. on the ship, The Mystique will be docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown. Chamber members can board the ship and network while docked until 6:30 p.m. when it takes a trip down river and returns at the close of the Business After Work event at 7 p.m.  The event will feature fantastic river views, a terrific spread of food and drinks, and outstanding spring networking for chamber members and their guests. Parking is available at Middletown’s Melilli lot with tunnel access to Harbor Park, where the ship is docked. Limited parking will also be available at Harbor Park. The Mystique is the perfect place to meet and network with other business people because as our friends at Lady Katharine Cruises’ say, “Everything is better on the water.” I would like to once again thank the Lady Katharine Cruises team for hosting this outstanding Business After Work networking reception. We look forward to a great event.

The MCSAAC Advisory Board will hold its April meeting on Friday at the chamber office beginning at 8 a.m. Established in 1991, MCSAAC is a council of the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Its purpose is to reduce the incidence of alcohol and other drug abuse in Middlesex County. Director Betsey Chadwick, with support from Board President Tony Salvatore, does a great job as she travels around the county pushing this critically important message. I look forward to another productive meeting of the Advisory Board on Friday morning.

An Open House event for L&I Refrigeration is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at its new 43 Industrial Park Access Road location in Middlefield. I look forward to stopping by to wish the best to Dave Slight, a strong supporter of our chamber who is active with our Durham and Middlefield Division, and his entire team, as they continue to move the company forward.

April’s Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We look forward to welcoming Congressman Joe Courtney as keynote speaker at this event, which is sponsored by Pratt & Whitney. Congressman Courtney’s district includes some important down-county towns within the chamber’s service area. His remarks will touch on the many important issues that he is working on as he represents his constituents in Washington, D.C. Congressman Courtney serves on some very important committees, including the House Armed Services Committee, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, the Readiness subcommittee, House Education and Workforce Committee, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee. The Member Breakfast Meeting will kick off Connecticut Export Week 2017, which is a unique initiative of the District Export Council and U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. I want to once again thank Congressman Courtney for speaking to our membership, and Pratt & Whitney for its support of this event and of so many community-based initiatives.

The 2017 High School Career Fair Expo is scheduled for next Thursday, April 27 at the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink at Freeman Athletic Center on the campus of Wesleyan University. Presented by the chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council, The Middlesex Consortium of Schools, and Wesleyan University’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, this 12th Annual High School Career Fair Expo will be attended by over 1200 students from all over Middlesex County. The Career Fair Expo is an exploration event, a way to introduce our high school students to the many different career fields out there. I would like to once again express a big thank you to those business and career professionals who will be on hand to present and share their career experiences with the students. This major annual event is made possible by sponsorship support from Eversource and Pratt & Whitney to the Chamber’s Business & Education Partnership, and Wesleyan University for the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink facility to hold this event.  This is truly a great partnership, and we very much appreciate our Business & Education sponsors.

I also want to announce that Tuesday, June 20th is the date of the 2017 Middlesex County Spring Career Fair. This event, to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Radisson, will feature close to 50 employers and hundreds of job seekers. The chamber is proud to partner with the Connecticut Department of Labor and Workforce Alliance on this important event which is designed to connect highly skilled and qualified job seekers with employment opportunities available in our region. The Middlesex County Spring Career Fair has been in existence for over 20 years now. More to come as we get closer, but job seekers should certainly save the date of June 20th.

To wrap up this week’s column, I want to note that last Monday’s Legislative Leadership Series event with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff was very successful. The event featured another substantive discussion on the many important issues that face members of the General Assembly during this critical session. The 2017 Legislative Leadership Series concludes on Tuesday, April 25, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special meeting at the Inn at Middletown. This event, sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration Inc., will give chamber members the opportunity to ask questions about the session and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. I appreciate Rep. Klarides’ willingness to once again come and visit with our members during this very busy legislative session. This meeting will wrap up a great run of chamber legislative events which in addition to last week’s meeting with Sen. Duff included our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with Middlesex County’s legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano. As I have repeatedly noted, the chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay engaged throughout this legislative session, and I thank co-chairs Rich Carella and Maureen Westbrook for their strong leadership of this important chamber group.

The spring sun is shining on Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Senate Majority Leader Duff to kick off Legislative event series

April 10, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

I would like to begin this week’s chamber column with a few thoughts on last Monday’s meeting of the Middletown Common Council. I attended the meeting to speak on a number of issues including the appointment of Joe Samolis as Middletown’s new Director of Planning, Conservation and Development, an appropriation of $300,000 for the planning, design, engineering and construction of the Greater Middletown Military Museum, the city’s co-sponsoring of three major downtown events this summer, and the authorization of a sublease with Charles IT for 20 parking spaces the City currently leases on William Street. I am very pleased that all of these measures passed the council. Joe Samolis is the right person to lead this key city department. I look forward to working with him as we move forward. We should support the veterans because they have done so much to support us. The summer events represent a great opportunity for us to showcase our vibrant downtown and outstanding local businesses. Finally, Charles IT is a growing local company that we need to retain. I thank the council members, as always, for their willingness to serve, and I appreciate their support of these important measures.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Inland Wetland Watercourses Agency, the chamber also supported the mixed use/retail development proposed by Abe Kaoud on Washington Street near the intersection with Plaza Drive. Past history shows that Mr. Kaoud has brought excellent projects to the City of Middletown and I know this one will be no different. I thank the Inland Wetland Watercourses Agency for approving the measure at Wednesday’s meeting. The chamber will be a constructive partner as this process moves forward, and will continue to support strategic commercial and manufacturing development in Middlesex County.

Last Wednesday afternoon, I attended a Reception and Open House to celebrate The Connection’s CEO Lisa DeMatteis-Lepore. Lisa was officially named CEO in March after serving in an interim capacity. She has also served as Chief Operating Officer as part of her 25 year career at the agency. I congratulate Lisa on the appointment and appreciate the invitation to attend the reception. She will do an outstanding job!

Our 2017 Legislative Event Series continues this Monday, April 10 at 9 a.m. when welcome Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff to the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. At this special meeting, sponsored by Eversource, Sen. Duff will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. I appreciate Sen. Duff’s willingness to once again come and visit with our members during this very busy legislative session. The Legislative Event Series concludes on Tuesday, April 25, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special leadership event at the Inn at Middletown. The event, sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, will begin at 8 a.m. These important events are follow-ups to our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with our legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay engaged throughout this legislative session.

The KeyBank Workshop Series continues this Tuesday, April 11, with a session on Connecting with Your Customers for Business Success presented by TGezo Business Consulting. This important workshop will focus on identifying and connecting with ideal customers, identifying and responding what truly matters to those customers, growing and retaining a vibrant customer base, managing social media to grow and retain customers, and optimizing website content for customer engagement. More details and registration information is available at www.middlesexchamber.com. We again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this initiative.

Chamber divisions are off to a fast start in the month of April. Last Wednesday’s Portland & East Hampton Division meeting with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman had over 45 members in attendance. It was a great discussion and we were happy to welcome back, the Lt. Gov. to Middlesex County. The Chester, Deep River and Essex Division met on Friday at Camp Hazen YMCA in Chester, our Durham and Middlefield Division meets on Wednesday at Torrison Stone & Garden in Durham, and our Cromwell Division meets on Thursday at Chicago Sam’s Sports Bar & Grill. Our divisions remain very active.

I look forward to attending Wednesday’s meeting of The Kiwanis Club of Middletown at Carmela’s on the Extension. I appreciate their annual invitation to come and talk about some key chamber events and activities that are upcoming. These meetings always feature a great discussion and I look forward to reconnecting with the Kiwanis group on Wednesday.

Following the division meeting on Thursday, chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese and I will visit Northeast Quality Services in Cromwell. Northeast Quality Service is a precision manufacturing and assembly company with over 100,000 sq. feet of machining, assembly, and purchasing services. We look forward to visiting with Ralph Coppola Jr. and members of this team.

April’s Business After Work, hosted by Lady Katharine Cruises, will take place in Middletown next Thursday, April 20. Beginning at 5 p.m. on the ship “Mystique”, the event will feature fantastic river views with a terrific spread of food and drinks, and outstanding spring networking for chamber members and their guests. Parking is available at Middletown’s Melilli lot with tunnel access to Harbor Park where the ship is docked. Limited parking will also be available at Harbor Park. The Mystique is a terrific place to meet and network with other business people because as our friends at Lady Katharine Cruises’ say, “Everything is better on the water.” I would like to thank the Lady Katherine Cruises team for hosting this outstanding Business After Work networking reception.

Our April Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We look forward to welcoming Congressman Joe Courtney as keynote speaker at this event which is sponsored by Pratt & Whitney. Congressman Courtney’s district includes some important down county towns within the chamber’s service area. His remarks will touch on the many important issues that he is working on as he represents his constituents in Washington D.C. Congressman Courtney serves on some very important committees including the House Armed Services Committee, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, the Readiness subcommittee, House Education and Workforce Committee, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee. The Member Breakfast Meeting will kick off Connecticut Export Week 2017, which is a unique initiative of the District Export Council and U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. I want to thank Congressman Courtney for speaking to our membership once again, and Pratt & Whitney for its support of this event and of so many community-based initiatives.

April is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Summer youth employment open for 14- 21-year-olds

April 3, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

The month of April is off to a fast start in Middlesex County as the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Before looking ahead to the many events activities that are scheduled for this month, I want to take a moment to recap the very successful 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown which was held last Tuesday at the Italian Society Hall. We had a great turnout of over 250 for this major event, and I want to take a moment to thank the Auction Planning Committee, led by its Chairman Al Santostefano and Vice Chairman Rich Greco, and all of the event’s supporters for their hard work. I also want to thank the following restaurants for providing the delicious food for the evening: Celtic Cavern, First and Last Tavern, Illiano’s Ristorante & Pizzeria, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Mondo, NoRA Cupcake Co., Perk on Main, Tavern at the Armory, and Tuscany Grill. The 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown raised funds that will support this year’s Holiday on Main Street which is another outstanding Middlesex County tradition. Another successful Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown is in the books.

The City of Middletown Common Council holds its April meeting on Monday night at 7 p.m. at City Hall. I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my support for the nomination of Joseph Samolis to serve as Middletown’s new Director of Planning, Conservation and Development. As I have noted in previous weeks, I have had the privilege of working with Joe Samolis on a number of important economic issues over the past few years. He has always been accessible and responsive to questions and input from a number of different constituent groups and has conducted himself in a sincere and professional manner at all times. He is intelligent, dedicated and hard working. I am confident that Joe Samolis will do a great job as the new director of this important city department. We look forward to working with him and his team as we continue to move Middletown toward a bright and prosperous future.

The beginning of April means that the chamber is gearing up for another installment of the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. This program continues to be a key workforce development initiative that puts kids into constructive employment situations in the summer months. Program applications are now available at the chamber and at all of Middletown’s public high schools and middle schools. For more information, please contact Lorenzo Marshall at the chamber.

Chamber divisions and committees continue to be very active throughout Middlesex County. Our Portland & East Hampton Division will meet on Wednesday at the Portland Library at 8 a.m. This meeting, hosted by Liberty Bank, will feature remarks from Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman who is a longtime supporter of our chamber going back to her early days as State Comptroller. We look forward to welcoming her back to Middlesex County. At the chamber office, our Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee will hold its April meeting at 8 a.m. This active chamber group will continue to cover environment, land use and energy issues that are of great importance to the business community in Middlesex County. The chamber’s Central Business Bureau (CBB) will meet on Thursday morning at 8 a.m. in the chamber conference room. The meeting, hosted by Perk on Main, will feature a report on the 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown, and an update on the planning for the 20th Annual Cruise Night on Main St, powered by NAPA, and the 12th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousine & The Hunter Family. The meeting will also feature reports from Mayor Drew and many city directors. We look forward to another productive gathering of the Central Business Bureau. Our Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division meeting is scheduled for this Friday at Camp Hazen in Chester. The meeting will feature town and chamber updates, along with a tour and program presented by Denise Learned of Camp Hazen. As you can see, these important chamber groups are very engaged in what is happening on the ground throughout our region.

A Grand Opening celebration for Disco Chick is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at its Main Street location. Disco Chick, a dine-in and takeout restaurant specializing in gourmet chicken wings and "disco fries”, is the newest endeavor for The Hop Knot co-owners John Schauster and Michael Boney. I look forward to attending with Mayor Dan Drew and other city dignitaries and we all wish John and Mike and their entire team continued success as they launch this new phase of their business.

The Harvard Pilgrim Middletown Half will return to the city this coming Sunday, April 9. Runners and spectators will enjoy the beauty of country roads and the grandeur of a downtown finish in newly designed 13.1 mile and 4.5 mile race routes. The new Harvard Pilgrim Middletown Half runs through Wesleyan University and out past Wadsworth State Forest before looping back to finish on Main Street. The Legends 4.5 offer a scenic route through Wesleyan campus before a fast finish on Main Street. The Harvard Pilgrim Middletown Half is the Half Marathon Championship race of the USATF Connecticut Grand Prix Series. We wish our friends at the Hartford Marathon Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim, and all of the sponsors and supporters nothing but success as race day approaches.

Our 2017 Legislative Event Series continues next Monday, April 10 at 9 a.m. when welcome Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff to the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. At this special meeting, sponsored by Eversource, Sen. Duff will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. I appreciate Sen. Duff’s willingness to once again come and visit with our members during this very busy legislative session. The Legislative Event Series concludes on Tuesday, April 25, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special leadership event at the Inn at Middletown. The event, sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, will begin at 8 a.m. These important events are follow-ups to our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with our legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay engaged throughout this legislative session.

The KeyBank Workshop Series continues next Tuesday, April 11, 2017 with a session on Connecting with Your Customers for Business Success presented by TGezo Business Consulting. This important workshop will focus on identifying and connecting with ideal customers, identifying and responding what truly matters to those customers, growing and retaining a vibrant customer base, managing social media to grow and retain customers, and optimizing website content for customer engagement. More details and registration information is available at www.middlesexchamber.com. We again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this important initiative.

April’s Business After Work, hosted by Lady Katharine Cruises, will take place in Middletown on Thursday, April 20. Beginning at 5 p.m. on the ship “Mystique”, the event will feature fantastic river views with a terrific spread of food and drinks, and outstanding spring networking for chamber members and their guests. Parking is available at Middletown’s Melilli lot with tunnel access to Harbor Park where the ship is docked. Limited parking will also be available at Harbor Park. The Mystique is a terrific place to meet and network with other business people because as our friends at Lady Katharine Cruises’ say, “Everything is better on the water.” I would like to thank the Lady Katherine Cruises team for hosting this outstanding Business After Work networking reception.

Finally, our April Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. We look forward to welcoming Congressman Joe Courtney as keynote speaker at this event which is sponsored by Pratt & Whitney. Congressman Courtney’s district includes some important down county towns within the chamber’s service area. His remarks will touch on the many important issues that he is working on as he represents his constituents in Washington D.C. Congressman Courtney serves on some very important committees including the House Armed Services Committee, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, the Readiness subcommittee, House Education and Workforce Committee, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee. The Member Breakfast Meeting will kick off Connecticut Export Week 2017, which is a unique initiative of the District Export Council and U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. I want to thank Congressman Courtney for speaking to our membership once again, and Pratt & Whitney for its support of this event and of so many community-based initiatives.

April is upon us, spring sports fans are rejoicing, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.

This week’s Business After Work is a Swashbuckler’s Soiree

March 27, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

I would like to begin this week’s column by congratulating the Community Health Center on gaining approval for its proposed 31,000 square foot office building at the intersection of Main Street and Grand Street. I look forward to attending the groundbreaking ceremony on May 1st, which is also the 45th anniversary of the Community Health Center. Led by its Founder and President, Mark Masselli, CHC has been a long time member of the chamber and a key player in our community on a number of fronts. The chamber was supportive of this project as it went through the local approval process because it will be an important economic and community development initiative for a critical Middletown neighborhood, the North End. I look forward to the groundbreaking and the project’s completion which is a major win for downtown.

This week caps off a very busy March for the chamber team. Our Westbrook Division will meet on Tuesday morning at the Westbrook Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The meeting will feature updates from local officials, a chamber update, and a member roundtable with our Westbrook-based members. We look forward to a productive session and thank First Selectman Noel Bishop for hosting.

On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce at the Bushnell in Hartford. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state, and these meetings always feature productive discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community.

The 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown is scheduled for tomorrow evening at The Italian Society of Middletown on Court Street. A number of Middletown’s terrific downtown restaurants will be featured, and they will once again offer delicious samplings from their menus. Complimentary beer, wine, soda and a "Special Drink" of the evening will also be provided for attending members of our chamber and their guests. The Live Auction begins at 5:45 p.m. This portion of the event includes approximately 100 items which may be previewed in advance, and a Silent Auction will also be held throughout the event. Members will also have the opportunity to purchase keys for a treasure chest that could potentially unlock a surprise worth more than $200, a drawing for a movie viewing at Metro Movies 12, and much more. This year’s event is titled “Pirates of Middlesex County Swashbuckler’s Soiree.” Chamber members will enjoy delicious samplings from the following restaurants that are confirmed to attend: Celtic Cavern, First and Last Tavern, Illiano’s Restaurant, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Mondo, NoRA Cupcake Co., Perk on Main, and Tuscany Grill. We expect a packed house at the Italian Society Hall on Tuesday night and certainly look forward to another great event.

Our highly successful Legislative Event Series continues in the month of April. We look forward to welcoming Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff to a special leadership event on Monday, April 10 at the Courtyard by Marriott. This event will begin at 9 a.m. At this special meeting, sponsored by Eversource, Sen. Duff will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. This important series concludes on Tuesday, April 25, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special leadership event at the Inn at Middletown. The event, sponsored by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, will begin at 8 and will also give the chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. These events are follow-ups to our 2017 Legislative Breakfast with our legislative delegation, and special leadership events with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay engaged during this important legislative session.

Members should also save the date of April 20 for another exciting Business After Work. This event will be held on the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, which will be docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown, and will feature a terrific spread of food, drink and of course, the best networking around.

Congressman Joe Courtney will keynote the chamber’s April Member Breakfast Meeting on Monday, April 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. The Congressman’s district includes some important down county towns within the chamber’s service area, and we look forward to welcoming him back to a Member Breakfast Meeting. Congressman Courtney has some important committee assignments down in D.C., including the House Armed Services Committee, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, the Readiness subcommittee, House Education and Workforce Committee, the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee. This event will be held as part of Connecticut Export Week 2017, which is a unique initiative of the District Export Council and U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the Department of Commerce. Pratt & Whitney is the sponsor of this important chamber Member Breakfast Meeting, and we continue to appreciate the strong support of this outstanding corporate citizen.  More information will be made available as we get closer, but members should be sure to save the date of April 24.

I want to take a moment to mention the good work being undertaken by the chamber’s Health Care Council. The council has recently developed four simple questions that will assist individuals as they seek to better understand their prescription health. When prescribed medication, individuals should be sure to ask their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist: Why do I need it? What are my alternatives? What are the complications of the medicine? What if I don’t take it? These might sound like simple questions, but they are critical to properly understanding your prescription health. This is just one of the many important initiatives coming out of our Health Care Council, and I want to once again thank Middlesex Hospital CEO Vin Capece and his team for supporting the council in a variety of ways.

The chamber’s 34th Annual Golf Tournament is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at Portland Golf Course. The chamber Golf Tournament is always a sold-out and outstanding event, and I continue to appreciate the hard work and effort of our Golf Committee. We look forward to another successful chamber Golf Tournament, and expect the sun to shine in Portland on May 5!

Finally, I want to close this week’s chamber column by recapping the outstanding 20th Graduation Awards Ceremony for the award winning Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program which was held last Tuesday evening at the chamber building on Main Street. The chamber conference area was packed with graduates, their proud families, and friends, program alumni, representatives from the program’s longtime funder, Aetna, Inc., and other program supporters. This important event officially brings the graduate total to 248 since the inception of this groundbreaking initiative in 1997. Side Street to Main Street is a one year long entrepreneurial and business development course with a rigorous curriculum, designed to assist minority small business owners in the community who have not had formal business training. As I noted last week, it continues to be an effective way in which we encourage the development of small, minority-owned businesses which are now part of the central fabric of the Middlesex County business community. We were so pleased to have chamber Chairman Greg Shook and Councilman Tom Serra, who represented Mayor Drew and the city of Middletown, and Middletown Director of Office of Equal Opportunity Faith Jackson in attendance at the event along with Aetna’s Senior Director of Corporate Community Investments and Employee Programs Chris Montross who got to see firsthand the great work that this program is doing for our community. I would like to thank Aetna, Inc. once again for its support of this, and of so many community initiatives. We look forward to Class 21 which will begin in the fall.

Spring is upon us, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County. 

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