May 2, 2016
By: Larry McHugh
The month of May is upon us in Middlesex County, and the chamber calendar continues to be packed with meetings and activities.
April finished with a flurry as a number of important events were held last week in Middlesex County and throughout the State of Connecticut. On Monday morning, the chamber’s 2016 Legislative Leadership Series wrapped up as we welcomed Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special meeting at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. This event was sponsored by Connecticut Water Company, and Vice President of Customer and Regulatory Affairs Maureen Westbrook did a fine job offering remarks on behalf of the company and introducing our guests. As I noted last week, this special breakfast meeting was a follow-up to successful meetings with the Middlesex County Legislative Delegation, Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. The chamber has been very active this legislative session through submission of public hearing testimony, the hosting of these important events, and working with our fellow business associations across the state on the promotion of issues that are very important to the business community in our state. Our Legislative Committee, co-chaired by Derek Phelps and Rick Parmelee, also worked hard on our 2016 Public Policy Agenda and on many initiatives in support of our membership. The legislative session ends this Wednesday, May 4.
The 2016 High School Career Fair Expo was held last Thursday, April 28th at the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink at the 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 Center for Community Partnerships, this 11th Annual Career Fair Expo was attended by students from all over our region. The Annual Career Fair Expo is an exploration event, a way to introduce our high school students to the many different career fields out there. Over 260 presenters, representing over 140 businesses, networked throughout the event with the over 1200 students that attended from across Middlesex County. This major annual event is made possible by sponsorship support from Eversource and Pratt & Whitney, and Wesleyan University’s Center for Community Partnerships’ donation of the Spurrier-Snyder Ice Rink facility to hold the event. I want to once again thank our sponsors, and the many career and business professionals who attended the event to share their wisdom with our high school students. For their food donations to the Presenters’ Hospitality Table, thank you to American Eagle Financial Credit Union, Lyman Orchards Apple Barrel Market, Triple Springs Spring Water Company, and the Compass Group. Finally, I want to thank Donna Finkelstein of The Middlesex Consortium of Schools, Michael Faenza of Vinal Technical High School, and Rosario Rizzo of Rizzo Services, who put in many hours of work into this year’s career fair, and chamber Staff Liaison Jennifer De Kine who did a fantastic job once again with this major event.
It was a quick turnaround for the chamber team and many of our key volunteers as the 29th Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast was held last Friday morning. The keynote speaker for the event was Wesleyan President Michael Roth, who not only does great work in his leadership role at the university, but has served as Professor of History and the Humanities for many years and has written extensively on a number of scholarly topics. President Roth did an excellent job with remarks, as did Minnie Saleh, Liberty Bank’s Executive Vice President of Retail Banking who offered introductory remarks on behalf of the bank. The Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast has become an important annual event for our chamber, and I want to again thank Liberty Bank for its longtime sponsorship and support. Our Business & Education Advisory Council, under the leadership of Tom Serra, continues to effectively connect the business community to the education community in our region, and I continue to appreciate their strong and ongoing support.
Chamber VP Johanna Bond attended last Wednesday’s Connecticut Governor’s Conference on Tourism which was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The event was very well attended and included remarks from Gov. Malloy and other key officials, productive breakout sessions, and much more. Recipients of the 2016 Connecticut Governor's Tourism Awards included Tourism Legacy Leader Lyman Orchards of Middlefield, Tourism Leader of the Year Stephen Tagliatela, Managing Partner and Innkeeper at Saybrook Point Inn Marina and Spa in Old Saybrook, and Tourism Volunteer(s) of the Year Jeffrey and Maryan Muthersbaugh, Co-owners of the Nehemiah Brainerd House B&B in Haddam. On behalf of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, I want to congratulate our local tourism partners on these well-deserved honors.
I look forward to attending tomorrow’s 2016 Small Business Awards Ceremony along with chamber vice presidents Jeff Pugliese and Johanna Bond. This event, to be held at the Infinity Music Hall in Hartford, will honor the Connecticut SBA Small Business Award winners including chamber members Tracy Camassar of The Chapman Manufacturing Co. who will be honored with the Woman-Owned Small Business Award, Tamera Jackson of Jackson Chevrolet who will be honored with the Family Owned Small Business Award, and Foster Charles of Charles IT who will be honored with the Young Entrepreneur Small Business Award. We look forward to honoring our friends and small business champions who continue to do great work in Middlesex County and beyond. We are very proud of all of them, and congratulate them on this prestigious honor.
The chamber’s divisions continue to be very active throughout our region. Our Portland and East Hampton Division will meet this Wednesday at Angelico’s Lake House in East Hampton, and we look forward to welcoming our good friend Rosario Rizzo who will give an update on the Portland Airline Trail. The Central Business Bureau will hold its May meeting on Thursday morning in the chamber conference room. Mayor Dan Drew and many key city directors will provide updates to the downtown business community, and members will have the opportunity to network with each other and to look ahead to what is sure to be a very busy summer in our city.
On Wednesday evening, I will travel to the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks for the designation of the WASP R-1340 Engine as an ASME Historic Engineering Landmark. I appreciate the invitation from our friends at Pratt & Whitney for this exciting and historic event, and continue to appreciate the strong and ongoing support of this terrific corporate citizen.
Thursday evening features two exciting Grand Opening Celebrations which will welcome two new businesses to the Middletown business community. Callie’s Contemporary Consignments, which recently opened on Saybrook Road, will host its event at 4:00 p.m. Mayor Dan Drew and I look forward to celebrating Callie Grippo and her new venture, and we wish her the best of luck moving forward. Herd Restaurant, a new downtown establishment featuring fresh, locally sourced creations including delicious food and drinks, will hold its event at 5:00 p.m. The Herd leadership team, Jonathan Shapiro, David Shapiro, Patrick Ganino, and Chef Dan “Serge” Sergi, are off to a great start, and we certainly look forward to celebrating this new Middletown business and sampling their delicious menu offerings.
The 33rd Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament will be held this Friday at Portland Golf Course. The 2016 tournament is sold out once again, and we are all very much looking forward to a terrific day out 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 donated gifts, those who purchased tee signs, and many other members of our chamber who offered their support in a number of different ways. Finally, I want to once again thank chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who has served as tournament coordinator for many years. She continues to a do a great job with this event, and she enjoys the support of our entire staff who all love the chamber’s golf tournament.
The chamber’s May Business After Work Networking Reception is scheduled for next Thursday, May 12 at Connecticut Rental Center in Middletown. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature complimentary beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, a terrific spread of food, and of course, the best networking around for chamber members and their guests. Longtime chamber member and supporter Tom Byrne, who serves as Chairman of our Central Business Bureau, is hosting this event along with his outstanding team at Connecticut Rental. I thank Tom for his ongoing and strong support.
The chamber’s May Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by Farmington Bank, will feature guest speaker Edison Liu, CEO of the Jackson Laboratory. The Jackson Laboratory is doing amazing work in the genomic research field, and their entry into the state of Connecticut is proving to be a major economic development initiative. We look forward to this exciting chamber event which will be immediately followed by an energy forum focusing on energy efficiency and economic development.
I want to close this week’s column by announcing that applications are available for the 2016 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. 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. The chamber has the capacity, through our dynamic membership, to place these youngsters into employment in a wide variety of professional fields for six weeks in the summer months. Six weeks might not seem like a long time, but it provides a solid foundation and a great glimpse into what life in the workforce is like. 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.
For more information on chamber events and activities, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.