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.


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