The importance of Labor Day in local community

September 4, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Today, we celebrate Labor Day in Middlesex County and around our great nation. Every year on Labor Day, I take some time to talk about the importance of the holiday which is designed to provide a day of rest for working men and women. In addition to honoring the commitment and dedication of hard working Americans, Labor Day also represents the traditional end of summer and serves as an ideal time to chart a path for the rest of the year. The chamber's far-reaching membership, 2,175 businesses that employ nearly 50,000 people, allows me to observe the outstanding diversity in the Middlesex County workforce. The men and women of the Middlesex community not only provide the economic productivity that allows us to maintain a high standard of living, but they give back each and every day, and provide a great example for our young people. Despite the many differences in occupations, there is a definite common theme among those in our county and statewide workforce, everyone works hard. A job in any field requires a personal commitment and a lot of time and effort. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has continued to implement successful workforce development programs throughout the past year. As a result of our great working relationships with a number of key partners, the chamber is able to serve as a bridge that connects job seekers to employers. A strong workforce is the key to a strong economy, and the chamber is proud of its workforce development initiatives. Enjoy your Labor Day Middlesex County, but let us not forget our fellow citizens who are currently looking for work, and let’s never forget those who serve our country in a variety of ways.

As usual, the first full week of September is packed with a number of chamber meetings and activities. Our Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Committee will meet tomorrow at 8 a.m. in the chamber conference room. This important chamber group is charged with planning and executing the 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 the committee which is led by its Chairman, Phil Cacciola. Wednesday morning features meetings of the chamber’s Portland and East Hampton Division and the Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee. The Portland and East Hampton division meeting, to be held at Portland Library, will feature local updates from key municipal officials and chamber members. The chamber’s divisions continue to be a vital link to our member towns and to each individual local business community within our service area. The Environment, Land Use, and Energy Committee is comprised of attorneys, engineers, environmental specialists, developers and other professionals. The committee focuses on important environment, land use and energy issues that have a direct impact on the business community in Middlesex County. This committee, as all of our industry based groups do, also continues to be an important piece of the chamber’s infrastructure. On Thursday morning, our Central Business Bureau will meet at 8:00 a.m. in the chamber conference room. This meeting, which will feature updates from a number of key Middletown stakeholders including Mayor Drew and city department directors, is hosted by Adelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services. We look forward to another productive CBB meeting on Thursday morning. This Friday, our Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division will meet at the Essex Town Hall Auditorium at 8:00am. This division, also known as our Down County Division, will host members of our Affordable Housing Committee including chamber VP Jeff Pugliese and the committee’s chairman, Bob Fusari, for a presentation on housing as an economic driver in Middlesex County. This busy week comes to a close on Friday afternoon with the official grand opening celebration for Wayback Burgers on Main Street in Middletown. Wayback Burgers offers delicious burgers with a wide selection of toppings, crispy and grilled chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, fresh salads and delicious sides including fries, onion rings, and house-made chips. I look forward to joining Mayor Drew and other city dignitaries as we collectively congratulate Jessica & Michael Light, who live in Durham, on their new venture. We look forward to working with them and wish them nothing but success moving forward.

A busy September continues next week with an important business seminar and a Business After Work networking reception on the river. The seminar, which is the latest installment of the KeyBank Workshop Series, will be held on Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. at the chamber office. The topic is “Hiring & Firing”, and it will be presented by Chris Bringham of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. Chris Bringham, a shareholder at UKS and chairman of its employment practices group, focuses his practice on representing and counseling schools and businesses with respect to workplace and employment law issues. This presentation offers a comprehensive overview of current employment law and will be extremely valuable for managers, human resources directors, and others in your organization. Please visit www.middlesexchamber.com or contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I continue to appreciate the support of Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team.

Next Wednesday, September 13 beginning at 5:00 p.m., the chamber’s Business After Work networking reception will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique”, which is docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown. Members can board the boat at 5 p.m. and network while docked until 6:00 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Mystique will take a trip down river and will return at the close of the Business After Work at 7:00 p.m. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and of course, the best networking around. Excitement is building for the event on the boat and I want to thank the new owner of Lady Katharine Cruises, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, for hosting this event and for their strong support of our chamber. Kevin Dodd and his team continue to great work throughout region, and we continue to appreciate their effort.

Excitement also continues to build as the 98th Durham Fair, which will be held from September 21-24 on the famous fairgrounds in the heart of Durham, gets closer and closer. Durham Agricultural Fair Association President Dan Miramant and his team of committed volunteers have been hard at work preparing for the week, and we certainly appreciate their year round efforts. The Durham Fair recently received the 2017 Connecticut Governor’s Tourism Volunteer of the Year award for being a 100-percent volunteer-led event which invests many of its profits back into the community. The Durham Fair continues to provide four terrific days of good clean wholesome fun. From entertainment headliners like Brothers Osborne, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, and the first ever USO Show Troupe, to livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, to the educational Discovery Tent, to arts and crafts and a number of shopping options, the Durham Fair has it all. The Fair will also once again feature an array of food options, a number of games, and outstanding events and activities. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale agricultural event in Middlesex County.  The Durham Fair is the largest fair in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers, and it is truly a unique event. For more information, please visit www.durhamfair.com.

Unfortunately, I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of two longtime supporters of the chamber, Joseph Guida and Philip Armetta. Joe Guida made a major impact in Middletown and in Middlesex County throughout his life. He was critical to the dedication of open space land in the city, and served in a variety of roles that supported the responsible management and development of the riverfront area. Joe also supported countless community initiatives including the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Association of Dairy and Food Sanitarians, Inc., the Middletown Lion's Club, Middletown Elks Club, the Boy Scouts, the CT Farm Bureau and many more. Joe Guida was a community man and a businessman but most importantly, he was a family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family and vast network of friends at this time. He will be missed by many. Another individual who made a major impact locally, Phil Armetta, also passed away recently. As his obituary recently noted, Phil was a long-time, active member, and a great supporter of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Earlier in life, Phil served in the US Army in occupied Germany in the period following World War II. After he returned home, Phil worked hard as a truck driver and maintenance worker before embarking on an exciting business career. In 1970, Phil bought a small trash hauler, Dainty Rubbish, and eventually built it into a regional powerhouse. Under Phil’s leadership, Dainty was not only an important local employer and business, but it was a strong corporate citizen and a leader in the trash to energy field. In fact, Phil’s leadership and determination led to the construction of waste to energy plants in Bristol and Lisbon, and a large natural gas fueled power plant and water storage facility in Middletown. Phil Armetta will also be missed by many, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Toni and his entire family at this difficult time. Finally, I want to officially close this week’s column by acknowledging the recent passing of Carolyn Kohs. Carolyn Kohs was an outstanding wife and mother who always strongly supported her family. Words cannot accurately express my admiration for her. My thoughts are with her husband Art, her children, grandchildren and the long list of friends and admirers that she leaves behind. Carolyn Kohs was a wonderful person and I am grateful to have known her. She will certainly be missed.

September is upon us, and the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.

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