Tourism a key driver in Middlesex County

December 11, 2017


By: Larry McHugh


December is moving right along in Middlesex County and the chamber continues to be on the move as the holidays approach.


Another busy week kicks off this morning at the chamber office with a meeting of our Executive Committee. Our chamber is very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of businesspeople serving on its top governing body. Currently under the leadership of our Chairman, Rick Morin, the Executive Committee is truly representative of the business community in Middlesex County. We look forward to another productive meeting which will cover a variety of topics that are important to the business community in our region. I appreciate the support of Rick, and of all of our Executive Committee members.


On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Connecticut Culture and Tourism Advisory Committee at the DECD offices in Hartford. As I have noted many times, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will always recognize that tourism is a key economic driver in our region and throughout our state. I look forward to meeting with my fellow committee members as we continue to work to make Connecticut a key tourism hub in the northeast United States.


Jeff Pugliese will represent the chamber at Tuesday night’s meeting of the City of Middletown Economic Development Committee. Jeff will speak in support of a number of items including the proposed tax abatement for Shelco Filters which is planning a 19,920 square foot addition to its manufacturing facility on Bradley Street. Jeff attends each meeting of this important committee of the Common Council, and will continue to in the new year. The Shelco expansion plan is just one of the many exciting economic development happenings throughout Middlesex County. I have a number of meetings over the course of the next few weeks with developers and with businesses that are either expanding or interested in relocating to our region. Just like the chamber, Middlesex County is truly “on the move.”


The week continues on Wednesday morning with a Grand Opening celebration for Comcast’s new Xfinity Store on Washington Street in Middletown. Xfinity offers a variety of services including TV, internet, voice, home security, mobile and more. I appreciate Comcast’s continued support of our chamber, and look forward to the opening of this exciting new store.


On the chamber division front, we look forward to two important division meetings that will be held this week in Middlefield and in Cromwell. Our Durham and Middlefield Division will meet on Wednesday at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association in Rockfall, and the Cromwell Division will meet on Thursday at Cromwell Town Hall. Both of these meetings will feature town reports and other updates that are important to the business communities in these chamber member towns. Also on Wednesday, the Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council will meet at the chamber where the 2018 High School Career Fair Expo will be discussed. We continue to value the strength of the chamber’s divisions and councils, and continue to appreciate the support of our chairs, co-chairs, and members who make it a point to attend.


Immediately following the Cromwell Division meeting on Thursday morning, a grand opening celebration for Bridgeview Truck and Auto will be held at its Main Street location in Cromwell. I look forward to joining chamber Chairman Rick Morin and Vice Chairman Jay Polke, Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza and Town Manager Anthony Salvatore, and Cromwell Division Chairman Rodney Bitgood, as we welcome this new business to the chamber, and to Middlesex County. We wish them the best, and look forward to working with them as we move forward.


The work week wraps up on Friday with meetings of our Legislative Committee and our Affordable Housing Committee. The Legislative Committee works hard as the chamber’s voice on important public policy issues in the State of Connecticut.  The committee is responsible for creating the chamber’s Public Policy Agenda on a yearly basis, and hosts a Legislative Breakfast and a Legislative Leadership Series every year. The Affordable Housing Committee was created in 2007 to provide a voice for the business community in the important housing based conversations underway in Middlesex County. The committee will continue to work with other key stakeholders in Middlesex County, and will continue to be a resource to the chamber at large, on housing related issues. We look forward to two more productive chamber meetings.


It is hard to believe, but the 32nd Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, wraps up this Saturday with another full day of events and activities. This Saturday’s activities include the Fun Train which will offer free rides on the sidewalk on Main Street, the opportunity to meet Santa, and free horse and wagon rides in downtown Middletown. A Petting Farm, courtesy of JD’s Pony Express of Killingworth, will feature sheep, goats, a miniature donkey, and a fallow deer. At the chamber, non-perishable donations and pet food to benefit the Middletown Animal Control will be happily accepted. Ornament decorating workshops will take place at Vinnie’s Jump & Jive from 10:30 a.m. to Noon, and from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at The Buttonwood Tree. Attendees are also welcome to join us at the Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore where Santa Claus will lead a holiday story reading session with the Grinch. Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in city parking lots. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit I want to once again thank our sponsors, led by Pratt & Whitney, the City of Middletown, and all of our volunteers who do so much to make sure that the Holiday on Main Street activities are fun, safe, and educational for all of the kids, and for all of our visitors.


In addition to Holiday on Main Street, December in Middlesex County is synonymous with the chamber’s Member Breakfast with the governor of the State of Connecticut. This year’s event, featuring Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, is scheduled for next Wednesday, Dec. 20 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Gov. Malloy, now approaching his eighth and final year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors, going back to the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to welcoming a sold out crowd of businesspeople, public officials and other chamber supporters for the 2017 version of our annual Governor’s Breakfast. This event, sponsored once again by Eversource, will begin with networking at 7 a.m., breakfast buffet at 7:30 a.m., and meeting program 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. To register online, please visit We look forward to another great chamber Member Breakfast Meeting with the governor.


Before closing, I want to take a moment to congratulate Eli Cannon’s Tap Room on being honored as a Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame Award Winner at the 2017 Connecticut Restaurant Association Salute to Excellence Awards Event which was held at the end of November. Eli Cannon’s is an institution that Middletown is so lucky to have. Phil Ouellette, who along with Suzanne Cannon, is co-owner of Eli Cannon’s which has been a staple of the NoRA district since 1994. Phil is a member of the chamber’s Board of Directors, has been Central Business Bureau chairman, and supports a number of community initiatives all while serving great food and beer at Eli’s. We congratulate Eli Cannon’s on this honor, and appreciate their support of our chamber and of our community. 


While there is so much to celebrate in Middlesex County these days, I must unfortunately end this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of Ann Marie DiMauro. Ann Marie was a lifelong resident of Cromwell who enjoyed a successful professional career at Pratt & Whitney, Cromwell School Systems, and Xerox Corp. Much more important than that however, she was a generous and caring person who will be missed by her family and by all who knew her. She was an active volunteer at chamber events, including Cruise Night On Main Street and Middletown Motorcycle Mania. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband John, who is the Commander of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter #7, and is active with a number of other veteran and community organizations, their three sons and their spouses, six grandchildren, and her entire family and vast network of friends at this difficult time. We appreciate John’s support of our community, and the fact that the businesses run by their sons, River Valley Oil Service and DiMauro Oil Co., LLC, are members of our chamber. Ann Marie DiMauro was a class act, and she will be missed. May her family be comforted by her memory in the coming days and weeks.


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