December 18, 2017
By: Larry McHugh
The holiday season is in full swing in Middlesex County and the schedule continues to be packed with events and activities.
The final two chamber division meetings of 2017 are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday of this week in Westbrook, and in Haddam. The Westbrook Division will meet at Oxford Academy on Tuesday, and the East Haddam & Haddam Division will meet on Thursday at 112 Bridge Road, co-hosted by Fireworks Hearth & Home and Alan’s Small Engine Service. I want to once again thank all of our division chairs and other supporters for an outstanding 2017. Our divisions will continue to be a critical piece of the chamber infrastructure in 2018 and beyond.
An exciting Grand Opening celebration for Sliders Bar & Grill, which just opened on South Main Street in Middletown, is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. I look forward to attending the event with Chamber Chairman Rick Morin and Vice Chairman Jay Polke, Mayor Dan Drew, Middletown Small Business Development Center Counselor Paul Dodge, and our South Middletown Division Chairman Beth Williams of Village at South Farms. Sliders, whose motto is “Fresh Wings, Live Sports & Family Fun”, is a welcome addition to the Middlesex business community, and I congratulate Lisa Marcantonio and their entire team for doing a great job transforming the old Cypress Grill into a modern and exciting restaurant. We certainly look forward to working with them and wish them all the best as we move forward.
This busy week is headlined by Wednesday’s Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Gov. Dannel P. Malloy 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 Gov. William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. Not only do we expect a sold out crowd of chamber members and their guests, but a number of important state and local officials have registered to attend including Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith, many local mayors and first selectmen, representatives from many of our state’s colleges and universities, and representatives of key departments of the federal government. We appreciate the strong support of Eversource who is the sponsor of this major annual chamber event with our state’s governor. Eversource Regional Electric Operations President for Connecticut and Massachusetts Craig Hallstrom will attend and will introduce Gov. Malloy. I very much appreciate Craig’s attendance and support of this important event. The chamber’s team is gearing up for another successful Governor’s Member Breakfast Meeting, and we look forward to a busy morning in Cromwell on Wednesday.
Thursday morning brings me down to New Haven for the final Workforce Alliance Executive Committee meeting of 2017. Workforce Alliance is committed to delivering employment solutions that connect people with jobs or training, and employers with skilled workers in South Central CT. Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting will feature the continuation of an important discussion on the development and preparation of the state’s workforce. As I have noted many times, the chamber is proud of its relationship with Workforce Alliance, and we will continue to connect job seekers to employers in our region.
A busy Thursday continues with a meeting of the chamber’s Board of Directors from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at The Gelston House in East Haddam. The chamber’s board is a dynamic group of businesspeople that represents every corner of our region and every industry sector in our economy. In addition to reports from committee chairs and key staff, the meeting will feature a presentation from Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker. Commissioner Redeker will focus on the state’s strategic vision for transportation and will update the progress of the important infrastructure projects that are either planned or underway in Middlesex County. I appreciate the commissioner’s willingness to visit with our board once again, and look forward to another productive meeting.
While we expect a quiet week of organizing and planning, the chamber office will be open next week, the final week of 2017.
Looking ahead to 2018, the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the year will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to this Powder Ridge project which is creating jobs and additional tourism buzz for our region. Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort offers skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, tubing and much, much more. Powder Ridge also has Fire at the Ridge Restaurant and Lounge and the Ridgeside Tavern right on site, and both offer outstanding and unique dining experiences. I know our members look forward to this exciting first Business After Work event of the year on Jan. 10.
The third annual "Taste of Middlesex County" Restaurant Week, brought to you by Comcast Business, is back by popular demand in 2018. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 15-21 at delicious dining locations throughout our region. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This year, there will be two dining options both with a prix fixe 3-course meal, one for $20.18, and the other for $30.18 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Save your appetite for the week of January 15-21, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. The current list of participating restaurants is as follows: Angelico's Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton; Baci Grill in Cromwell; Fire at the Ridge in Middlefield; First and Last Tavern in Middletown; Lan Chi's Vietnamese Restaurant in Middletown; Taino Smokehouse in Middletown; Tavern at the Armory Restaurant at the Inn at Middletown, Tuscany Grill in Middletown; and WAVES in East Hampton. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on the chamber’s website and keep an eye out for additional participating restaurants as we get closer to Jan. 15. We will be sure to keep everyone updated in the chamber column and through other promotional means.
It is with great sadness that I close this week’s chamber column by acknowledging the tragic passing of Justin Wilkie at the very young age of 30. Justin most recently worked as the Development Director for the Middlesex United Way where he interfaced with the chamber in a variety of ways. He also worked as District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America and served in many community based capacities including on the Middletown Rotary Board of Directors. Justin was a terrific young man. He treated everyone he met with respect and was clearly committed to making this community a better place, even if it had to be one person at a time. The chamber team very much enjoyed our time working with Justin, and we all offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, his vast network of friends, his teammates at the United Way, and everyone he touched along the way. Justin’s time on this earth was short, but the outpouring of emotion since his passing proves that he was a special young man who will be missed greatly. May he rest in peace, and may his family find comfort in his memory and in his impact in the coming weeks and months.