January 15, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Middlesex County and throughout our great country. MLK Day is a special day, one that celebrates not only his birthday, but the huge impact that the civil rights leader had on the United States of America. There are many celebrations around Middlesex County today that will honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. I am proud that chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall will represent our organization at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Committee of Greater Middletown celebration this afternoon at First Church of Christ in Middletown. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce also has a longtime and enduring partnership with the Middlesex County Chapter of the NAACP, and I am truly honored that the organization’s business award bears my name. As I do every year on MLK Day, I would like to take a moment to recognize all of those who volunteer their time in the service of others. We are all in this together, and it is in that spirit that we honor Dr. King’s legacy.
Last week was a busy one from start to finish with a number of chamber meetings held throughout the county on a variety of important topics. The highlight of the week was the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the year which was held last Wednesday evening at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. A huge crowd of over 250 chamber members attended the event which showcased all that Powder Ridge has to offer. Powder Ridge Owner and CEO Sean Hayes and his team put out a fantastic spread of food and drink and the place looked great as always. I would like to thank Sean for his long time commitment to this project and to our chamber, and for the hard work that he and his team put in to make this event a huge success.
The Business After Work event also served as the official kickoff for the third annual "Taste of Middlesex County" Restaurant Week, back by popular demand in 2018, and brought to you by Comcast Business. 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. 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). The list of participating restaurants is as follows: Amici Italian Grill in Middletown; Angelico's Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton; Baci Grill in Cromwell; The Common House Kitchen & Bar at Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill; Eli Cannon’s Tap Room in Middletown; El Pulpo & Tapas Bar in Middletown; Esca Restaurant & Wine Bar in Middletown; Fire at the Ridge in Middlefield; First and Last Tavern in Middletown; Griswold Inn in Essex; Grown in Middletown; Herd Restaurant in Middletown; La Boca Mexican Restaurant, in Middletown; Lan Chi's Vietnamese Restaurant in Middletown; On The Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam; OSA Restaurant in Middletown; Red House in Deep River; Roma Pizza Restaurant & Bar in Middletown; Sheffield’s Restaurant & Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell; Taino Smokehouse in Middletown; Tavern at the Armory Restaurant at the Inn at Middletown in Middletown; Tea Roses Tea Room in Cromwell; The Essex in Centerbrook; The Gelston House in East Haddam; Tuscany Grill in Middletown; WAVES in East Hampton and Westbrook Lobster Restaurant & Bar in Clinton. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab at middlesexchamber.com for more information and details on the Taste of Middlesex County menu offerings. I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of 2018 Taste of Middlesex County, which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the work of chamber Vice President Johanna Bond, who has put in a lot of time and energy into making this Taste of Middlesex County a successful initiative. Bon appétit!
This week is set to be another busy one in Middlesex County with a number of important scheduled chamber meetings including our Westbrook Division, our Golf Committee, our Tourism Steering Committee, our Board of Directors, our Young Professionals’ Alliance, our Legislative Committee, and our Affordable Housing Committee. I also look forward to attending the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday morning in New Haven. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. The chamber continues to enjoy a very strong working relationship with Workforce Alliance and we appreciate the continued support of President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team.
On the Member Breakfast front, we certainly look forward to Tuesday, January 23 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell where we will welcome Jim Penders, University of Connecticut Head Baseball Coach, as guest speaker. Jim Penders has worked with UConn’s baseball program for 26 of the last 28 years, being associated with the Huskies as a student-athlete, an assistant coach, and now head coach. He completed his 14th season at the helm of the program in 2017. A four-time conference Coach of the Year, Penders has overseen one of the most successful stretches in the 120 year history of UConn baseball. Current major leaguers that played for Coach Penders include 2017 World Series MVP George Springer of the Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks Shortstop Nick Ahmed, Boston Red Sox Pitcher Matt Barnes, Colorado Rockies Pitcher Scott Oberg, and a number of other players that are currently in the minor leagues. We look forward to welcoming Jim to his first Member Breakfast meeting, and thank our friends at Webster Bank for sponsoring this important chamber event.
Looking ahead to February, we certainly look forward to welcoming Matthew Bromberg, President of Military Engines for Pratt & Whitney, as guest speaker at our second Member Breakfast Meeting of the year. Mr. Bromberg oversees development, production, and support of the company’s military offerings. Pratt & Whitney is a key player in our nation’s defense, a major employer in our state and in Middlesex County, and is an outstanding corporate citizen. I appreciate their support and look forward to a great Member Breakfast Meeting. Immediately following the Pratt & Whitney breakfast, the chamber will partner with the CT. Dept. of Labor on an Informational Session for Manufacturers which will focus on building solutions to the talent gap within this critical industry sector. We certainly look forward to a productive morning on Feb. 5 in Cromwell.
Before closing, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that January is National Mentoring Month. The chamber is very proud of the long term success of the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program which celebrates over 25 years of Mentoring in Middletown Public Schools. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, under the guidance of Schools Mentor Coordinator Sylvia Webb, is a partnership between the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Middletown Board of Education. This important initiative provides volunteer mentors from the community including business people, retirees, parents, and any one in between. All of our mentors are committed to spending quality time with students from all eight of Middletown’s elementary schools, as well as Keigwin Middle School, and Wilson Middle School. Students in grades 2-5 are matched with mentors, and it is our hope that these relationships will continue from elementary school all the way through high school. An individual commits to spending a small amount of time on a weekly or bi-weekly basis with their mentees, on-site at one of the schools, usually during the child’s lunch period. The Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program has connected mentors to mentees and has truly made a difference over a long period of time. We are proud of this important program, and look forward to making many more connections in the years ahead.
I am afraid I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of John “Jack” Corona of Middlefield at the age of 89. Jack was a good man who served our country with honor in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War era. He was also a longtime local businessman, along with his wife Marianne, who operated a very successful Chevron Service Station in Middletown and in Durham. In addition to all of this, he was a committed member of the community who served in a number of municipal and other volunteer roles. His son, John A. Corona, is a longtime member of our chamber and we appreciate his support. Our thoughts and prayers are with John, his mother Marianne, and Jack’s entire family at this difficult time. Jack Corona will be missed.