January 29, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
The month of January comes to an end this week and it is safe to say that the chamber team is off to a real fast start in 2018.
This week once again features a number of important meetings all over our service area. Session 14 of Class 21 of the Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program will be held on Tuesday evening at the chamber office in Middletown. Side Street to Main Street is a year-long entrepreneurial and business development course, with a rigorous curriculum, designed to assist minority small business owners in the community who have not had formal business training. Beginning with 16 facilitated, interactive three- to four-hour weekly work sessions, and two hours of outside reading and written homework, the program is designed to build skills and explore the true entrepreneurial interests of each person. The program assists its participants in the production of a formal, compelling and operational version of their business and financial plans. Quarterly follow-up sessions reinforce the process so that participants meet with their expert business facilitators over the course of one full year. This program has been, and continues to be, an effective way in which we have encouraged the development of small, minority-owned businesses which are now part of the central fabric of the Middlesex County business community. We are very proud of the long term success of this important initiative, and continue to appreciate the program sponsor, Aetna Inc., which has provided outstanding support of the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program since its inception. I will continue to provide updates as we get closer to the end of Class 21.
Wednesday features meetings of our Women’s Leadership Collaborative, and Technology Committee at the chamber office in Middletown, and February kicks off on Thursday with a meeting of the Central Business Bureau (CBB), also at the chamber office. The CBB meeting will once again feature a number of important updates from Mayor Dan Drew and a variety of important City of Middletown Directors. The chamber, DBD, Wesleyan, Middlesex Community College and other community stakeholders will also have the opportunity to provide some brief remarks. As always, we look forward to a productive meeting of the Central Business Bureau, and certainly appreciate the Middlesex YMCA for sponsoring the morning’s refreshments.
On Friday morning, our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division will hold its February meeting at Chester Town Hall beginning at 8 a.m. This important meeting, with refreshments provided by The Wheat Market, will feature a legislative update from area legislators, town updates from each respective town, members updates and announcements, reports from the local fire marshals from each of the three towns, and of course, high quality networking. We are geared up for another productive week at the chamber, and very much appreciate the support of our members from every corner of Middlesex County.
As February arrives, it is time to gear up for another important session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Legislative Committee has been hard at work preparing our organization’s 2018 Public Policy Agenda and planning our 2018 legislative events. The chamber remains committed to promoting a positive business climate in Middlesex County, and we will certainly stay engaged with our Middlesex County delegation and with legislative leadership throughout the session which convenes on Feb. 7th and adjourns on May 9th. Every year, our chamber urges lawmakers to pursue legislation that encourages Connecticut businesses to invest and grow opportunities for good, well-paying jobs. In the upcoming session, we specifically ask the Connecticut General Assembly to support a balanced and sustainable state budget that addresses long-term pension obligations and maintains critical services without raising taxes, raiding ratepayer funds or shifting burdens to municipalities. We will continue to stress the importance of crafting a budget that allows our state to unlock its full economic potential. Central to this goal is protecting the financial viability of the Special Transportation Fund by establishing, maintaining, and protecting adequate revenue streams for transportation needs, including a plan for tolls. Transportation infrastructure is critical to the movement of people, goods and services, and the overall economic vitality of our state. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has been a longtime and vocal supporter of a transportation lockbox in the State of Connecticut. Throughout calendar year 2018, we plan to publicly urge our members and the general public to support the statewide referendum, scheduled for Election Day, that if approved would amend the State Constitution to ensure that money in the Special Transportation Fund (STF) is in a "lock box" and can be spent only on the state's transportation needs. As always, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner as these important transportation based discussions continue in Hartford and around the state. Our 2018 Legislative Breakfast will take place on Friday, February 16 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. This event, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. The 2018 legislative delegation is as follows: Senators Paul Doyle, Ted Kennedy Jr., Len Suzio, Paul Formica, Art Linares, and Len Fasano; and State Representatives Devin Carney, Christie Carpino, Joseph Serra, Melissa Ziobron, Jesse MacLachlan, Bob Siegrist, Emil “Buddy” Altobello, Vin Candelora, Matt Lesser, and Noreen Kokoruda. The Legislative Breakfast represents a great opportunity, on an annual basis, for our members to network with these important elected leaders. We look forward to another successful event and will have more information on confirmed legislators as we get closer.
In addition to the Legislative Breakfast, we are also very much looking forward to our February Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Pratt & Whitney’s President of Military Engines, Matthew Bromberg, which is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26. In this key leadership role at the company, Mr. Bromberg oversees development, production, and support of the company’s military offerings. As I have noted many times, 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 on Feb. 26. 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. 26 in Cromwell, and will certainly have additional information on the event’s content as we get closer.
It is safe to say that Monday, Feb. 26 is a long and busy day for the chamber team as it is also the date of our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill. In addition to a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests, this event, which runs from 5-7 p.m., will feature outstanding networking and will provide our friends at the Sheraton Hartford South with the opportunity to showcase their terrific facility. This has become a very popular annual event for our chamber, and I want to once again thank General Manager Lori Brooks, Director of Sales and Marketing Gina Molde, Senior Business Travel Sales Manager Ken Gribbon, Executive Chef Jim Oswald, and their entire team for hosting our group once again.
I would like to close this week’s column by noting just how well our organization is doing in terms of membership. Businesses in the greater Middlesex area continue to recognize that becoming a member of our chamber is a smart and constructive decision. In fact, we have added 149 new members so far this fiscal year since July 1, and we have no plans to slow down. Chamber Ambassadors are highly visible, prestigious volunteers who serve as our primary liaison to new members and work to execute a smooth and comfortable transition into membership. I would like to thank our entire membership for their continued commitment to, and support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I know I speak for the entire organization when I note that we are extremely grateful.
February is upon us, Spring is on the way, and the chamber continues to be on the move.