Legislative session preview to explore economic development

February 5, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


We have reached the first full week of February in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.


Before covering the happenings of the week, I want to mention that it was an honor for me to speak to the Waterford Hotel Group at a company gathering of their 27 properties from seven states last week in Hartford. Waterford has more than 30 years of experience operating virtually every type of hotel property, including limited services properties, all-suite hotels, conference centers, and large full service and resort properties. It was a pleasure to visit with Chairman and CEO Len Wolman and his entire team, and I appreciate the invitation to attend the event.


This week is set to be another busy one with a number of important meetings and activities throughout our region. The chamber’s Executive Committee will hold its February meeting at the chamber office on Monday beginning at 11:30 a.m. The Executive Committee, our top governing body currently under the leadership of our chamber Chairman, Rick Morin, will cover important agenda items including the upcoming legislative session and a number of important economic development projects underway in Middlesex County. We look forward to another productive meeting. Our Portland and East Hampton Division will meet this Wednesday at the Portland Public Library. Hosted by the Town of Portland, the meeting will feature our Legislative Committee Co-Chair, Rich Carella, who will provide a legislative session preview for our members. The chamber’s Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee will meet on Wednesday at the chamber office, and our Distinguished Citizen Committee, which reviews nomination for our Distinguished Citizen Award, will meet at Noon, also at the chamber office. Thursday morning features a meeting of our Cromwell Division at the Courtyard by Marriott, and a meeting of our Health Care Council Steering Committee at the chamber office. As you can see, our divisions, councils and committees continue to be very active in support of the Middlesex business community.


On Saturday morning, I will attend the Goodspeed Musicals’ Board of Directors meeting at the famous Opera House in East Haddam. The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, and The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, continue to be very important tourist attractions in our region. I am honored to serve on the board for Goodspeed Musicals, and look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow members.


The chamber staff is also gearing up for next week which features a few more key events that I would like to highlight. On Tuesday morning, Feb. 13, the latest installment of the KeyBank Workshop Series will take place from 8-10:00 a.m. at the chamber office. Chamber Chairman Rick Morin will lead an informative program titled, 2018 Business Tax Law Update. Attendees will learn about Federal Tax Changes that will impact the business community in 2018 and beyond. In addition to Rick, who is doing a terrific job as chairman, I would like to once again thank KeyBank for sponsoring this important workshop series. I will follow up with additional information in next week’s column.


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: State 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 in next week’s column. I would like to take a moment to thank Comcast for their support of this event, and for their longtime support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.


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, at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell, Cromwell.  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.


In addition to the busy morning at the Radisson, Monday, Feb. 26 also features a number of other important chamber meetings and events. Excitement continues to build for our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel 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 know our members, our staff, and other chamber partners look forward to a fun and productive evening in Rocky Hill.


Two important sessions will take place immediately prior to the Business After Work at the Sheraton. Beginning at 4p.m., Economic Development professionals from Middlesex County and across the state will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of Business Counselors on the many services provided by the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC).  The CTSBDC provides no-cost advising services to both prospective and existing business owners to help them start or expand their business. CTSBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and the University of Connecticut. The CTSBDC program remains one of the nation’s largest small business assistance programs in the federal government with a proven track record of providing almost 35 years of service to small businesses. During the session on Feb. 26, the advisers will provide detailed information on SBDC Advising Services, Export Assistance, assistance with finding sources of financing, Disaster Preparation and Recovery, and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program which is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. We look forward to a great session with the CTSBDC and thank Emily Carter, Joe Ercolano, and their entire team for their great support of our chamber and of the business community in our region.


Also at 4:00 p.m. at the Sheraton on the 26th, our Health Care Council will host a session focusing on Retaining a Workforce through Engagement in a Growing Economy. The Health Care Council’s mission is to develop lines of communication between the business and health care communities. Throughout the past several years, the council has created several exciting programs and initiatives. With the help of many dedicated business and health care representatives, the council strives to bring the tough issues to the table for discussion.


I am afraid I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Trevor Davis Sr. at the age of 91. Trevor proudly served in the Marines during WWII and was involved with the American Legion for many years. Trevor was a graduate of Yale University, class of 1953, and went on to work for U.S. Motors, Raybestos, Hamilton Standard and Harvey Hubbell. Amazingly, he donated over 39 gallons of blood during his lifetime and was the number one donor of blood in the State of Connecticut. That is quite a commitment to life. Our chamber was honored to have Trevor attend our annual Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting over the course of many years. He wore his uniform from the 1940’s to the event every year, and was always cheered by the large crowd who appreciated his service. Most importantly however, Trevor loved his family. He and his wife Jane were married for an incredible 67 years. He is also survived by four children, 11 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. His son, Trevor Jr., is a longtime member of our chamber and is a member of our Board of Directors, Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee, and is active with our Central Business Bureau. Our thoughts and prayers are with Trevor, his mother, his siblings, his entire family, and the vast network of Trevor Sr.’s friends. May they all find comfort in the fact that he led a life well lived, and served as an example to us all.


Finally, I was also saddened to learn of the recent passing of Middletown Town Clerk Linda Bettencourt. Linda was a lifelong Middletown resident and an excellent city employee for 24 years. She will be missed by her co-workers, her friends and her family. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them at this difficult time.


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