UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Auriemma guest at next member breakfast

March 5, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


We have reached the first full week of March in Middlesex County, and the chamber team is coming in like a lion.


Before covering the happenings of another busy week, I want to begin by congratulating MedExpress in Middletown on its official Grand Opening held last Tuesday at its Washington Street location. MedExpress is a neighborhood medical center that is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the communities they serve. Assistant Center Manager Dalton Haines did a great job at the event, and we wish the best for the entire MedExpress team as they move their operation forward.


Another exciting event last week was held on Thursday morning in the chamber conference room. The MEWS+, an innovative program of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, held an Innovation Meet Up that featured a presentation from Marcus B. Chung, Head of Vendor Relations for Stitch Fix Inc., a San Francisco based personal styling company. Marcus is a Wesleyan Trustee and advisor to the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. His presentation was outstanding, and was very well received by the crowd of over 30 businesspeople interested in entrepreneurship. The plan for the MEWS+, which stands for Middletown Entrepreneurs Work Space and more, is to use the second floor at the chamber office as headquarters and as the Co-Working/Collaborative Space. In addition to the co-working space, the MEWS+ will develop a series of “Meet-ups” in Middletown that will attract businesses and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes, and will serve as a resource to the Wesleyan community. We are very excited about the MEWS+, and I would like to again thank our sponsors, the City of Middletown, Wesleyan University, Middlesex Hospital and Liberty Bank for making it all possible.


This week begins with a meeting of our Executive Committee on Monday afternoon at the chamber office. This meeting of the chamber’s top governing body will cover a variety of important topics including economic development activity in our region, the legislative session, and more. On Monday evening, I will attend the Middletown Common Council meeting at City Hall to officially request that the city once again support our major downtown events in 2018. The 21st Annual Cruise Night On Main will take place on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with a Rain date of June 20. Hundreds of cars are expected to line both sides of Middletown’s scenic Main Street from Washington Street to the South Green. Music and food, combined with an array of pre-1993 classic vehicles, will make this a family-friendly and fun event for everyone. Runners, supporters and fans of the Citizens Bank 5K Summer Fun Run should save the date of Wednesday, July 18, 2018 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Finally, the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania will take place on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with a Rain date Aug.22. This annual city event will once again showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. These major summer events attract thousands of people to downtown Middletown on an annual basis. They represent a great opportunity for us to showcase our vibrant downtown, and offer our businesses the opportunity to reach a host of new customers. In addition to the economic development aspect, these events have become a key part of Middletown’s fabric and have indeed become community development events. I appreciate the city’s leadership on these events over the years, and look forward to seeing the members of the council on Monday night.


As I noted a few weeks back, the Middletown community was thrilled when word came down that the city was one of five Connecticut winners of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Working Cities Challenge. The Working Cities Challenge is a competition for Connecticut communities to improve the lives of low- and moderate-income residents. The Middletown Working Cities Challenge initiative seeks to decrease poverty rates among single heads of household in Middletown, through employment opportunities, strategic coalition building and targeted systems change. Chamber VP Jeff Pugliese will attend the Working Cities Challenge celebration on Monday afternoon in Hartford. Jeff serves on the core team for the Middletown WCC initiative and we certainly look forward to being a constructive partner as this effort moves forward.


Switching focus to the legislative front, this year’s Legislative Leadership Series kicks off on Tuesday at the Inn at Middletown when we welcome Speaker of the House of Representatives Joe Aresimowicz. At this special meeting, Speaker Aresimowicz will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2018 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session and discuss some important issues on our 2018 Public Policy Agenda. This event is sponsored by our friends at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C., and I would like to thank Rich Carella from the UKS team who serves as our Legislative Co-Chair, along with Maureen Westbrook, and on our Executive Committee for his longtime support. I also want to thank the Speaker for taking the time to visit with our members during this important session. We look forward to a productive discussion.


In another sign of a strong and enduring local economy, this week will feature a Grand Opening and a Grand Re-Opening Celebration in different parts of the county. The Grand Opening for Summiste Massage in Durham is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at its Main Street location. Summiste Massage, owned and operated by Linda Wharton, offers an array of gentle yet effective techniques that will heal sore muscles, relieve headaches, alleviate body pain, and help improve other conditions. Jeff Pugliese, Paul Dodge and Mike Fallon from the chamber team will attend the event to celebrate with Linda, Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis, and other friends and supports. On Thursday afternoon, I will travel to Chester for the Grand Re-Opening of Masonicare at Chester Village. Formerly Chester Village West, Masonicare at Chester Village will continue to be an outstanding senior living community in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley. We are happy to welcome Masonicare to Middlesex County, and look forward to working with their team as we move forward. This week also features meetings of our Women’s Business Alliance, Portland & East Hampton Division, Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee, Cromwell Division, Health Care Council Steering Committee, and Tourism Steering Committee Retreat.


Looking ahead to next week, excitement continues to build for our March Member Breakfast Meeting featuring UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma on Monday, March 12 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Coach Auriemma always does a terrific job with his remarks, and I know that our members are very excited for this year’s visit. I appreciate the Coach’s willingness to come during a very busy point in the season, and thank event sponsor MiddleOak for its strong support of this event and of our chamber. This Member Breakfast will be immediately followed by a forum hosted by our Affordable Housing Committee beginning at 9:15 which will focus on housing as a key to keeping younger workers in Connecticut. More information on all chamber events can be found at www.middlesexchamber.com.


Finally, the next installment of the KeyBank Workshop Series will be held next Tuesday, March 13 from 8-10 a.m. at the chamber. “Social Media Marketing”, presented by Patrick Ganino of Social Tuna, will break down best practices including creating an effective posting schedule, proper posting and positioning techniques, collecting emails, e-blasts, Facebook ads, and social media as a revenue driver. I want to once again thank KeyBank Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team for their continued support of this workshop series. Again, www.middlesexchamber.com has additional information including a registration link.


In closing, I want to note how incredibly proud I am of the team effort that resulted from the terrible incident at Middlesex Hospital on Feb. 22. The Middlesex Hospital team did an outstanding job under very difficult circumstances, and their quick and decisive actions kept the situation from becoming much more serious. The City of Middletown’s response was also terrific, from the Mayor, to Police, Fire, EMS, the Building Department, the Health Department and more, everyone stepped up once again and managed the situation very well. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to be a constructive partner with all stakeholders to make sure we are safe, secure and free to conduct our business. I thank everyone for all of their hard work through this difficult process.


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