March 19, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
The 21st Graduation Awards Ceremony for the award winning Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program is scheduled for Tuesday evening at the chamber office in Middletown. This important event will officially bring the graduate total to 259 since the inception of this ground breaking initiative in 1997. At the urging of the local branch of the NAACP, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce created the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program and sought the financial support of Aetna, Inc. which has funded the program ever since. Side Street to Main Street is a one 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, 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 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. I would like to take a moment to thank a few individuals who are critical to the success of this program, Jim Jackson, President of The Essex Group who serves as facilitator of the program, and Jennifer De Kine, chamber Staff Liaison to the Side Street to Main Street Program who does a terrific job supporting the work of program participants. Finally, we have to thank the program sponsor, Aetna, Inc., for its outstanding support of the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program. Chairman & CEO Mark Bertolini, Chris Montross, and Floyd Green, who both work in Community Relations and Urban Marketing for the company, and the entire Aetna team have been extremely supportive of this initiative and we appreciate their strong support. Aetna is an outstanding corporate citizen in our region and throughout the nation. I continue to be proud of the work that this program is doing for our local business community. On to class 22!
Another busy chamber week kicks off with a number of important events and activities in Middlesex County and throughout the state. Chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese will represent us at the 2018 Governor’s Economic Development Forum on Monday at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford. The event will include a review of the final report released by the Commission on Fiscal Stability & Economic Development, case studies on collaborative initiatives taking place around the state, insights from a nationally renowned site selector, a conversation with the president of a major global company, and breakout sessions on a wide array of economic development areas impacting towns. The chamber continues to value its relationship with the Department of Economic and Community Development and we look forward to a productive day in Hartford on Monday.
The next installment of the KeyBank Workshop Series will also be held this Monday, March 19 from 8-10 a.m. at the chamber. This event was rescheduled from the original date of Tuesday, March 13 due to inclement weather. “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.
Looking ahead to Tuesday, an important meeting of the chamber’s Westfield Division will be held at 8:00 a.m. at The Connection in Middletown. This meeting will feature an update on the progress of the major FedEx Ground Distribution Center project that is coming close to fruition. The center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. Representatives from FedEx Ground, which has more than 90,000 employees, an average daily volume of 8 million packages, and annual revenue of $18 billion (FY2017), will visit with our Westfield Division to discuss the development and their strategies for recruiting workers. The chamber looks forward to working with FedEx on a number of fronts, and we appreciate their willingness to visit with our members.
On Wednesday evening, the chamber’s Golf Committee will meet at Luce Restaurant in Middletown to continue gearing up for the 35th Annual Golf Tournament which is scheduled for May 4. I know that our players, sponsors, and supporters are all looking forward to another great chamber tournament, and we certainly expect the sun to shine on Portland Golf Course on May 4th.
Friday morning will feature a meeting of the MCSAAC Advisory Committee at 8 a.m. at the chamber office. Established in 1991, MCSAAC, or the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council, aims to reduce the incidence of alcohol and other drug abuse in our region. While MCSAAC has had to deal with major funding cuts in the past year, we look forward to a productive discussion on Friday morning that will focus on how we can continue the work of this important community based initiative as we move forward.
Late March in Middlesex County is synonymous with the annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown. Our Auction Committee is busy planning for the 34th year of this major event which is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 27th at the Italian Society of Middletown. This year’s event is titled, Hopping for the Holidays. Scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m., this sock hop themed event highlights will feature complimentary tastings from Downtown Middletown restaurants, beer, wine, soda and a specialty drink. A live auction beginning at 5:45 p.m., a silent auction, a treasure chest that has keys available for purchase to unlock a surprise worth more than $200, and a Wine and Craft Beer Pull where everyone wins! It is safe to say that our members are looking forward to another Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown. We look forward to a great night. Proceeds from the Auction will benefit Holiday on Main Street.
The 2018 Regular Session of the CT. General Assembly continues to roll right along in Hartford. The chamber’s 2018 Legislative Leadership Series continues on Monday, March 26, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. At this special meeting at the Courtyard by Marriott, Sen. Duff will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2018 session and some of his key priorities. We are currently in the process of planning events with House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Republican Senate President Pro Tem Len Fasano in the month of April. The chamber Legislative Committee is also busy tracking bills and other legislative proposals that have the potential to impact the business community. The legislative session wraps up in early May and we continue to stay engaged right through the finish line.
Looking ahead to April, the Women in Business 2018 Leadership Conference, Luncheon and Health & Wellness Fair, brought to you by Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore and presented by Citizens Bank, will be held on April 10 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Presenters at this year’s conference include Ellen Feldman Ornato & Jenny Drescher from The Bolder Company, Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers, Lisa Maass of Citizens Bank, Wendy Shumway of Invision CCS, and Keynote Speaker Jean Chatzky, who is the financial editor of NBC's Today show, and an award-winning personal finance journalist. More information on the event can be found at www.middlesexchamber.com/women2018.
Spring arrives this week in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. That of course means that the Travelers Championship is fast approaching. This year’s event, scheduled for June 18-24 at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, will once again attract many of the world’s top golfers to our back yard. As I have noted many times, the Travelers Championship is a major economic generator and tourist attraction, and we are lucky to have it in Middlesex County and in the State of Connecticut. I look forward to meeting with Tournament Director Nathan Grube and Sales Director Jason Soucy on Tuesday afternoon to discuss planning for this year’s event, and certainly look forward to another installment of the Middlesex County’s own Travelers Championship in June.
The sun always shines in Middlesex County!