This week’s Taste of Downtown will have sock hop theme

March 26, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


The first full week of Spring has arrived in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation.


Before diving into some of the key happenings of another busy week, I want to note that I was happy to attend the Italian-American Legislative Caucus Saint Joseph’s Day celebration at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford last Tuesday afternoon. A number of awards were given out by the caucus including one to Middletown’s own Tom Serra. Tom has dedicated himself to public service throughout a long and distinguished career as an educator, a principal, a mayor, a member of the Middletown Common Council, and a supporter of countless community initiatives. Among many other awards and recognitions, he received the chamber’s Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award in September of 2013. This important chamber honor is awarded to an individual who has performed outstanding public service for Middlesex County and the State of Connecticut. Tom is also active with our Scholarship Committee, serves as Chairman of our Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council, as a member of our Board of Directors, and supports many other chamber events and activities. He is also currently President of the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Sports Hall of Fame. Tom Serra is a well deserving recipient of this honor by the Italian-American Legislative Caucus. We continue to appreciate his great support of our chamber and of the City of Middletown.


Following the event in Hartford, I returned to Middletown for the 21st Graduation Awards Ceremony for the award winning Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program. The chamber conference area was packed with graduates, their proud families and friends, program alumni, and other program supporters. This important event officially brings the graduate total to 259 since the inception of this ground breaking initiative in 1997. The Side Street to Main Street Program 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. Side Street to Main Street continues to be an effective way in which we encourage the development of small, minority-owned businesses which are now part of the central fabric of the Middlesex County business community. We were so pleased to have in attendance Deputy Mayor Bob Santangelo and Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management Director Faith Jackson, who represented Mayor Drew and the City of Middletown, along with chamber Chairman Rick Morin. Finally, we have to once again thank the program sponsor, Aetna, Inc., for its outstanding support of the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program. 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. We look forward to Class 22 which will begin in the fall.


This week also features a number of important events and activities.


Monday will kick off with a meeting of our High School Career Expo Planning Committee, a subcommittee of the Business and Education Partnership Advisory Council, which will continue its planning for the 2018 High School Career Fair Expo. This major annual event, presented by the Business and Education Partnership Advisory Council, the Middlesex Consortium of Schools, and Wesleyan’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, will be held on Tuesday, May 1 at the Freeman Athletic Center at Wesleyan University. More information on this career exploration event will be shared as we get closer, but we once again expect over 260 presenters from a wide variety of industry sectors networking with over 1200 students from all over Middlesex County.


Speaking of the intersection between business and education, the chamber’s 31st Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast is scheduled for Monday, April 30 at the Radisson in Cromwell. Keynote Speaker for this important event is Mark E. Ojakian, President of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system. More information on this event is also forthcoming, and we very much appreciate Liberty Bank’s sponsorship of the breakfast and longtime support for this initiative.


Also on Monday, the next installment of our Legislative Leadership Series will take place at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell as we welcome Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff back for another visit. At this special meeting, sponsored by Eversource, Sen. Duff will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2018 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2018 Public Policy Agenda. I appreciate Sen. Duff’s willingness to once again come and visit with our members during this very busy legislative session. The Legislative Leadership Series continues on Monday, April 16, when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special leadership event, also at the Courtyard. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay engaged throughout this legislative session.


On Tuesday morning, our Westbrook Division will hold its March meeting at Westbrook Outlets beginning at 8:00 A.M. We look forward to another productive meeting of these key shoreline based chamber members. On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce at a lunch meeting in New Haven. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state, and these meetings always feature productive discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community. Looking ahead to Tuesday evening, the 34th Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown will be held at The Italian Society of Middletown beginning at 5:00 p.m. Ten of Middletown’s terrific downtown restaurants will be featured, and they will once again offer delicious samplings from their menus. Complimentary beer, wine, soda, and a "Special Drink" of the evening will also be provided for attending members of our chamber and their guests. The Live Auction begins at 5:45 p.m. This portion of the event includes an array of terrific items which may be previewed in advance, and a Silent Auction will also be held throughout the event. At this sock hop themed event, chamber members will enjoy delicious samplings from the following local restaurants: Celtic Cavern, First & Last Tavern, Grown, La Boca Mexican Restaurant, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Mondo Restaurant, Perk on Main, Sweet Harmony Café & Bakery, The Cooking Company, and Tuscany Grill. We expect a packed house at the Italian Society Hall on Tuesday night, and certainly look forward to another great event which will once again benefit Holiday on Main Street.


In closing, members and other interested parties should be sure to calendar 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. This exciting event will be held on April 10 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Master of Ceremonies for the event will be New 8 Anchor/Reporter Ann Nyberg. 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. Jean Chatzky has been honored with multiple awards for her work to educate consumers about their money and providing important information and smart steps for getting out of debt. She was also named one of the best magazine columnists in the country by The Chicago Tribune. Conference attendees will receive an autographed copy of "AgeProof, Living Longer without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip" by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen, MD. We ask that you please consider donating your gently-used and nearly new professional attire to this event in support of Dress for Success of Hartford County. Your suits could furnish another woman with the confidence to enter or return to the workplace and help her land a job that could change her life. Chamber VP Johanna Bond, with support from the chamber’s Women’s Leadership Collaborative, is working hard to make sure that this event is truly productive and enjoyable for all of its attendees. I will continue to share additional information as we get closer, and has all the info.


April is on the horizon, and the chamber continues to be on the move.


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