June 25, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
The first full week of summer is upon us in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.
Last week was a sprint from start to finish in Middletown and throughout our region. On Tuesday morning, the chamber’s 2018 Travelers Championship Member Breakfast, featuring PGA Tour Pro Keegan Bradley, was held at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. I would like to thank Keegan for speaking to our chamber, and we wish him continued success on the PGA Tour. Immediately following the Travelers Breakfast, the Middlesex County Spring Career Fair was held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at the Red Lion. Over 45 companies from throughout the labor market area were in attendance to network with job seekers whose skills run from professional, technical, manufacturing, and administrative. Attendees had access to all types of job opportunities, from entry level to highly skilled positions. The chamber is proud to continue its partnership with the Connecticut Department of Labor and Workforce Alliance on these important workforce development initiatives. I want to take a moment to once again thank the Department of Labor, under the leadership of Commissioner Scott Jackson, and Workforce Alliance, under the leadership of President and CEO Bill Villano, for not only their support of the Middlesex County Career Fair, but for their longtime support of workforce development in Middlesex County and throughout our state.
On Tuesday evening, the MEWS+ held its grand opening and an Innovation Meetup at its headquarters at the chamber. The event featured a first look at the MEWS+, a ribbon cutting, and a meetup of local business owners and entrepreneurs. It is important to us that the MEWS+ be a resource for the Middletown community. We look forward to providing local entrepreneurs and other interested parties with the opportunity to engage and network with businesspeople of all shapes and sizes, and from a variety of industry sectors. We will also provide access to experienced business counselors, in addition to a wide variety of other resources. I would like to thank Mayor Dan Drew, Deputy Mayor Bob Santangelo, Councilmen Seb Giuliano, Gerry Daley, and Phil Pessina from the City of Middletown, Wesleyan University President Michael Roth, and Liberty Bank Executive Vice President and Chief Retail Banking Officer, Minnie Saleh, for attending the Ribbon Cutting. The MEWS+ is sure to be a great co-working space that will be the home to local entrepreneurs, and a key resource for the Wesleyan student body. I will continue to provide updates on the MEWS+ as we work to establish a true innovation eco system right here in Middletown.
Switching gears a bit, downtown was packed once again last Wednesday evening as Middletown’s 21st Annual Cruise Night on Main, powered by NAPA, turned out to be a huge success. Approximately 650 cars, beautiful weather, outstanding vendors, great music, and a fun atmosphere attracted thousands of people to Main Street, the South Green, and bordering streets. I want to take a moment to once again thank the Cruise Night Planning Committee, our outstanding sponsors and supporters, the volunteers who worked hard all night, the chamber staff, and everyone who contributed to another successful downtown event. A special thank you goes out to Geoff Watson, President of NAPA Connecticut, for his great support. NAPA is a terrific company and a strong corporate citizen. I also want to offer a special thank you to chamber Executive Committee member Tamera Jackson of Jackson Chevrolet for her support of the event and continued support of our chamber. One of the real highlights of this major annual downtown event is the presentation of the Sponsors Awards. The Sponsor Awards for the 2018 Cruise Night on Main were as follows: Best In Show Award, powered by NAPA Genuine Parts Company, was presented to Gonzo Morillo of Hartford for his 1969 Red Plymouth 440 Barracuda; Main Drag Award, presented by Downtown Business District, was presented to Fred of East Hampton for his 1968 Blue Fiat Dino; Jackson Chevrolet Choice Award, presented by Jackson Chevrolet, was presented to Stan Bajek of Windsor for his 1967 Sierra Fawn Chevrolet Camaro; Apple Rehab Choice Award, presented by Apple Rehab, was presented to James Matagiati of South Glastonbury for his 1932 Green Ford 3 Window Coupe; Fat City Cycle Award, presented by Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, was presented to Grayson Mountain of Portland for his 1970 Red Ford Mustang; Liberty’s Choice Award, presented by Liberty Bank, was presented to Russ Bosse of Berlin for his 1969 Blue and White Chevelle SS Convertible; MedExpress Choice Award, presented by MedExpress Urgent Care, was presented to Michael Lionetti of Cromwell for his 1971 Red and Black Chevelle; Restored to Glory Award, Presented by City Church, Middletown, was presented to Tony DiCicco of New Jersey for his 1957 Green and White Chevy Belair; Flood Choice Award, presented by The Flood Law Firm, LLC, was presented to Len and Danielle of Guilford for their 1956 Red Chevy Truck; The Smokin’ Hot Award, presented by Servpro of Middletown / New Britain, was presented to Mike and Karen Beebe of Old Saybrook for their 1936 Orange and White Chevy School Bus; Mayor’s Choice Award, presented by Mayor Daniel Drew, was presented to Sebbie Barone of Middletown for his 1969 Red Cougar XR7. I congratulate all of the winners and thank them for coming to the event. We would be remiss if we did not also thank the City of Middletown for its strong and continued support of this and of all downtown events. The Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works Department, Parking Department, and all other city personnel that supported the event were outstanding as usual. Finally, I thank Mayor Dan Drew and the Middletown Common Council for recognizing the importance of bringing this event to the downtown area every year. The 21st Annual Cruise Night on Main is in the books, and we are already looking forward to next year.
It is hard to believe, but the Travelers Championship has come and gone once again, and it was another fantastic week at TPC River Highlands. Record crowds made their way to Cromwell to watch some of the best golfers in the world competing at the highest level. The course and the surrounding areas looked terrific, and the staff and volunteers were professional and helpful as always. Tournament Director Nathan Grube and his team did a fantastic job once again, and we of course have to recognize the continuing support of Travelers Companies led by Chief Executive Officer Alan Schnitzer, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer Andy Bessette, and their entire leadership team. The Town of Cromwell also shined once again, and I want to thank Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Manager Tony Salvatore, Chief of Police Denise Lamontagne, and the entire town government structure for doing a truly professional job managing the event. Another great Travelers Championship week is in the books, but the countdown to the 2019 version is already underway. As I have repeatedly noted, this state is so fortunate that the Travelers Championship has Connecticut as its home, and it is certainly comforting to know that the tournament will continue to be held right here in Middlesex County for many years to come.
Looking ahead to this week, tomorrow morning, our Westbrook Division will meet at the Westbrook Elks Lodge 1784 from 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. This is the Westbrook Division’s annual June visit to the Elks Lodge, and we look forward to a productive meeting which will feature remarks from State Comptroller Kevin Lembo. Comptroller Lembo is continuing his annual tour of the chamber division meetings. It is important that the business community in Middlesex County has a strong working relationship with our state officials, and these important division meetings are a big part of that. The meeting will also feature local reports and a preview of summer activities on the shore.
Also on Tuesday, I look forward to attending a ceremony recognizing the service of Judge Robert Holzberg at the Middlesex Superior Court. Bob Holzberg, Connecticut Superior Court Judge (Ret.), is a partner at the law firm of Pullman & Comley, LLC where he leads the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practice, serving as a mediator, arbitrator and private judge in a wide range of complex civil matters in both state and federal courts. He retired from the bench in September 2012 after more than 22 years of service as a Superior Court judge. He has been a longtime friend and supporter of our chamber, and I look forward to attending the event on Tuesday.
Before closing, I want to take a moment to acknowledge Nate Peters, Vice President for Finance and Administration for Wesleyan University, who is retiring from his post at the end of this month. Nate has done a great job at Wesleyan and has been a terrific supporter of the chamber. I look forward to seeing him this week, and we all wish him well in his retirement and in all future endeavors.
I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of former Wesleyan President Doug Bennet at the age of 79. Doug Bennet was Wesleyan’s 15th president, serving from 1995-2007. He did a great job in this very important post and was a great friend to me and to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. His tenure at the school included an extremely successful stretch of fundraising, the hiring of many more faculty members, the granting of 140 new scholarships, and the construction of many of the beautiful buildings that populate the campus today. Prior to leading Wesleyan, Doug led National Public Radio and served in a number of key positions within the federal government. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Midge, his son, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, his son James Bennet who is the editorial page editor of The New York Times; his daughter, Holly Bennet, who serves as global managing director of Deloitte & Touche; his grandchildren, and his entire family and vast network of friends at this difficult time. Doug Bennet will certainly be missed by many.