July 9, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
We are smack in the middle of summer here in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation.
As the chamber calendar slows down a bit through the dog days, I thought it would be good to cover some of the exciting economic development activity that is taking place throughout Middlesex County. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will go town by town to highlight how strong leadership in the business community, and from our public officials, can create a thriving region that is indeed a great place to live, work and play. To kick off this multi week tour of the county, let’s start with Middletown and Cromwell.
The City of Middletown is fortunate to have a number of exciting projects that are quickly coming to fruition. Hajjar Management Company’s Midd-Town Apartments, an exciting mixed use development for downtown Middletown, is now accepting applications for studio, one, and two-bedroom units which will be available Fall 2018. Midd-Town Apartments’ stylish six-story building with modern apartments, roof deck, attached garage, and elevators offers an excellent standard of living right here in Middletown. This project, which was unanimously supported by our Central Business Bureau and Executive Committee in late 2014, includes 93 units of market rate apartments and the potential for first floor retail and commercial space at the corner of Broad Street and College Street. Our organization continues to share the city’s goal of encouraging downtown residential market rate development, and we will continue to be a constructive partner to make sure this project is a success for downtown. Also on the downtown front, the chamber had the pleasure of joining city leaders and other key partners as we officially welcomed three outstanding engineering companies to Middletown over the past year. These companies, Belcan, QuEST Global, and Cyient, are all full of high performing engineers and support staff, and they are a welcome addition to the local business community. Collectively, they will bring over 200 engineering jobs to the downtown area, and their economic impact will be felt throughout our region. Once again, the Pratt & Whitney Middletown Engine Center was a key factor in these companies establishing a presence in our city. We look forward to working with them as they grow and thrive right here in Middlesex County.
While downtown is of course critical, the growth and positive activity underway extends beyond the central core. The FedEx Ground project, a 525,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art distribution hub in the Westfield section of town, is a huge win for Middletown and for Middlesex County. FedEx Ground has more than 90,000 employees, an average daily volume of 8 million packages, and annual revenue of $18 billion (FY2017). The Middletown hub is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. The chamber’s Westfield Division is meeting this Wednesday at The Connection to receive an update on the project from Senior Hub Manager Earl Brunk. We look forward to working with Earl and his team as this important economic and workforce development project continues to move forward.
Other exciting Middletown developments include recent approvals for Shelco Filters, which is planning a 19,920 square foot addition to its manufacturing facility on Bradley Street, and for the proposed 35,000 sq. ft. addition at Pegasus Manufacturing on 422 Timber Ridge Road. Manufacturing continues to be a key industry sector in Middletown and throughout our region. Over on Washington Street, MedExpress, a neighborhood medical center that is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the communities they serve, recently opened the doors of its brand new building. Also, I know that excitement is growing locally for the upcoming opening of Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery & Pastry Shop which is located right next door. On South Main Street, Robert Kempenaar was recently approved for a special exception to construct a 17,574 square foot Mixed-Use Development which will include lower floor retail/restaurant and other business uses permitted in that area. The plans include a bank branch with a drive thru, as well as a new coffee shop with its own drive thru capability. This is another exciting project for the city, one that will take a property that has been dormant for some time now and turn it into a terrific mixed use development in the heart of a key corridor. Further down on South Main Street, Compass Powder Coating LLC is ready to expand on its efforts to supply manufacturers in the northeast with high quality powder coating.
Finally, we have to look no further that the second floor of the chamber for another exciting development, the creation of an innovation ecosystem right here in Middletown. The MEWS+, which stands for Middletown Entrepreneurs Work Space and more, is an exciting co-working initiative that will be a great place to start a new business or grow an existing company. This shared workspace environment will attract a creative class of developers, designers, strategists, artisans, writers, inventors, engineers and professional office nomads. Our goal is to create a truly dynamic public/private partnership that will fuel local innovation. 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, most notably the student body. I will share additional details about the recently launched MEWS+ throughout the summer, and would like to once again thank all of our funders for their leadership and support. They are: CT Next, the City of Middletown, Wesleyan University, Liberty Bank, and Middlesex Hospital.
The chamber is proud of its strong working relationship with the City of Middletown. I would like to once again thank Mayor Dan Drew, the entire Common Council, Director of Planning, Conservation and Development Joe Samolis, Economic Development Specialist Tom Marano, and all city personnel for their partnership and support. Together, we will continue to move the city forward.
While Middletown is critical to the region’s economic engine, the activity in Middlesex County is not only taking place in the city. The Town of Cromwell is also enjoying a great stretch of economic activity thanks to strong and strategic leadership. A few exciting grand openings were recently held in town including one in March at the Cage at 14 Alcap Ridge, the newest and fastest growing gym and fitness center in Cromwell with over 13,000 square feet of space, and another at Prides Corner Farms, one of the largest nurseries in New England which celebrated its opening at its 600 Main Street location in April. Work also continues on the Coles Road Brewery, and in Cromwell Square Shopping Plaza which will soon feature a 60,000-square-foot ShopRite Supermarket and a new Marshalls Department Store. Plans are also being developed for other sections of the plaza, and interest continues to be strong in other areas of town especially in the northern tier where a planned 410,000-square-foot warehouse is waiting on state approval. Over at Covenant Village of Cromwell, a proposed new expansion includes new apartment options for residents, a new “town center”, improved dining, recreation and common areas, and much more. In addition to all of this, the weekly Farmer’s Market at One River Road is bringing people into town from all over the state, and interest in the Route 372 corridor continues to be strong. Finally, you can’t mention Cromwell and not touch on the TPC at River Highlands and the Travelers Championship. A new 40,000 sq. ft. clubhouse at the TPC is scheduled to be completed by the 2019 tournament. The Travelers Championship has become one of the premier events on the PGA Tour. It is only fitting that its home have a world class clubhouse to go with its world class player field and fan experience. The new clubhouse, which will replace the existing and outdated 10,000 sq. ft. facility, will be state of the art and will attract other events and activity in addition to the Travelers related events. I would like to once again congratulate Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Manager Tony Salvatore, and Town Planner Stuart Popper on all of this terrific economic news in Cromwell. More to come!
While I mentioned the chamber calendar slows down a bit in July, that doesn’t mean that the chamber team is sitting idle. The KeyBank Workshop Series continues tomorrow with two sessions of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training at the chamber beginning at 8 a.m., and at 10:15 a.m. Presented by Jackson Lewis, LLP, this critically important session will discuss the definition of sexual harassment, liability (your own and your organization's), and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. Attorneys from the law firm will show you and members of your team how to limit your company's exposure to damaging charges of sexual harassment. This session meets the State of Connecticut's requirement for two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers. For more information on this important chamber workshop, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. Looking ahead to Thursday, the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell will host a members-only “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” themed Business After Work networking reception from 5-7 p.m. We expect a great crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of baseball themed networking and festivities in Cromwell. The Courtyard team, led by GM Anthony Covino and Sales Director Dan Miller, always does a terrific job with this annual event which will feature a great spread of food and drinks, and outstanding summer networking for our guests. We look forward to a fun evening and I encourage chamber members that are planning to attend to wear their favorite baseball gear. All teams are welcome!
Next week’s chamber column will cover the economic activity underway in the towns of Portland, East Hampton and Haddam. The summer sun continues to shine down on Middlesex County!