July 23, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
As the summer moves right along in Middlesex County, so does our economic development tour of the region which continues to hop with events and activities. Today, we will focus on the classic New England towns of Haddam and East Haddam.
In the great Town of Haddam, approximately 25 town businesses will be represented at the Market on the Green celebration in late July, and the popular Yoga on the Green initiative will take place twice a month through the end of the August. On the business development front, Personal Fitness Solutions will be opening another business in town in the next couple of months, and Spirit and Balance LLC recently opened on Killingworth Road. River’s Edge Home Center on Bridge Street, a key corridor leading to the Connecticut River and the Swing Bridge, recently completed an outstanding remodel of its showroom and façade which is sure to attract additional customers and visitors to town. As I have mentioned many times in previous columns, the State Bond Commission recently approved a long-awaited infrastructure project that will bring clean water to the Tylerville area of Haddam. This is not only a huge win for Haddam and for Middlesex County, but it is an example of local stakeholders coming together to develop sound public policy that serves the best interests of their constituents. The town is also currently planning its Haddam River Days celebration, and the Economic Development Commission recently purchased light-up holiday decorations for this coming season to be used in Higganum Center.
Over in East Haddam, interest in the village district has increased significantly since the beautiful new Town Hall opened back in February on Plains Road. With Town Hall relocating out of the village district, the area is now being targeted for strategic commercial development. The anchor of this region is, of course, the Goodspeed Opera House. Since its inception in 1963, Goodspeed has produced over 250 musicals, including over 70 world premieres, and exported 21 productions to Broadway. It stands as the first regional theatre in America to earn two special Tony Awards, and it mounts both new and newly revived musicals each year on its main stage at the Opera House in East Haddam, and on its second stage at the Terris Theater in Chester. Goodspeed produces a total of more than 400 performances during the April to December season which attract over 130,000 patrons to the CT. River Valley. Goodspeed, which is widely recognized as “The Home of the American Musical”, will continue to serve as a thriving artist colony and a top tourist destination in the heart of Middlesex County. Right next door, the Gelston House Restaurant and Inn continues to attract visitors to town through its outstanding menu and unmatched views of the river. Over at Fox Hopyard, the golf and dining options are some of the best that this state has to offer. Finally, it is safe to say that the locals are very happy about the recent investments made by Dutch Oil in the Moodus section, and the expansion plans of Staehly Farm and Winery on Town Street which will have a big impact on that section of East Haddam. The chamber looks forward to supporting the town as it works to engage in strategic development all while maintaining its classic New England feel.
In an effort to support the development of both towns, the chamber recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of a federal BUILD Grant application that is being jointly submitted by Haddam and East Haddam. We believe that the Federal BUILD grant will help connect the two towns through the construction of a sidewalk on the historic Swing Bridge over the Connecticut River. Not only will the new pedestrian walkway better connect tourists and residents to nearby attractions such as the Goodspeed Opera House and the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, it will also provide better access to the riverfront on both sides and will increase the safety of everyone who frequents the area. I continue to appreciate the great work and leadership of Haddam HadFirst Selectwoman Lizz Milardo, Town Planner Liz Glidden, Economic Development Coordinator Robin Munster, and the entire Haddam team, and East Haddam First Selectman Emmett Lyman, the Board of Selectman, and the entire East Haddam team. The sun continues to shine on Middlesex County!
The chamber calendar also continues to be ripe with activity as we look ahead to the month of August. This Tuesday in New Haven, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce. 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. I look forward to another productive meeting and thank my colleagues for their continued good work across the state.
On Wednesday, I look forward to attending the Grand Opening Celebration for Compass Powder Coating, LLC in Middletown at 12 p.m. Compass Powder Coating is a family owned and operated business that is ready to expand on its efforts to supply manufacturers in the northeast with high-quality powder coating. They have a state-of-the-art facility and a passionate, professional staff. I look forward to joining Mike Tashash and the entire Compass team at the event, and wish them the best moving forward.
On Thursday morning, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee where we will continue our discussions on developing a prepared and productive workforce in our state. Workforce Alliance is committed to delivering employment solutions that connect people with jobs or training, and employers with skilled workers in South Central CT. The chamber is proud of its relationship with Workforce Alliance, and we will continue to connect job seekers to employers in Middlesex County.
On the chamber event front, we look forward to welcoming former UConn and NBA Star Ray Allen as guest speaker at a Member Breakfast Meeting on Thursday, August 2 at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. We are all so proud that Ray is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 which will be officially inducted in September. This is a well-deserved honor for Ray who had a fantastic career with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Seattle Supersonics, the Boston Celtics, and the Miami Heat. He has also supported a variety of charities and community causes throughout his life and career. At the event on the 2nd, Ray will be signing copies of his book “From the Outside: My Journey through Life and the Game I Love". Books are available for a presale price of $24 and will be sold on the day of the event for the full price of $30. I would like to again thank Ray Allen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit with our membership. I also want to thank DATTCO, led by its President and chamber Vice Chairman Don Devivo, for sponsoring the Member Breakfast Meeting. We look forward to a great event!
Chamber members and other interested parties should also save the dates for the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania which is scheduled for Wednesday, August 15, our annual Business After Work Networking Reception at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa on Tuesday, August 21, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall is scheduled for Wednesday, August 22. More to come on each of these important events.
I, unfortunately, must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Robert "Bob" Louis Del Russo Sr. at the age of 78. Bob was a resident of Portland and was co-owner and Secretary/Treasurer of The Waverly Printing Company in town before retiring in 1998. Bob, along with his father, brother and many dedicated employees, grew this innovative company into a powerhouse which became known throughout New England for its high-quality corporate printing services. He was also a fantastic football player who, among other highlights, played in the very first Connecticut All-Star East-West Nutmeg Bowl. My experience with Bob goes all the way back to my days at the MX Corporation which was dedicated to raising funds for Xavier and Mercy High Schools and was also a very strong supporter of the chamber. He was a terrific man, a hard worker, and someone who valued family and friends above all else. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of 58 years, MaryAnn, his son, Robert Jr., his daughter, Pamela, his grandchildren, his sister, and his entire network of family and friends. Bob Del Russo will be missed by many.