July 30, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
A busy summer continues in Middlesex County as we enter the month of August.
This week’s chamber column will continue its tour throughout Middlesex County, and the outstanding economic development activity that is taking place. However, before getting to that, I want to take a moment to preview some of the upcoming chamber events and activities.
A key pillar of the Middlesex County economy is of course, tourism. One of the key tourist attractions in our region is Goodspeed Musicals. The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam and The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester continues to attract outstanding shows and talent to our region on an annual basis. I look forward to attending the Goodspeed Executive Committee meeting on Monday afternoon, and will continue to stress the importance of tourism to our economy.
On the chamber event front, we look forward to welcoming former UConn and NBA Star Ray Allen as guest speaker at our Member Breakfast Meeting this Thursday, August 2nd at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. As I noted last week, 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 in Springfield. 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, pre-signed copies of Ray’s book “From the Outside: My Journey through Life and the Game I Love" will be 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 on Thursday in Cromwell.
Switching gears to the workforce development front, week three of the 2018 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program continues today at a number of locations throughout the city of Middletown. 70 Middletown youngsters have been placed into this six week long program which provides valuable work experience in a wide variety of professional fields. During these six important weeks, our young people not only learn the fundamentals of employment, such as getting to work on time and ready to contribute, but also the pride that comes with putting in a solid work week and receiving a paycheck that was earned through hard and honest work. Every time I mention this program, I make sure to thank the over 30 businesses and organizations in Middletown that are serving as host worksites this summer. It is critical that we have host worksites from a wide variety of industry sectors that are willing to step up and provide the work and supervision that is necessary to truly make this an effective workforce development initiative. I would also like to take a moment to once again thank our 2018 team of funding partners for their great contributions to this program. Without them, this program would simply not be possible. Our 2018 team of funding partners is as follows: Workforce Alliance; The City of Middletown; Peach Pit Foundation; Community Foundation of Middlesex County/Chuck and Rachel Wiltsie Fund, Howard and Yvonne McAuliffe Fund, Elizabeth Swaim Middletown Fund; Liberty Bank Foundation; Jarvis Products Corporation; MiddleOak; Pegasus Manufacturing; Greenwald Industries; Stone Investment Properties; Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski; and Middlesex United Way. I will continue to provide updates as this important program progresses through the summer.
Now that August is almost upon us, planning for the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is entering its final phase. This major annual event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will be held on Wednesday, August 15 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Middletown Motorcycle Mania is held in memory of Dan M. Hunter, one of the event’s founding sponsors. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for this 13th annual city event which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. There is a $10 entry donation for motorcycles and a $15 donation for motorcycles entering the Antique and Vintage or Show Bike judging. I will have much more on Middletown Motorcycle Mania in next week’s column, and more information can be found at MiddletownMotorcycleMania.com.
Sticking with the major event theme for just a moment, I ask that everyone please save the date of Wednesday, October 24, 2018 for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County's Premier Business EXPO. We hope to make the 2018 Connecticut Connections Business EXPO one of the best ever. The committee is working hard to prepare a program of great ideas for this year's show, but we are always looking for suggestions from members and other interested parties. It is safe to say however, that a wide array of products and services will be presented by over 125 local, state and national vendors. We will host seminars and workshops targeted to your business needs, as well as the Middlesex County Health & Wellness Fair, the Fall Middlesex County Career Fair, and the annual Small Business Awards Luncheon. More to come on this full day of events and activities, but please save the date.
Before closing with the latest installment of our economic development tour, I want to note that I, along with Jeff Pugliese and Jennifer De Kine from the chamber team, had a great meeting with Cromwell Superintendent of Schools John Maloney and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Krista Karch last Monday at the chamber office. John and Krista are doing a great job, and we had a productive discussion on how we can work together to strategically connect our local students to the many industry sectors in Middlesex County. We will continue this important discussion as the academic year approaches, and I thank John and Krista for their support.
This week’s installment of the economic development tour will cover the wonderful Middlesex County towns of Durham and Middlefield. Durham is probably best known as being the home of The Durham Fair, the largest fair in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers. The 99th Annual Durham Fair will be held from September 27-30 on the famous fairgrounds in the heart of Durham. We will have much more on the fair in the coming weeks, but it is guaranteed to once again provide four terrific days of good, clean wholesome fun. In addition to the Durham Fair, the town has a number of other exciting updates to report. The Durham Economic Development Commission has spent the last year and a half tackling some of the smaller tasks set forth in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development adopted in 2016. The town has also been working on an Economic Strategies Plan to compile an inventory of existing local businesses, and plans to reach out to its many home-based businesses to offer support and assistance should they decide to expand to a commercial or industrial location. The EDC has been creating a list of available commercial and industrial properties, and has been working with local farmers to draft regulations that will offer more opportunities for agri-tourism. This agri-tourism initiative is a very exciting opportunity for farmers to think outside the box of traditional farming, and to stay current with the rest of the farming communities in the U.S. Furthermore, the Durham EDC and Planning and Zoning Commission will be working with the Sustainable Durham team to create a Buy Local campaign as well as a plan to accentuate the town’s tourism attractions. Durham is also working to strategically pair tenants with empty industrial and commercial properties, and is in the process of targeting more ambitious projects for Durham’s available, undeveloped commercial properties. Finally, the town has recently entered into an agreement with Mary Dickerson of Dickerson Development Consulting LLC who will work to complete more tasks set forth in the Plan of Conservation and Development. We know Mary well from her great work over in Portland, and we look forward to working with her as she adds these Durham efforts to her plate. Additional economic development opportunities in Durham will be available after the recent installation of water and natural gas utilities. The chamber was proud to support both of these important infrastructure investments, and we will continue to be a constructive partner as they come to fruition. I continue to appreciate the longtime friendship and support of Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis, and also thank the EDC and all of the town’s stakeholders for their great work.
Next door in Middlefield, the local economy continues to be strong thanks to good leadership and the presence of key tourism anchors and terrific manufacturers. Owned and operated by the Lyman Family since 1741, Lyman Orchards is recognized as the 12th oldest family-owned business in America. For generations of Connecticut families and visitors, it has been a year-round destination for great food, family fun, and championship golf. Lyman Orchards also continues to develop new attractions and events to the delight of each visitor that comes into Middlefield. It is a key regional employer, a strong corporate citizen, and one of our top tourist attractions. For these reasons and more, it is indeed, Connecticut’s sweet spot. Golf in Middlefield is of course not restricted to the Lyman courses. Indian Springs Golf Course has been serving the golf community with its scenic, challenging, 9-hole public golf course in town for over 50 years. From leagues to special events, the great course is enjoyed by many players of all skill levels throughout the season. Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort is the first full service year-round urban mountain sports park and resort featuring skiing, snowboarding, tubing, mountain biking and synthetic snow adventures for all its visitors. The newly renovated lodge includes the Marketplace for casual dining and large events. On the second floor of the lodge is the Ridgeside Tavern, Fire at The Ridge Restaurant, and 10 hotel rooms. Among many other awards and recognitions, Powder Ridge received the chamber’s 2017 Business Growth & Expansion Business of the Year Award. In addition to being another key local employer, Powder Ridge also continues to create additional tourism buzz for our region. The chamber will be right there to support Sean Hayes and his team as it continues to grow and develop in the coming years. In addition to these tourist hot spots, Middlefield is home to a strong manufacturing base anchored by Zygo Corporation, Cooper Atkins Corporation, Rogers Manufacturing and R.E.F Machine Company, Inc. Zygo is a worldwide supplier of optical metrology instruments, high precision optical components, and complex electro-optical system design and manufacturing services. The company is packed with hundreds of high performing employees who are doing amazing things in metrology. Cooper Atkins Corporation, a customer-centric technology leader in monitoring solutions for the global foodservice, healthcare and industrial markets, is another key local anchor. Recently acquired by Emerson, Cooper Atkins has over 150 employees doing terrific work in their industry. Our friends at Rogers Manufacturing continue to build their brand and their terrific company which specializes in all aspects of Plastics Manufacturing. Bob Fowler and his team at R.E.F. Machine Company have been producing results in the precision machining field since 1964, all while employing local individuals. All of this, combined with the work of Mickey Fowler who is doing a great job filling the commercial spaces at 6 Way Road means that Middlefield is truly on the move. I congratulate First Selectman Ed Bailey and the entire Middlefield team for their continued good work. We look forward to working with them as we move forward.
The Sun Always Shines in Middlesex County!