August 6, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
The summer is moving right along in Middlesex County as the first full week of August has arrived.
The week kicks off on Monday with the August meeting of our Executive Committee, the chamber’s top governing body. Under the leadership of our chairman, Jay Polke, Monday’s meeting will cover a number of important topics including the upcoming fall calendar, economic development projects that are progressing throughout Middlesex County, and other issues of importance to the business community. I continue to appreciate the support of our dedicated and engaged Executive Committee, and look forward to another productive meeting.
Tuesday features a meeting of the chamber’s Cromwell Division at Donnelly’s Irish Pub which recently became a member of our organization. The meeting, which will be led by Cromwell Division Chairman Rodney Bitgood, will feature reports from Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Manager Tony Salvatore, and other town leaders. Immediately following the meeting, a Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening Celebration will be held for Donnelly’s. We certainly wish General Manager Sean Yenkelun and his entire team the best of luck as they move forward with the business. We look forward to working with them.
On Wednesday, I look forward to stopping by the Connecticut Association of Street & Highway Officials’ 47th Annual Golf Tournament and Outing at Tunxis Plantation in Farmington. CASHO is a not-for-profit educational association whose mission is to provide education on Public Works functions throughout the state. I appreciate the invitation from Joe Serra, and look forward to seeing many friends and colleagues.
Back in Middletown, the chamber’s Central Business Bureau also continues to be very active during the summer months. CBB meetings are typically held on the first Thursday of each month but the August meeting was bumped to this week by our Member Breakfast Meeting with Ray Allen. The agenda will once again feature reports from a number of City of Middletown Department Directors who will cover a variety of topics for the downtown business community. The Central Business Bureau continues to be an effective way in which we connect downtown businesses to key city officials and other community leaders. We look forward to another productive session.
A key segment of the CBB meeting will be an update on next week’s 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania. This major annual event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd. & the Hunter family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will take place 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. Motorcycle Mania benefits Middletown youth programs, and past proceeds have supported the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation and Community Services Department Youth Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. There is a $10 entry donation, and $15 entry donation for award bikes. Entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by WMRD/WLIS Radio, which will broadcast live in front of the chamber and iHeart Media, which will broadcast in the gazebo on the South Green. The Patrones Band, an energetic rock-and-roll cover band, will perform on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Finally, the All American Productions Fashion Show will take place on the Showmobile at 6 p.m. I will have much more on the event in next week’s column, but I want to take a moment to offer a special thank you to the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco and Event Coordinator Haley Stafford, for all of its hard work in putting this major event together. Finally, I want to once again thank the city of Middletown for its strong and enduring support of the event. From Mayor Drew to members of the Common Council to the police, fire, parking, and Public Works departments, the city’s support is critical to the operation of this event and it is very much appreciated. Main Street will be rocking next Wednesday night and we all look forward to another great event.
Following the CBB meeting, I will attend the Ribbon Cutting of Tonia’s Tailoring Featuring Lola, with Deputy Mayor Bob Santangelo and other city dignitaries. Tonia Herring and Lola Hardwick are both graduates of the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program. We wish them continued success in the tailoring and clothing alteration business at their new location inside Main Street Market in Middletown.
Looking ahead on the chamber calendar, August also features a major Business After Work networking reception on Tuesday, Aug. 21 at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink at this annual event which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. The Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by People’s United Bank, will feature an update from the coach on the upcoming season of Husky football which begins on Thursday, August 30 vs. UCF. Coach Edsall recently returned to the position as Head Coach at UConn, and we are thrilled that he is back leading the Huskies. I will have more on both of these important chamber events as we get closer.
To close this week’s column, we will take a quick trip down county to check on the economic development activity in beautiful towns of Essex and Westbrook. In Essex, recent efforts by dedicated leaders and residents have enhanced the already sterling reputation that the town enjoys throughout the northeastern United States. Key anchors like the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Ivoryton Playhouse, Connecticut River Museum, and The Griswold Inn, in partnership with over 700 more town businesses, continue to attract tourists and tourism dollars throughout the year. Strategic partnerships with the state have improved the town’s infrastructure in recent years and helped to make it a more walkable and attractive place. The Steam Train’s continued growth and expansion has been a game changer for the entire region, the playhouse’s restoration and resurgence has revitalized Ivoryton village, and the historic seaport village continues to connect us to the river and to our colonial past. All of this, combined with a successful Summer Concert Series, the Ivoryton Farmer’s Market, and even the recent filming of two movies in town, means Essex is truly on the move. I congratulate First Selectman Norm Needleman and the entire Board of Selectmen, Economic Development Consultant Susan Malan, and all town stakeholders for their terrific work.
Next door in Westbrook, the beautiful shoreline beaches, great tourist attractions, delicious dining options, and much more make the town another Middlesex County gem. Those who have visited Water’s Edge Resort and Spa know that it is without question one of the best attractions in the state. The summer season continues to hop at Water’s Edge as guests enjoy the beach, pool, live music, variety of great food, top notch accommodations, and much more. This key major employer and tourist attraction is also a strong member of our chamber. Westbrook also continues its efforts to recruit new businesses to its downtown area adjacent to the town center. I am very excited that four new businesses have, or soon will be occupying this area. We will continue to support the town as it works to revitalize its Town Center. Over at Westbrook Outlets, which was recently rebranded after Tanger sold the property, management is actively developing the outlets with new businesses and restaurants. On the infrastructure front, Connecticut Water has modernized many of the aging water mains, and the town has committed major capital funding to develop infrastructure including a complete sidewalk initiative. Also, improvements in the zoning code will support the growth of Westbrook’s business community moving forward. Finally, a subcommittee of the Shoreline Basic Needs Task Force, the Economic Action Committee, is working on a number of key initiatives ranging from economic development, to workforce development, and more. The chamber looks forward to working with this all volunteer group on job shadowing, mentoring, internships, and career exploration. I thank First Selectman Noel Bishop, the Board of Selectmen, the Economic Development Commission, and all town stakeholders for their excellent work.
The sun always shines in Middlesex County!