August 13, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
Another busy week is upon us in Middlesex County and throughout our great state.
On Thursday morning in New Haven, I will attend a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee. Workforce Alliance, a key chamber partner in our effort to be a bridge between job seekers and employers, works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and elected officials. On Thursday afternoon, the chamber Board of Directors will hold its summer meeting at the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. In addition to reports from committee chairs and key staff, the meeting will feature an update from the Connecticut Tourism Coalition which supports the state’s tourism industry by addressing key legislative, regulatory and budgeting issues through public education and outreach. I look forward to two productive meetings, and thank Essex Steam Train and Riverboat President Kevin Dodd for hosting our Board of Directors on Thursday.
The highlight of the week is of course the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania which is scheduled for this Wednesday evening on Main Street. This event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, is held in memory of a founding sponsor, Dan M. Hunter, and is driven by Haymond Law. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for the 13th installment of this annual city event which will showcase custom bikes, 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. In addition to Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., the Hunter Family, and Haymond Law, event sponsors include: City of Middletown, Liberty Bank, Middletown Downtown Business District, Brookfield Indian Motorcycle, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Bank of America, Gengras Motorcycles, Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, MedExpress Urgent Care, The Flood Law Firm, Marcum LLP New Haven, Witter’s Web, All American Productions, Middlesex Music Academy, Lyman Orchards Golf Club, First & Last Tavern, and WMRD/WLIS Radio. 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 for bikes, and a $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 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and iHeart Media, which will broadcast in the Gazebo on the South Green. The Patrones will perform on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Finally, the All American Productions Fashion Show will take place on the Showmobile at 6 p.m. I want to take a moment to once again 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 Wednesday night and we all look forward to another great event. The Rain Date for the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is next Wednesday, August 22.
Next week, another busy one, will feature 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 Business After Work is for key employees of chamber members and will, as always, feature some of the best networking around. I thank the Dattilo family, Director of Sales Keith Lindelow, Senior Sales Manager Karen Robidoux, and the entire Water’s Edge team for hosting us and for their continued support of our chamber. 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 want to once again thank Coach Edsall for taking time out of his schedule to meet with our membership, and People’s United Bank for sponsoring the Member Breakfast Meeting.
On the save the date front, the chamber will welcome FedEx Ground President & CEO Henry Maier as guest speaker at a Member Breakfast Meeting on Friday, September 21. This event will be immediately followed by a Lenders Forum which will feature a panel discussion and mini expo with representatives of bank, non-bank, and community lending sources. I also ask that chamber members save the date of Wednesday, October 24 which is our Connecticut Connections event, Middlesex County's Premier Business EXPO. There is much more to come on these exciting events and activities, but please be sure to save the dates now.
It is hard to believe, but our six week tour of Middlesex County’s economic development highlights comes to an end this week as we visit the beautiful towns of Chester and Deep River. Chester continues to enjoy economic development success through its manufacturing anchors and its classic New England downtown. Whelen Engineering, founded in George Whelen’s garage in 1952, has developed life-saving lighting products for police, fire, EMS and DOT professionals for over six decades. Whelen’s state of the art Chester facility continues to be a key local employer and an outstanding corporate citizen. The company has also been a pioneer in developing the workforce talent pipeline in the field of manufacturing. Roto North America, a leading supplier of North American and European window and door hardware, is another outstanding regional employer and corporate citizen. I continue to appreciate the support of its president, and chamber board member, Chris Dimou and thank him for his leadership of this terrific company. Since 1954, Greenwald Industries has accommodated customer needs through quality manufacturing, assembling, and testing of hardware. Greenwald has built lasting partnerships with commercial laundry giants such as Whirlpool and Alliance and excels as a key supplier. In its 120,000 square feet Chester facility, Greenwald’s talented professionals adapt to customer needs and help solidify Middlesex County’s manufacturing base. All of this, combined with a beautiful downtown that features outstanding attractions like The Pattaconk Bar and Grille, The River Tavern, and Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre, means Chester is truly on the move.
Next door in Deep River, another quintessential New England town, residents also enjoy a strong local economy with key anchors and unmistakable small town charm. Nestled at the Deep River waterfront, the quaint Riverwind Inn serves as a special place for visitors to enjoy Connecticut’s beautiful River Valley. The Red House Restaurant on Deep River’s Main Street specializes in pleasing guests with a wide array of delectable options, including their signature meats. On the manufacturing front, Smith & Wesson Precision Components continues to develop fire arms out of their Deep River location as it has for over 120 years. InterPro 3D Printing Services & Systems has aided companies in their efforts to reduce costs and produce quicker turnaround times for over 30 years. Deep River also has a deep sense of history, pride and culture. The Deep River Ancient Muster is the oldest and largest gathering of drum and fife aficionados in the entire world. Referred to as the “Grandaddy of All Musters” and “A Colonial Woodstock,” the Muster always occurs on the 3rd Saturday in July, and it was a monumental success once again this year.
For these reasons and many more, we are very fortunate to have the towns of Chester and Deep River as key stakeholders in our organization. I continue to appreciate the great work and support of Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, and all of the towns’ stakeholders.
While there is much to celebrate in our region, I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of John F. Olson at the age of 83. It is appropriate that we are celebrating the towns of Chester and Deep River this week, because John was a lifelong resident of Deep River, and made such an impact in Chester through his leadership of Whelen Engineering. John graduated from Valley Regional High School in 1953, later earning his bachelor degree in engineering from the University of New Hampshire. He became the first full-time employee, and eventually the CEO and President of Whelen Engineering Company. Under John’s leadership, Whelen became a true leader in the emergency lighting industry. He also led efforts to partner with Valley Regional High School on the development of an Introduction to Manufacturing class that was held on site at Whelen. This program has become a model of cooperation between business and education, and it undoubtedly has had a positive impact on the development of the manufacturing workforce pipeline in our state. John enjoyed great success in business, but he also made sure to give back to his community through service as a volunteer firefighter, philanthropist, ambulance member, and a member of many other boards and commissions. John was also a strong supporter of UConn Athletics, along with a number of other causes and initiatives over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife of 56 years, Elinor, his two sons, his grandchildren, his brother, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. John Olson was a great man, and he will be missed by many.