Tourism key economic driver in Middlesex County

September 17, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


The summer officially comes to an end this week in Middlesex County, but the chamber calendar continues to be hot with events and activities.


The second installment of our ServSafe Manager Certification course kicks off on Monday at our Main Street facility. The ServSafe Manager Certification verifies that the manager or senior person at an establishment has sufficient food safety knowledge to protect the public from foodborne illness. The ServSafe Manager Certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) under the Conference for Food Protection Standards. Every foodservice establishment is required by the State of Connecticut to employ a minimum of two Qualified Food Protection Managers whose responsibilities not only include food safety, but staff training as well. Upon completion of this class, participants will meet the legal requirements along with learning best food safety practices. Registration for this course is sold out, but the chamber is running another class on Monday, January 28, 2019. For more information, please visit I would like to thank Tyrell Sampson, who will lead the training, and Middletown Public Health Manager Sal Nesci and Lan Chi's Vietnamese Restaurant Owner Chu Ngo for their help and support in getting this effort launched. We look forward to providing this important training for our members.


Switching gears to tourism, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Connecticut Culture and Tourism Advisory Committee at the DECD offices in Hartford on Monday afternoon. As I have noted many times, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will always recognize that tourism is a key economic driver in our region and throughout our state. I look forward to meeting with my fellow committee members as we continue to work to make Connecticut a key tourism hub in the northeast United States.


While tourism is of course a key pillar of our regional economy, we continue to encourage and support business development in all sectors and at all levels. I look forward to joining Mayor Dan Drew and other local officials at a Grand Opening Celebration for Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers on Main Street Extension in Middletown at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. I wish nothing but success for Michael Antunes and his entire team as they work to grow this new and important business. We look forward to supporting them along the way.


On the chamber committee front, our Automotive Council will hold a meeting at Cantina Café Ristorante on Tuesday night with Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Michael Bzdyra and Deputy Commissioner Judeen Wrinn. I thank both of these officials for attending the meeting and for their service in state government. We look forward to a productive discussion between Mike and Judeen, and our member dealerships, auto repair shops, and other interested parties.


Another key area of focus for our organization is of course, workforce development. I look forward to attending a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee on Thursday morning where we will continue our discussions on developing a prepared, 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 work to connect job seekers to employers in our region.


Thursday afternoon features the September meeting of the chamber’s Board of Directors at the Middletown Elks Lodge from 11:30am- 1:00 p.m. This meeting is hosted by Liberty Bank. We look forward to another productive chamber Board meeting which will feature reports from chamber members and key staff. I thank our board members for their continued support of our chamber, and appreciate the strong and enduring support of Chandler Howard and his team at Liberty. We look forward to a productive meeting on Thursday afternoon in Middletown.


A very busy week closes on Friday morning with a Member Breakfast Meeting and Small Business Lending Forum in Cromwell. The breakfast meeting will feature as keynote speaker, FedEx Ground President & CEO Henry Maier. This event is sponsored by the City of Middletown. We are looking forward to the visit from Mr. Maier who assumed his role in June 2013 and is responsible for the strategic direction and performance of the company. He also serves on the FedEx Corp. Strategic Management Committee. His visit coincides with the opening of the 525,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art distribution hub in the Westfield section of Middletown. FedEx Ground has more than 90,000 employees, an average daily volume of 8 million packages, and annual revenue of $18 billion (FY2017). The Member Breakfast Meeting 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. Attendees will learn how to access the money they may need either now or in the future. The event will also feature information on SBA & DECD loan programs and other important topics about financing the small business community. Finally, the morning will conclude with the official Grand Opening Celebration for the new FedEx Ground distribution hub which will take place from 11am-1pm. I would like to thank Henry Maier for taking the time to speak to our membership, and thank FedEx Ground for choosing Middletown. We look forward to working with them now and into the future.


As if all that is not enough, next week will be another busy one in Middlesex County.


Our September Business After Work networking reception, rescheduled from September 12, will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique” on Monday evening, September 24. “Mystique” is docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown. Members can board the boat at 5 p.m. and network while docked until 6:00 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Mystique will take a trip down river and will return at the close of the Business After Work at 7:00 p.m. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and of course, the best networking around. The visit to the “Mystique” is for key employees of chamber members only. All members who are interested in attending must register in advance of the event by visiting or by contacting the chamber office. On behalf of the chamber, I want to thank the owner of Lady Katharine Cruises, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, for hosting this event and for their strong support of our chamber. Kevin Dodd and his team continue to do great work throughout the region, and we continue to appreciate their effort.


Next week is also one of our favorite weeks of the year in Middlesex County, Durham Fair week. The 99th edition of this New England treasure will be held on the famous Durham Fairgrounds from September 27-30. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale, all-volunteer-run agricultural event right here in Middlesex County. In fact, the Durham Fair remains the largest fair in the state of Connecticut, an impressive distinction. The chamber’s Durham and Middlefield Division held a terrific meeting on the fairgrounds last Wednesday and was fortunate enough get a preview of the many activities planned for this week, and to tour the grounds, which look great and ready to go. The chamber will continue to be right there with Dan Miramant and his team as they steamroll through their first 100 years. I will have much more on the Durham Fair in next week’s column, but please visit for more information.

I will close this week’s chamber column by once again asking chamber members and community members alike to save the date of Wednesday, October 24 for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County's Premier Business Showcase. This full day of events and activities will be held at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. From over 110 exhibitors from a wide variety of industry sectors, a career fair with over 50 employers who are hiring, our annual Small Business Awards Celebration which will honor a number of our small business champions, and other content ranging from politics to substance abuse prevention and more, Connecticut Connections has it all. I will have much, much more as the event gets closer, but please be sure to save the date.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!


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