November 26, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
Now that Thanksgiving is in the books, it is time to look ahead to the busy holiday season in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation.
This Wednesday morning, a Special Meeting for Member Manufacturers will be held at Roto Frank of America in Chester. The meeting, the latest initiative of our Manufacturers’ Council, will focus on developing the workforce pipeline within this critical industry sector in our state. Our members look forward to hearing from the host of the meeting, Chris Dimou, who serves as President of the Americas for Roto Frank, Christine Benz of Trumpf North America who will focus on Workforce Trends in the Industry, and Rachel Mauer of the German American Chamber of Commerce who will focus on Skills and Innovation Strategies to Strengthen U.S. Manufacturing. In addition to a series of constructive meetings that are being planned on this topic, chamber VP Jeff Pugliese is in the process of visiting all of our member manufacturers at their terrific facilities throughout our region. We understand the importance of manufacturing to our regional economy, and look forward to working with all stakeholders as we address this important workforce pipeline issue.
A busy Wednesday continues in the evening with our November Business After Work Networking Reception at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. As I noted last week, the Business After Work event will feature the Central Business Bureau’s 2018 Festival of Wreaths Silent Auction. Beautifully decorated wreaths will be displayed for viewing and bidding until the auction closes at 6:30 p.m. The funds that are raised will benefit the Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, and the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program. Liberty Bank has once again donated the artificial wreaths for chamber member businesses to decorate, and we certainly appreciate that continued support. Our members and their guests always look forward to the delicious spread of food and drink provided by the Riverhouse team, along with outstanding networking opportunities that the event provides. We certainly look forward to a fun evening in Haddam on Wednesday night, and I want to once again thank Owner Jim Bucko, General Manager Hattie Donner, and the entire Riverhouse team for hosting this outstanding event.
Switching gears to the business development front for a moment, I look forward to attending the Sistas Academy of Cosmetology Grand Opening this Thursday, November 29 at 1:30 p.m. Sistas provides education and training in the field of beauty culture and prepares its students for exciting careers in cosmetology. We look forward to working with Brenda Shuler and her team as they work to grow the business, and look forward to celebrating with them on Thursday afternoon.
Back to the festive theme, the 33rd annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is off to a fast start after a very successful opening night Nov. 23 and a busy follow-up on the 24th.
This Saturday, the fun continues with Rotary Club of Middletown Day. Planned events and activities include: free pictures and donuts with Santa at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, the Fun Train, which will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, and the Annual Holiday Craft Fair at The Church of the Holy Trinity. At 11:30 a.m., Holiday Story Time, featuring Middletown Fire Chief Rob Kronenberger, will take place at Main St Fire House (533 Main St) and Madeline will be on hand for a “Book Signing”. Volunteers from the Rotary Club will staff the popcorn and hot pretzels stand in front of the chamber building, and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio will entertain the large crowd that we expect. Holiday on Main Street continues Dec. 8 and 15 and parking is free in city lots. Holiday on Main Street is an institution in Middletown and in Middlesex County and we are very proud of it. I want to again thank Pratt & Whitney for its great support, the City of Middletown, and in particular, the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, our longtime event chairman Al Santostefano, vice chairman Rich Greco, event coordinator Haley Stafford and the entire Holiday on Main Street Committee for their terrific support of this longtime event. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.
Another important initiative of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is our KeyBank Workshop Series which covers a variety of important topics for our members. The next installment is scheduled for Tuesday morning, December 11 from 8-10:00 a.m., with a session titled “The Two Faces of Time Management.” Presented by Jim Jackson of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, the workshop will cover practical techniques that we can use to immediately gain control over our day and more effectively manage interruptions and distractions. Another important chamber workshop, this one, an initiative of the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC), will take place on December 12 from 5:30-7:00 p.m., at the Community Health Center on Main Street in Middletown. This workshop is titled, “Accidentally on Purpose: When Drug Abuse Turns Suicidal.” This is a difficult topic but it is a very important one for the business community, and for the community at large. I want to thank our partners in this effort, Middlesex Hospital, Wesleyan University, the Community Health Center, and Rushford for all of their great work and support. More information on both events is available on www.middlesexchamber.com, and I will continue to provide updates in this column as we get closer.
Before wrapping up for the week, I ask once again that members and other interested parties save the date of Wednesday, December 19 for an important chamber morning in Cromwell. We look forward to welcoming as keynote speaker for the final time, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at our annual Governor’s Breakfast at the Red Lion Hotel. Gov. Malloy has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors, going back to the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to thanking him for his service at this important chamber event on Dec. 19. I also appreciate the support of Eversource, who not only sponsors this breakfast meeting on an annual basis, but supports a number of other chamber programs and initiatives.
I must unfortunately close this week’s otherwise festive column on a sad note after the recent passing of two wonderful people who were valued members of our chamber.
Michele Mazzotta was a Middletown native who served as Vice-President and as a loan servicing manager at Liberty Bank for 40 years. She was very active with the chamber during her tenure at Liberty and also supported a number of other community organizations. In fact, she was awarded the Volunteer Hall of Fame Award due to her work with organizations such as the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program and the Middlesex Branch of the NAACP. I attended a memorial mass at St. Mary Church in Portland on Nov. 17 which was a fitting tribute to Michele who was loved by so many. All of us at the chamber offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers for her husband, Larry, her daughter, Devan, her mother, Peg, and her entire family and network of friends at this difficult time. Michele Mazzotta will certainly be missed.
We also recently learned of the passing of Ken MacCormac, a longtime friend to the chamber and to many of us personally. Ken served as a member of the chamber’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors for many years. He served as our chairman in 2008-2009, and was presented with our Distinguished Citizen Award in 2017. He also served as chairman of our Manufacturers’ Council for many years, and supported a host of other chamber events and activities. Ken had a remarkable professional career that included senior leadership positions at a number of companies, and he recently retired from Capewell Components Company after 30 years serving as the company’s President and CEO. Ken leaves behind his wife of sixty years, Mary, their three children Bruce, Craig, and Cynthia, and their beloved grandchildren. I will join other members of the chamber team at a memorial service for Ken on Saturday, Dec.1 in West Hartford. Ken MacCormac was a giant, I will always be grateful for his friendship and support. He will be missed by many.