Banker Chandler Howard wins McRae Community Diversity Award

December 3, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


It’s the holiday season in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.


Another busy week kicks off on Monday with a meeting of our Executive Committee beginning at 11:30 a.m. Chamber Chairman Jay Polke will lead the  meeting which will cover a variety of important topics that affect the business community in our region. I continue to appreciate the support of this outstanding group of business leaders, and look forward to another productive meeting. Later on Monday afternoon, I will attend the holiday party for People’s United Bank in West Hartford. People’s is a longtime supporter of our chamber, and I appreciate the invitation to attend their holiday celebration.


Speaking of local business leaders, I look forward to joining other members of the chamber team and friends and colleagues from throughout the region at Tuesday evening’s presentation of the Liberty Bank Foundation’s 2018 Willard M. McRae Community Diversity Award to Liberty Bank President and CEO Chandler Howard. Tuesday’s event at Saint Clements Castle in Portland will honor Chandler’s lifelong commitment to building inclusive communities through leadership, partnership, outreach, and engagement. He has done a terrific job in leading Liberty to new heights in the banking sector, and to new heights of corporate citizenship. I appreciate his wonderful and loyal friendship, and his support of our chamber and of so many community initiatives. We all look forward to celebrating him on Tuesday night.


The week continues on a busy Wednesday with the inaugural meeting of the newly created Speaker's Blue Ribbon Panel on Tourism at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. I am honored to have been asked to serve on this important commission by the Speaker of the House, Joe Aresimowicz. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has always placed a high value on tourism in our region and throughout Connecticut. I look forward to meeting with my fellow members as we work to boost this critical industry sector in our state.


On Wednesday evening, I will return to Hartford along with chamber vice presidents Jeff Pugliese and   Johanna Bond for the annual Celebrate Connecticut event put on by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC). This event honors one company and one initiative in each region of the state, and celebrates their contributions to economic and community development. The Middlesex awardees for 2018 are Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park/Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort, and Wesleyan University. We are so lucky that Middlesex County is home to Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park in Portland and Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. Sean Hayes and his team has taken two historic, but run down properties, and transformed them into major economic development successes. Sean will be honored as part of the event and we look forward to being there to support him. Over the past year and half, Wesleyan University has contributed mightily to the economic development efforts in Middletown and in Middlesex County. Wesleyan formed a strategic partnership with RJ Julia Booksellers to create the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore on Main Street in Middletown. It immediately became a place for discovery, enlightenment, and entertainment in the heart of downtown. The school also joined forces with the City of Middletown, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Liberty Bank, and Middlesex Hospital to develop the MEWS+, a downtown co-working space and so much more. The MEWS+ is developing an innovation eco system for students and entrepreneurs, and it would not have happened without Wesleyan. We look forward to honoring our partners on Wednesday night in Hartford, and continue to appreciate their strong commitment to our region.


Three important chamber division meetings will also take place this week. Our Portland and East Hampton Division meets on Wednesday at CT Training & Consulting Institute in Portland from 8-9:00 a.m., our Central Business Bureau will meet on Thursday at the chamber office, also from 8-9:00 a.m., and the Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division will meet on Friday at the RiverCOG offices in Essex. As I have noted many times and will continue to note, our divisions are critical to the success of the chamber’s operation, and we appreciate all of our chairs, co-chairs, and members that support these important monthly meetings.


The week closes on Friday evening with the 2018 Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Legislative Office Building Atrium in Hartford. I will attend to help honor and to show the chamber’s support for all of this year’s inductees but one in particular, Larry Riley of Middletown. Larry is a longtime friend of the chamber and leads the Pledge of Allegiance at all of our Member Breakfast Meetings. He is a Veteran of the United States Air Force with service in the Vietnam War, and is a former member of the Secret Service. He is also a member of a number of local Veterans Organizations and supports countless community causes. The chamber was thrilled to honor Larry in 2016 with the William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award. Larry’s induction into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame is a well-deserved honor for a great man. I look forward to the induction ceremony.


Back in Middlesex County, the 33rd Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is marching right along with two busy Saturdays still to come. This Saturday, Dec. 8, is Disabled American Veterans- Middletown Chapter #7 day. Families will have the opportunity to meet and greet Santa, take free horse-and-wagon rides in downtown Middletown, and ride on The Fun Train which will be offering free rides on the sidewalk. There will also be a free holiday photo booth located by the crosswalk in front of the Holy Trinity Church. Holiday story time, featuring Police Chief Bill McKenna and Pete the Cat, will be held at R.J. Julia Bookstore from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Volunteers from the DAV #7 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 to have once again. While you are in downtown Middletown, check out the City of Middletown’s Ice Skating Rink located at Harbor Park from 11:00am-3:00pm. Holiday on Main Street concludes on Saturday, Dec. 15. Parking is free in city parking lots. For additional information on events and activities, please visit


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. The company will also sponsor an important workshop immediately following the Member Breakfast Meeting which will focus on emergency preparedness and economic resilience. Our working title for this event is “Is Your Business and Community Resilient to Serious Incidents or Disasters?” Speakers will stress the importance of developing an Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Plan, and will provide some important information on the local preparedness infrastructure in Middlesex County. More information will be available in the coming weeks, but please save the date for this important morning.


I would like to close this week’s column by offering a huge thank you to the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station and their fantastic staff for hosting last week’s Business After Work Networking Reception and 2018 Festival of Wreaths Silent Auction. The Riverhouse team once again put out a delicious spread of food and drink that was enjoyed by the record crowd of attendees. The facility, as always, looked great and ready to go for the holiday season. Owner Jim Bucko, General Manager Hattie Donner, and Corporate & Social Sales Manager Elizabeth Carl are all terrific partners of ours, and we appreciate their continued support.


The holidays are near, the calendar is packed, and the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.


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