Skip to content

Larry McHugh Column

548_248x134

Larry McHugh, President of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce writes the weekly column "On The Move," published in The Middletown Press. The column focuses on the business community and the economic environment in Middlesex County. Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce events and grand openings are a regular feature of the column.

LEAD CT cultivates area’s emerging leaders

February 17, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

February is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Tuesday morning features the second session of one of our newest initiatives, LEAD CT, at the chamber office in Middletown. As I mentioned last month, LEAD CT, which focuses on leadership, empowerment and development, is a year-long Leadership Program that is presented in partnership with Dale Carnegie. The LEAD CT steering committee’s main strategic focus is to identify, cultivate and develop the region’s emerging leaders. The goals of this program are to provide both personal and professional training, to develop peer to peer focus groups, and to introduce or further develop a variety of critical skills. We are excited to be partnering with Dale Carnegie and its leadership model, and we look forward to using it as another strategic way to support the regional business community. I would like to once again thank our LEAD CT Steering Committee, Michael Francoeur from Dale Carnegie who is leading the training, and chamber Vice President Johanna Bond for making this important initiate a reality in Middlesex County.

On the business development front, I look forward to joining Mayor Ben Florsheim, chamber Chairman Don DeVivo, Vice Chairman Tom Byrne, and CBB Chairwoman Pam Steele at a Grand Re-Opening celebration for Kelly Family Orthodontics on Wednesday morning at their outstanding new Middletown office on Saybrook Road. Kelly Family Orthodontics relies on their dedicated and competent team to deliver critical orthodontic services from their two regional locations in Middletown and in Cromwell. I congratulate Drs. Michael and Gillian Kelly, Dr. Jeffrey Bert, and their entire team on the new office and on the continued growth of the business. We wish them the best in 2020 and beyond.

Back to the chamber calendar for a moment, our Women’s Leadership Collaborative Network (WLCN) will hold a networking and plant night event at One MacDonough Place on Wednesday evening. Attendees will hear from Jillian Shea, Founder of PlantHer Garden Coaching, who will share her story of professional transition from a career in farming to starting her own business. I would like to thank One MacDonough Place for hosting this chamber group and for its continued good work in our community.

On the workforce development front, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee which is scheduled for Thursday morning in New Haven. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. They serve the public through the American Job Centers, one of which is located on South Main Street in Middletown. The chamber continues to enjoy a very strong working relationship with Workforce Alliance and we appreciate the support of President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team. I look forward to another productive meeting.

The main event of the week is the chamber’s Board of Directors meeting on Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Middletown Elks Lodge. The chamber’s board is a dynamic group of businesspeople that represents every corner of our region and every industry sector in our economy. This important meeting is hosted by Pratt & Whitney, and we continue to appreciate their support of our camber, and of countless community initiatives. We look forward to a productive meeting which will be led by our Chairman, Don DeVivo, who is doing a great job in this important leadership position for our chamber.

On Thursday evening, our Golf Committee, which meets throughout the year to plan and execute the chamber’s annual sold out Golf Tournament, will meet at Luce Restaurant in downtown Middletown. This year’s chamber Golf Tournament is scheduled for Friday, May 15, 2020 at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield. I will have much more on this major chamber event as we get closer, but we certainly look forward to the sun shining on Middlefield in mid-May.

The week wraps up on Friday morning at the chamber office with a meeting of the MCSAAC Advisory Board at the chamber office. Established in 1991, MCSAAC is a council of the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by the chamber. MCSAAC’s purpose is to reduce the abuse of alcohol and drugs in Middlesex County and the surrounding areas. Board President Tony Salvatore, past chamber Chairman Harry Burr and others, do a great job traveling around the county pushing this critically important message and engaging with the employer community. I look forward to another productive meeting of the Advisory Board on Friday morning and thank all the members for their continued support.

Looking ahead to next week, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, join the chamber staff and fellow chamber members for our monthly Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. This Business After Work, as all of these events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and as we like to say, the best networking around. We thank the entire staff at the Sheraton for having us at this great annual event. I will have more on the Business After work in next week’s column.

As you may have heard, the 2020 Regular Session of the CT. General Assembly recently kicked off in the capital city of Hartford. Our 2020 Legislative Breakfast is scheduled for next Friday, Feb. 28, at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell from 8:00-9:30 a.m. The Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. Chamber members will have the opportunity to ask questions of the legislators about the important 2020 legislative session and other issues facing the business community in Middlesex County. We look forward to a very productive discussion, and thank Comcast, our legislative delegation, and our Legislative Committee for making this important event happen. Sticking with the legislative theme for a moment, the first installment of our Legislative Leadership Series is scheduled for Monday, March 9, 2020 at the Inn at Middletown. We look forward to welcoming Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz back to Middletown for his final appearance at this event during his speakership. This event is sponsored by Updike, Kelly and Spellacy, P.C. Other meetings of the leadership series are currently being scheduled and we will share those dates very soon. The chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay active and engaged throughout this important session.

In closing, I want to remind members and other interested parties that the chamber’s March Member Breakfast Meeting featuring UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill is scheduled for Monday, March 16. Coach Auriemma and the Lady Huskies are looking to finish the season strong as they gear up for another NCAA Tournament run. In addition to UConn’s 11 National Championships under his leadership, Geno has also won the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award eight times, and has two Olympic Gold Medals as Head Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. We certainly look forward to this Member Breakfast which has become a very popular event for our chamber over the course of the past few years. I again want to thank the Coach for speaking to our membership, and MiddleOak for sponsoring this major chamber event. Go Huskies!

The calendar still reads winter, but the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County. Have a great week!

Important Middlesex Chamber division meetings this week

February 10, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

February is rolling right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

This week, as all chamber weeks do, features a number of important meetings and activities throughout our region. This Tuesday, Feb. 11, beginning at 8:00 a.m., the chamber will host a KeyBank sponsored workshop on The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at our Main Street office. Presented by Lauren Middleton of Forest City Marketing, the workshop will explore best practices for refining a website, both on-page and off-page, so that it appears, or “ranks,” at the top of search engines for specific keywords. When done right, SEO will give your business valuable online visibility. More information on this workshop and the entire KeyBank Workshop Series can be found on www.middlesexchamber.com. We look forward to another productive session for our members.

Wednesday morning includes two important meetings, one of our Durham and Middlefield Division, and another of our Business and Education Advisory Council. The division meeting, to be held at the CT Forest and Park Association offices in Middlefield, will feature a presentation from the Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition. The Business and Education Partnership meeting is actually a Breakfast Meeting hosted at Middlesex Community College. The focus will be the continuing education programs available at MxCC including the Skill Up for Manufacturing Program which provides short-term training that leads to national or state certification and employment in the workforce. We look forward to a productive visit to campus where our members will network with current students, graduates, and faculty members. On Thursday morning, the very active Cromwell Division will meet at Cromwell High School, and our Killingworth Division will meet at Killingworth Animal Hospital. The week closes on Friday with a meeting of our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division at the outstanding Riverwind Inn in Deep River. As you can see, the chamber divisions continue to be very active on a number of fronts throughout our region.

Looking ahead, members and other interested parties should save the dates for a number of upcoming, and important, meetings and events.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, join the chamber staff and fellow chamber members for our monthly Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. This Business After Work, as all of these events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and as we like to say, the best networking around. We thank the entire staff at the Sheraton for having us at this great annual event.

On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the chamber’s Distinguished Citizen Committee will meet at the chamber office to select the recipients of the 2020 Distinguished Citizen Award. Each year at the chamber’s Annual Dinner, a special award is presented to one or more individuals who have demonstrated outstanding and unselfish service to the community. Candidates must live or work in Middlesex County, must be at least 21 years old, must be recognized as having been an inspiration to others, and must be generally recognized as having unselfishly given his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. The committee is comprised of previous recipients of this award. If you wish to submit a nomination, please contact the chamber office.

Our 2020 Legislative Breakfast is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell from 8:00-9:30 a.m. The Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. Chamber members will have the opportunity to ask questions of the legislators about the important 2020 legislative session and other issues facing the business community in Middlesex County. We look forward to a very productive discussion, and thank Comcast, our legislative delegation, and our Legislative Committee for making this important event happen.

Sticking with the legislative theme for a moment, the first installment of our Legislative Leadership Series is scheduled for Monday, March 9, 2020 at the Inn at Middletown. We look forward to welcoming Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz back to Middletown for his final appearance at this event during his speakership. This event is sponsored by Updike, Kelly and Spellacy, P.C. Other meetings of the leadership series are currently being scheduled and we will share those dates very soon.

Excitement continues to build for our March Member Breakfast Meeting on Monday, March 16, featuring UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma. This event, which sells out every year, will be held at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. By that time, Coach Auriemma and the Lady Huskies will be looking to finish the season strong as they gear up for another NCAA Tournament run. I will have much more as we get closer, but be sure to register now for this great event in Rocky Hill which will definitely sell out.

I want to share one more date before closing this week’s column on a real positive note. Our Golf Committee, which meets throughout the year and helps to plan and execute the chamber’s annual Golf Tournament, is scheduled to meet on Thursday, February 20. The group will continue its planning for this year’s chamber Golf Tournament which is scheduled for Friday, May 15, 2020 at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield. I will have much more on this major chamber event as we get closer, but we certainly look forward to the sun shining on Middlefield in mid-May.

In closing, I would like to congratulate chamber Vice Chairman, and our longtime friend and supporter, Tom Byrne, who was honored with St. Vincent dePaul’s Distinguished Business Award at their Open Your Heart event which was held last Thursday evening. Tom is the owner of Connecticut Rental Center which is an outstanding local business and true community partner. I thank him for his continued support of our organization, and of many other community initiatives. Other chamber supporters that were honored at the event include Sue Murphy from the Liberty Bank Foundation who was presented with the Corporate Support Award, and Catherine Rees of Middlesex Health who was honored with the Leadership Award. We congratulate them all. Finally, I would like to acknowledge our friend Albert Hamrah who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday. Albert is the best, and he continues to make us all laugh every day. Cheers to the man who makes the sun shine brighter in Middlesex County.

Job fair to help those affected by Red Lion closure

February 3, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

February is upon us in Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Another busy week kicks off on Monday at the chamber office as our Executive Committee gets together for its February meeting. The group will meet to discuss a number of important issues including regional projects, the upcoming legislative session, workforce development, and much more. I continue to appreciate the support of our Chairman, Don DeVivo, and this outstanding group of business leaders and strong corporate citizens. We look forward to another productive meeting.

On Wednesday morning, our Portland and East Hampton Division will hold its February meeting at Disaster Restoration Services (DRS) in Portland, and our Environment and Infrastructure Committee will meet at the chamber office at 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning features the latest meeting of our Central Business Bureau (CBB) which brings together the downtown business community and key city figures on a monthly basis. We look forward to reports from Mayor Florsheim, city directors, and other local stakeholders.

On the workforce development front, the chamber looks forward to partnering with Workforce Alliance, the Department of Labor and the Town of Cromwell on a “Pop Up” Job Fair for the displaced employees of the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell which recently closed. The event will be held on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 in the Arch Room of Cromwell Town Hall, 41 West Street, Cromwell, CT 06416, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The job fair will feature employers from many sectors, but most notably from the hospitality sector. We were very disappointed in the closure of the Red Lion. We are happy to be working with Workforce Alliance, DOL, State Sen. Matt Lesser, State Rep. Christie Carpino, and the Town of Cromwell to assist the displaced employees as they seek new employment. We wish them nothing but the best, and look forward to being a resource for them during this difficult time.

The busy chamber week wraps up on Friday morning with our February Member Breakfast Meeting at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill. The event will feature as keynote speaker, the Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Kaman Corporation, Neal J. Keating. In his role, Neal provides leadership for the business which serves the global defense, commercial aerospace, and industrial markets. Kaman is a major global company which conducts business in over 50 countries throughout the world and has over 3000 employees. They also have a presence in Middletown through Kaman Fuzing & Precision Products on Smith Street. We have asked Neal to provide us with an overview of Kaman and its products, along with his thoughts on the state of manufacturing in Connecticut and beyond as we begin a new year. Immediately following the member breakfast will be a Procurement Workshop titled, “Doing Business with Kaman.” This session will outline the global Kaman Corporation procurement opportunities for supply chain companies, and will provide you with the opportunity to network with Kaman leadership and learn more about how your company can work with Kaman in 2020 and beyond. Kaman is also the sponsor of this important chamber event, and I would like to thank Neal and his team for their support of this, and of so many community initiatives. I would also like to thank U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration Director Anne Evans and her team for their strong support of this event and of our chamber. Anne was instrumental in getting Neal to speak at the event and we appreciate it very much. Their team of three, based in Middletown, is a truly professional group, and we are fortunate to have them based in our community.

A quick note on next week, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, beginning at 8:00 a.m., the chamber will host a KeyBank sponsored workshop on The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at our Main Street office. Presented by Lauren Middleton of Forest City Marketing, the workshop will provide you and your business with the practice of refining aspects of a website–both on-page and off-page–so that it appears, or “ranks,” at the top of search engines for specific keywords. When done right, SEO will give your business valuable online visibility. More information on this workshop and the entire KeyBank Workshop Series can be found on www.middlesexchamber.com.

Looking ahead, members and other interested parties should save the dates for a number of upcoming, and important, meetings and events. On Tuesday, Feb. 25, join the chamber staff and fellow chamber members for our monthly Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. This Business After Work, as all of these events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and as we like to say, the best networking around. We thank the entire staff at the Sheraton for having us at this great annual event. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the chamber’s Distinguished Citizen Committee will meet at the chamber office to select the recipients of the 2020 Distinguished Citizen Award. Each year at the chamber’s Annual Dinner, a special award is presented to one or more members of the business community who have demonstrated outstanding and unselfish service to the community. Candidates must live or work in Middlesex County, must be at least 21 years old, must be recognized as having been an inspiration to others, and must be generally recognized as having unselfishly given his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. The committee is comprised of previous recipients of this award. I look forward to seeing them all and thank them for their continued service to our community. If you wish to submit a nomination, please contact the chamber office. Our 2020 Legislative Breakfast is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell from 8:00-9:30 a.m. The Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. Chamber members will have the opportunity to ask questions of the legislators about the important 2020 legislative session and other issues facing the business community in Middlesex County. We look forward to a very productive discussion, and thank Comcast, our legislative delegation, and our Legislative Committee for making this important event happen. Finally, excitement continues to build for our March Member Breakfast Meeting on Monday, March 16 featuring UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma. This event, which sells out every year, will be held at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. By that time, Coach Auriemma and the Lady Huskies will be looking to finish the season strong as they gear up for another NCAA Tournament run. I will have much more as we get closer, but be sure to register now for this great event in Rocky Hill.

While the calendar is packed, and optimism remains high, I must once again close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of Donald Bidwell Sr. at the age of 89. Don was a close friend and mentor to me, and to many others in this community and beyond. Words cannot express the appreciation and respect I have for him, and for all that he has done for our region. He was the CEO and owner of Bidwell Industrial Group, Inc. in Middletown, and was always a strong supporter of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. However, his support of community organizations did not end with us. Don served on the boards of the Environics Inc., Castle Bank, Liberty Bank, The Lyman Farm, Middlesex Hospital, Junior Achievement, The Middletown Foundation of the Arts, YMCA of Northern Middlesex County, and the Middlesex United Way. He was honored by numerous organizations for his work and his citizenship. We were proud to present him with the chamber’s Distinguished Citizen Award in 1992, an honor very well deserved. Don also served in the United States Army, service for which we are all grateful. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of 65 years, Helen, his children, Michael and Donnie, his grandchildren, and all of his family and friends at this difficult time. Don led a distinguished career and life, and he will be missed by many.

Business events of interest abound this week

January 27, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

January turns to February this week in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Another busy week kicks off on Monday with a Grand Opening Celebration for MC Barber Academy at 346 Main Street in Middletown. MC Barber is a brand-new barber academy, barbershop and store in the heart of downtown. We wish the entire MC Barber team nothing but the best as they expand their reach into Middletown. I look forward to joining Mayor Florsheim, CBB Chairwoman Pam Steele, chamber Chairman Don DeVivo and Vice Chairman Tom Byrne, and other friends and supporters for the occasion.

On the chamber division front, our Westbrook Division looks forward to its January meeting which is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the Water’s Edge Resort and Spa. The Westbrook Division continues to be very active, and is a key component of our shoreline-based activities. The chamber’s February division meetings kick off next week in Portland and in Middletown. As I have noted many times, our divisions continue to be a critical piece of our organizational structure.

On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to a meeting in Hartford with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight Metro Chambers of Commerce which collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state. These meetings always feature productive discussions about collaboration, and joint advocacy for the business community. I am sure that the upcoming legislative session will be a hot topic at this important meeting. I look forward to another productive gathering.

Moving to later in the week, I look forward to joining fellow members of the chamber staff at The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam for the Middlesex United Way Annual Meeting. The following individuals and organizations will be honored with the United Way’s prestigious awards at the event: Matt Stillman with the Community Service Award, Michael Conner with the Community Leadership Award, Child and Family Agency of Southeastern CT with the Community Impact Award, Laura Pedersen with the Tocqueville Society Philanthropy Award, and Eric Kane with the Justin Wilkie Next Generation Award. We look forward to celebrating all of these esteemed individuals on Thursday morning in Haddam, and thank Kevin Wilhelm and his team for their continued partnership with our chamber.

On Thursday evening, I will attend the Middletown Unified Theatre show at Middletown High School. I look forward to seeing all of the performers, but especially my friend Tony Petruzzello who along with everyone involved, has put so much passion and energy into the production. I wish them all the best for a successful run of shows that stretches into the weekend.

Looking ahead to February, our next Member Breakfast Meeting will take place on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. The event will feature as keynote speaker, the Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Kaman Corporation, Neal J. Keating. In his role, Neal provides leadership for the business which serves the global defense, commercial aerospace, and industrial markets. Kaman is a major global company which conducts business in over 50 countries throughout the world and has over 3000 employees. They also have a strong presence in Middletown through Kaman Fuzing & Precision Products on Smith Street. We have asked Neal to provide us with an overview of Kaman and its products, along with his thoughts on the state of manufacturing in Connecticut and beyond as we begin a new year. Immediately following the member breakfast will be a Procurement Workshop titled, Doing Business with Kaman. This session will outline the global Kaman Corporation procurement opportunities for supply chain companies. We look forward to a very productive morning in Rocky Hill on Feb. 7, and I would like to once again thank Neal and his team for their support of this, and of so many community initiatives.

Before closing, I would like to take a moment to encourage our members and other interested parties to save the dates for our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill on Tuesday, February 25, our 2020 Legislative Breakfast on Friday, February 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell, and our Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma on Monday, March 16, also at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel. As always, the Business After Work event will feature a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests along with outstanding networking opportunities, the Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives, and the Member Breakfast Meeting will feature the Coach at his best. I will have much more on these important events in upcoming editions of the chamber column, but again, please save the dates.

I’m afraid I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Rachel Coleman, a longtime friend to the chamber and to many people in our community. Rachel did amazing work, along with her family, through Coleman Brothers Shows which entertained countless people for many, many years. In fact, the Coleman Brothers Shows Carnival has been a staple in Middletown for over 100 years. Rachel was truly a special person, and our thoughts and prayers are with her vast network of family and friends at this difficult time. We also recently learned of the passing of Mike Waller, another local staple and longtime and committed member of the Lyman Farm team. I will have more on Mike’s passing in the coming weeks, but our thoughts are with his family as well at this difficult time.

Middletown Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner this week

January 20, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

This week, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Middlesex County and throughout our great country. MLK Day is a special day, one that celebrates not only his birthday, but the huge impact that the civil rights leader had on the United States of America. There are many celebrations around Middlesex County this week that will honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. I am proud that chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall will represent our organization at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Committee of Greater Middletown event on Monday afternoon at South Congregational Church in Middletown. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce also has a longtime and enduring partnership with the Middlesex County Chapter of the NAACP which we appreciate very much. I would like to take a moment to recognize all of those who volunteer their time in the service of others. We are all in this together, and it is in that spirit that we honor Dr. King’s legacy.

The upcoming chamber week is another busy one for our entire team.

Our latest initiative, LEAD CT, kicks off this Tuesday at the chamber office with its opening session. LEAD CT, which focuses on leadership, empowerment and development, is a year-long Leadership Program that is presented in partnership with Dale Carnegie. The LEAD CT steering committee’s main strategic focus is to identify, cultivate and develop the region’s emerging leaders. The goals of this program are to provide both personal and professional training, to develop peer to peer focus groups, and to introduce or further develop a variety of critical skills. We are excited to be partnering with Dale Carnegie and its leadership model, and look forward to rolling it out to the regional business community. In addition to our first session that begins on Tuesday, we already have a waiting list for the second session which begins in July. I would like to once again thank our LEAD CT Steering Committee, and chamber Vice President Johanna Bond, for making this important initiate a reality in Middlesex County.

On the chamber division front, we look forward to a special meeting of our Killingworth Division on Wednesday night at the Congregational Church on CT- 81. The meeting is sponsored by the HOPE Partnership, and members of their Education and Advocacy Sub-Committee will be on hand to provide an informative presentation to our group. HOPE Partnership is committed to raising awareness on issues surrounding affordable housing in our region. I thank them for their support of this meeting, and for their good work in the community.

Thursday morning features a visit to New Haven for a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Board of Directors. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. They serve the public through the American Job Centers, one of which is located on South Main Street in Middletown. The chamber continues to enjoy a very strong working relationship with Workforce Alliance, and we appreciate the support of President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team. I look forward to another productive meeting.

While I am in New Haven for the workforce meeting, members of the chamber team will be in Haddam for the February meeting of the chamber’s Haddam and East Haddam Division. As I have noted many times, the chamber divisions continue to play a critical role in our organization, and I know our members look forward to another productive meeting on Thursday morning.

A busy Thursday wraps up in the evening with the 27th Annual Middletown Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Elks Lodge in Middletown. I want to take a moment to congratulate the following individuals and teams who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Thursday evening: Chris Brown, Mike Fiala, Jim Foley, Hal Guy, Sandy Hoffman, Tony Pulino, Marty Ryczek, Frank Shekosky, Maggie Smith, Amari Spievey, the undefeated 1969 Wesleyan University football team, and the 1980 Xavier High School baseball team. All of these fine individuals and teams deserve this high honor, and I look forward to celebrating their achievements at the induction dinner on Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, I look forward to attending the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (CACCE) event at the Inn at Middletown. The meeting will feature a preview of the 2020 legislative session, along with an update on the planning for Connecticut Business Day which is scheduled for early March. CACCE continues to play an important role through its work to connect chambers from around the state. I look forward to seeing a number of colleagues and friends and thank them for coming to Middletown.

Looking ahead to February, our next Member Breakfast Meeting will take place on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill. The event will feature as keynote speaker, the Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Kaman Corporation, Neal J. Keating. In his role, Neal provides leadership for the business which serves the global defense, commercial aerospace, and industrial markets. Kaman is a major global company which conducts business in over 50 countries throughout the world and has over 3000 employees. They also have a strong presence in Middletown through Kaman Fuzing & Precision Products on Smith Street. We have asked Neal to provide us with an overview of Kaman and its products, along with his thoughts on the state of manufacturing in Connecticut and beyond as we begin a new year. Immediately following the member breakfast will be a Procurement Workshop titled, Doing Business with Kaman. This session will outline the global Kaman Corporation procurement opportunities for supply chain companies. We look forward to a very productive morning in Rocky Hill on Feb. 7, and I would like to once again thank Neal and his team for their support of this, and of so many community initiatives.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to encourage our members and other interested parties to save the dates for our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill on Tuesday, February 25, and our 2020 Legislative Breakfast on Friday, February 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. As always, the Business After Work event will feature a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests along with outstanding networking opportunities, and the Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. I will have much more on these important events as we get closer.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County. Have a great week!

Welcome to Restaurant Week

January 13, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

Welcome to Restaurant Week!

Taste of Middlesex County, brought to you by Comcast Business, is scheduled from January 13 through January 19 at many of the delicious dining locations in our wonderful region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This year, there will be two dining options both with a prix fixe 3-course meal, one for $20.20, and the other for $30.20 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Please be sure to visit one or more of our participating restaurants throughout the region. The list includes: Baci Grill and Mizzu Asian Bistro & Hibachi in Cromwell, Red House in Deep River, On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard and The Gelston House in East Haddam, Ratatouille Bistro & Creperie in East Hampton, The Griswold Inn and Scotch Plains Tavern in Essex, Fire at the Ridge and Ridgeside Tavern in Middlefield, Eli Cannon's Tap Room, El Pulpo & Tapas Bar, Esca Restaurant & Wine Bar, Herd Restaurant, La Boca Mexican Restaurant, Stella D'oro, Tavern at the Armory at Inn at Middletown, and Vero Cucino Rustico in Middletown, and Water's Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on the chamber’s website which has all of the information on participating restaurants and their excellent menu options. Bon Appetit!

Another highlight of the week is the first KeyBank Workshop Series session of the new year, which is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the chamber office. The topic of the training, which is of critical importance, is sexual harassment prevention. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will all be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to very damaging charges of sexual harassment. This session meets State of Connecticut requirements for employers which were expanded greatly during the last legislative session. All employers with three or more employees must get all of their employees trained in sexual harassment prevention. Please contact the chamber for registration information for the two sessions on Tuesday morning, the first at 8:00 a.m., and the follow up at 10:15 a.m. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I want to again thank their entire team for its strong support of this important chamber initiative.  The sexual harassment prevention training in January will be followed up by sessions on search engine optimization in February, and best practices surrounding hiring and firing in March. I encourage all of our members to take advantage of these terrific, and in some cases required, training sessions.

In addition to Taste of Middlesex and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, this week also features other important chamber meetings at different points throughout Middlesex County. The first Durham and Middlefield Division meeting of 2020 is scheduled for Wednesday morning at Torrison Stone and Garden in Durham, and on Thursday morning, the very active Cromwell Division will meet at the Courtyard by Marriott. Later on Thursday, the chamber’s Board of Directors will hold its January meeting at Baci Grill in Cromwell from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This board luncheon is sponsored by Eversource. Our Board of Directors is made up of outstanding business people from a variety of different industry sectors and from throughout Middlesex County. Chamber Chairman Don DeVivo will lead what will certainly be a very productive meeting on Thursday afternoon in Cromwell. A busy Thursday wraps up in the evening at Luce Restaurant in Middletown for a meeting of the chamber’s Golf Committee. Our Golf Committee meets throughout the year and helps to plan and execute the chamber’s annual Golf Tournament, one of our largest events. This year’s event, which will sell out once again, is scheduled for Friday, May 15, 2020 at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield. I will have much more on this major chamber event as we get closer, but we certainly look forward to the sun shining on Middlefield in mid-May.

On the Grand Opening front, I look forward to joining chamber Chairman Don DeVivo, Immediate Past Chairman Jay Polke, Cromwell Division Chairman Rodney Bitgood, and local municipal officials from the Town of Cromwell at a Ribbon Cutting celebration for Arbor Meadows, a By Carrier housing development which features 75 beautiful single-family homes. Cromwell has experienced a lot of exciting development activity in recent years, and we look forward to seeing that continue in 2020. Before moving off of grand openings, I want to note that I enjoyed the event celebrating the opening of My Honey’s Sweeter Boutique on William Street in Middletown which was held last Friday. We certainly wish their entire team nothing but the best as they embark on this exciting new journey in our community.

In closing, I am excited to announce that the next chamber Member Breakfast Meeting has been scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. The event will feature as keynote speaker, the Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Kaman Corporation, Neal J. Keating. In his role, Neal provides leadership for the business which serves the global defense, commercial aerospace, and industrial markets. Kaman is a major global company which conducts business in over 50 countries throughout the world and has over 3000 employees. They also have a presence in Middletown through Kaman Fuzing & Precision Products on Smith Street. We have asked Neal to provide us with an overview of Kaman and its products, along with his thoughts on the state of manufacturing in Connecticut and beyond as we begin a new year. We are also planning a manufacturing roundtable immediately following the event and look forward to that as well. Kaman is also the sponsor of this important chamber event, and I would like to thank Neal and his team for their support of this, and of so many community initiatives.

It may be cold outside, but the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County. Have a great week!

Taste of Middlesex County Coming Up!

January 6, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

2020 is off and running, and the chamber team is on the move.

The first full week of the year is a busy one with a number of important meetings being held at different sites throughout the county. The week kicks off on Monday with a meeting of our Executive Committee beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the chamber office. Chamber Chairman Don DeVivo will lead the meeting which will cover a variety of important topics that affect the business community in our region. On Wednesday, the Portland and East Hampton Division will hold its January meeting at Fox on the Green in Portland, Thursday features the first Central Business Bureau meeting of the year at the chamber office, and Friday morning features meetings of the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division at Tri Town Youth Services in Deep River and the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) at the chamber office. As you can see, we are truly off and running.

The highlight of the week is Wednesday evening, Jan. 8, when the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the year will be held at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event, but for his commitment to Middlefield, to Portland through Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, and to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. This exciting Business After Work event will also serve as the official kick off of the fifth annual "Taste of Middlesex County" Restaurant Week, brought to you by Comcast Business, which is back by popular demand in 2020. Immediately prior to the BAW, a “Restaurant Showdown” will take place featuring a number of our participating restaurants. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 13-19 at delicious dining locations throughout our region. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This year, there will be two dining options both with a prix fixe 3-course meal, one for $20.20, and the other for $30.20 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Please visit the chamber’s website for a list of participating restaurants for the Taste. We will be sure to keep everyone updated in the chamber column and through other promotional means. Bon Appetit!

On the Grand Opening front, I look forward to joining Mayor Ben Florsheim, chamber Chairman Don DeVivo, and CBB Chairwoman Pam Steele at Stella D’Oro on Court Street in Middletown for a Ribbon Cutting celebration scheduled for Friday afternoon. We look forward to welcoming their entire team to the Middlesex business community, and wish them nothing but the best as we move forward.

Switching gears a bit, I am happy to report that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue the very successful KeyBank Workshop Series in the new year. Our first session, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets State of Connecticut requirements for employers. Please contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I want to again thank their entire team for its strong support of this important chamber initiative.  The sexual harassment prevention training in January will be followed up by sessions on search engine optimization in February, and best practices surrounding hiring and firing in March.

As I noted last week, two important chamber dates that should definitely be saved include our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill on Tuesday, February 25, and our 2020 Legislative Breakfast on Friday, February 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. As always, the Business After Work event will feature a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests along with outstanding networking opportunities, and the Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. I will have much more on these important events as we get closer.

While all of this brings great excitement for 2020, I must again close the chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Peter DeRita at the age of 74. Pete DeRita was an amazing man. A true patriot and American hero, he served with honor and distinction in the U.S. Army with service in the 4th Infantry Division A. Company 1st of the Eight in Vietnam. Peter saw some of the most intense fighting of the entire conflict, and along with his fellow veterans, deserves our unending appreciation and respect. In addition to his incredible military service, he led an excellent career in business and was a committed citizen of Middletown for many years. A Founder of DeRita Construction Company, Peter led a number of signature projects in our area including the development of many of the athletic fields that we have all come to love, along with numerous road projects around the state. He was a longtime member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce which I will always appreciate, but much more than that, I appreciate his friendship. Finally, he was a longtime youth coach of football, basketball and baseball in a variety of leagues in Middletown and in Old Saybrook, and supported a host of community organizations along the way including Xavier High School which honored him with induction into its Hall of Honors. Peter was always giving back to the community that he loved. Above all of this however, he was devoted to his family, first and foremost. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gerry, his four sons and their wives Peter DeRita Jr. and Susan DeRita, David and Donna DeRita, Gregory and Jessica DeRita, and Brian and Sarah DeRita, his 13 beloved grandchildren, and his entire family at this difficult time. We are grateful for Peter’s service and his life, and he will be missed by many.

Happy New Year Middlesex County!

December 30, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

Happy New Year, Middlesex County.

Now that 2019 has come to an end and 2020 is upon us, I would like to wish everyone in Middlesex County and throughout the great State of Connecticut a very Happy New Year. The beginning of a new year always brings optimism and the chance for a fresh start. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is excited about the year ahead. We look forward to continuing our work on behalf of the business community in Middlesex County on a number of fronts. We will continue to develop our divisions and committees so that members can engage with state and local officials and address issues of importance to their region or their industry sector. We will continue to host large scale Member Breakfast Meetings with terrific speakers, and outstanding networking events that benefit our members. We will continue to reach out to non-member businesses and organizations and invite them to come aboard. We will continue to implement vital workforce development and educational training programs that are helping to develop the community and create and retain jobs. We will continue to develop an innovation eco-system in Middletown and throughout Middlesex County. Finally, we will expand on our efforts to promote Middlesex County and as a key tourism hub in the northeast, and will work with manufacturers and our educational institutions to develop what is a critical workforce pipeline. I am very optimistic about 2020, and you can bet that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will be on the move in the new year.

The new year gets off to a fast start in the month of January starting with next Wednesday evening, Jan. 8, when the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the year will be held at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to Middlefield, to Portland through Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, and to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. This exciting Business After Work event will also serve as the official kick off of the fifth annual "Taste of Middlesex County" Restaurant Week, brought to you by Comcast Business, which is back by popular demand in 2020. Immediately prior to the BAW, a “Restaurant Showdown” will take place featuring a number of our participating restaurants. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 13-19 at delicious dining locations throughout our region. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This year, there will be two dining options both with a prix fixe 3-course meal, one for $20.20, and the other for $30.20 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on the chamber’s website for a list of participating restaurants for the taste. We will be sure to keep everyone updated in the chamber column and through other promotional means. Bon Appetit!

Switching gears a bit, I am happy to report that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue the very successful KeyBank Workshop Series in the new year. Our first session, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets State of Connecticut requirements for employers. Please contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I want to again thank their entire team for its strong support of this important chamber initiative. The sexual harassment prevention training in January will be followed up by sessions on search engine optimization in February, and best practices surrounding hiring and firing in March.

Chamber divisions and committees start up again next week at different locations throughout Middlesex County, and our team is working hard to develop the overall chamber calendar for the coming weeks and months. Two dates that should definitely be saved however include our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill on Tuesday, February 25, and our 2020 Legislative Breakfast on Friday, February 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. As always, the Business After Work event will feature a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests along with outstanding networking opportunities, and the Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. I will have much more on these important events as we get closer, but please be sure to save the dates.

While the chamber is on the move and optimism about the new year strong, it is with a heavy heart that I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Robert “Red” McKinney, a well-respected friend to many people and organizations in Middlesex County. A life-long resident of East Hampton, Red lived in the village of Middle Haddam for the past 45 years. Throughout his entire adult life, Red was heavily involved in many charitable initiatives that benefit a variety of community organizations. A partial list of the organizations that Red supported over the years includes: The East Hampton Rotary and Lions Clubs, the East Hampton Old Home Day Association, the Food/Fuel Bank, the Connecticut Make-A-Wish Foundation, Hospital for Special Care, Middlesex Health and the Middlesex Cancer Center, the East Hampton Volunteer Ambulance Association, the Middle Haddam Library, and the Saint Patrick Church where Red was an active parishioner for many years. He was also involved in local politics and was held in high regard by both political parties and by individuals from all over the political spectrum. Finally, Red was a businessman, who along with his wife Anne, managed commercial and residential properties through their business, Hill Top Associates. The chamber was proud to present Red with our Distinguished Citizen Award in 2009, and I am so glad we did. More important than all of this however, was Red’s devotion to his wonderful family. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Anne, his daughters Shannon, Taren, who was an outstanding chamber employee for four years, and Kirsten, his son Ryan, his beloved grandchildren, and his entire family at this difficult time. May they take comfort in the fact that Red led a life well lived, and that he will be remembered fondly. Robert “Red” McKinney will be missed.

On another sad note, we recently learned that Peter Derita Sr. also passed away. I will have a lot more on Pete’s passing in next week’s column, but our thoughts and prayers are with his family as well at this difficult time.

Holiday Season time to reflect

December 23, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

It is hard to believe, but we have reached the holidays in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation.

The holiday season is a time to reflect on the past year, to express appreciation for those most important to us, and look ahead with a positive attitude to the year ahead.  Our chamber is truly lucky to have a dedicated Board of Directors which is led by our outstanding Chairman, DATTCO President Don DeVivo. Don, and all of our past chairs, exemplify what this chamber is all about, working together every day to make sure Middlesex County is a great place to live, work and play. I continue to be proud of my dedicated staff that works hard every day for the business community in Middlesex County. I also continue to appreciate the unwavering support of our entire membership. From the members of our Executive Committee and Board of Directors, to our division and committee chairs, to our many supporters throughout Middlesex County, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would like to wish everyone in our region a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a safe and joyous holiday season. I also ask that as we celebrate the holidays, we keep in mind the men and women of our armed forces who are serving at home, and around the world, to keep us safe and free. Please also keep in mind those who are less fortunate. May they experience joy and happiness during this holiday season and beyond.

Last week was a sprint from start to finish for me and the entire chamber team.

On Tuesday afternoon, I joined Mayor Ben Florsheim, chamber Chairman Don DeVivo, our Central Business Bureau Chairwoman Pam Steele, and the Middletown Downtown Business District at the Grand Opening celebration for Spread Cheese Co. which is located in Main Street Market. Spread Cheese Co. is an artisanal cheese boutique that offers an evolving mix of domestic and imported cheeses plus specialty grocery items and unique kitchenware to help you create the perfect cheese board. I congratulate owners Jamie Tomassetti and Lindsey Eberle, and look forward to working with them as they grow this exciting new local business.

On Thursday afternoon, the chamber’s Board of Directors held its December meeting at The Gelston House in East Haddam. The Gelston House looked terrific as always, and the lunch the staff served was delicious. Anthony Assante, a past chairman of our chamber and longtime supporter of the organization, sponsored the meeting as he does on an annual basis. I thank Anthony and his company, Egidio Assante Wealth Management, and Iso Dedushaj and his team at The Gelston House for a terrific meeting.

Over the weekend, I was honored to once again attend Joe Serra’s annual holiday party at Cantina Café Ristorante in Middletown on Saturday. The party featured a true who’s who of state and local leaders, along with an outstanding spread of Joe’s favorite cuisine. I know a good time was had by all, and I appreciate Joe’s invitation to the party along with his longtime friendship.

Looking ahead to January, I am happy to announce that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue the very successful KeyBank Workshop Series in the new year. Our first session, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets State of Connecticut requirements for employers. Please contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I want to again thank their entire team for its strong support of this important chamber initiative.

Finally, on Wednesday evening, Jan. 8, the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the New Year will be held at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to Middlefield, to Portland through Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, and to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. This exciting Business After Work event will also serve as the official kick off of the fifth annual "Taste of Middlesex County" Restaurant Week, brought to you by Comcast Business, which is back by popular demand in 2020. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 13-19 at delicious dining locations throughout our region. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This year, there will be two dining options both with a prix fixe 3-course meal, one for $20.20, and the other for $30.20 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on the chamber’s website and keep an eye out for a list of participating restaurants as we get closer to Restaurant Week. We will be sure to keep everyone updated in the chamber column and through other promotional means. Bon Appetit!

I will close this week’s column by once again wishing everyone a joyous and safe holiday season with family and friends. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to be on the move, and we look forward to another great year in 2020.

Happy Holidays!

Business events will round out 2019

December 16, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

Middlesex County is rocking with the holiday spirit, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Before getting into some of the happenings of this week and the remainder of the month, I want to congratulate Vinal Technical High School on the recent opening of its new Emergency Operations Center at its Daniels Street facility in Middletown. An initiative of Vinal’s Criminal Justice and Protective Services program, the EOC provides students with hands-on, career development experience when disasters strike. With extensive Federal Emergency Management training, a state-of-the-art operations center, and guidance from field-experienced teaching staff, students will provide critical support and updates to deployed federal agencies during rescue and recovery operations. Chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese attended the Ribbon Cutting for the EOC last Monday along with a number of state and local dignitaries. I appreciate the invitation that was extended to the chamber, and we certainly look forward to being a constructive partner as we work collectively to protect our region’s assets, and most importantly, its people. I want to thank Comcast and Eversource for supporting this outstanding initiative at Vinal, and for all of the good work they do in the community. It is very much appreciated. I also want to thank everyone who attended last Friday’s Member Breakfast Meeting with Gov. Lamont. A sold-out crowd of chamber members and supporters joined us for the event which featured keynote remarks from the governor and introductory remarks from Eversource CEO Jim Judge. The event also featured a surprise appearance by Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano who was brought up to the podium by the governor. Both men closed the event together, in the spirit of bipartisanship, and received a standing ovation. I thank Gov. Lamont for sharing his outlook for 2020 in our state, and Eversource for sponsoring the final major chamber event of what has been a very busy year. We look forward to another productive year in 2020.

On to this week which features the final two chamber division meetings of 2019. Our Westbrook Division will meet at the Westbrook Inn B&B on Tuesday, and the East Haddam & Haddam Division will meet on Thursday at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station. I want to once again thank all of our division chairs and other supporters for an outstanding 2019. Our divisions will continue to be a critical piece of the chamber infrastructure in the new year and beyond.

In addition to the division meeting in Haddam on Thursday, a Workforce Alliance Executive Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday morning in New Haven. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. They serve the public through the American Job Centers, one of which is located on South Main Street in Middletown. The chamber continues to enjoy a very strong working relationship with Workforce Alliance and we appreciate the support of President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team. I look forward to another productive meeting.

The main event of the week is the final 2019 meeting of the chamber’s Board of Directors from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at The Gelston House in East Haddam. The chamber’s board is a dynamic group of businesspeople that represents every corner of our region and every industry sector in our economy. This December Board of Directors’ meeting is sponsored by Anthony Assante and his firm Egidio Assante Wealth Management on an annual basis. Anthony is a Past Chairman, Executive Committee member, and longtime supporter of our chamber. I thank him personally and on behalf of the chamber for sponsoring this board luncheon once again. We look forward to a great meeting which will be led by our Chairman, Don DeVivo, who is doing a great job in this important leadership position for our chamber.

This week closes with a meeting of the Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) Advisory Board on Friday morning. I look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow board members and Acting CEO Lakisha Hyatt and members of her team.

Looking ahead to January, I am happy to announce that the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue the very successful KeyBank Workshop Series in the new year. Our first session, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the chamber office. The definition of sexual harassment, liability, and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets the State of Connecticut's requirement for two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers. Please contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I want to again thank their entire team for its strong support of this important chamber initiative.

Finally, on Wednesday evening, Jan. 8, the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the New Year will be held at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to Middlefield, to Portland through Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, and to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. This exciting Business After Work event will also serve as the official kick off of the fifth annual "Taste of Middlesex County" Restaurant Week, brought to you by Comcast Business, which is back by popular demand in 2020. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 13-19 at delicious dining locations throughout our region. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This year, there will be two dining options both with a prix fixe 3-course meal, one for $20.20, and the other for $30.20 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to once again thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County which is an exciting week for our chamber and for our region. Please visit the Taste of Middlesex County tab on the chamber’s website and keep an eye out for a list of participating restaurants as we get closer to Restaurant Week. We will be sure to keep everyone updated in the chamber column and through other promotional means. Bon Appetit!

In closing, I ask that everyone please consider using a local Middlesex County business for their shopping needs this holiday season. We are blessed with a wonderful business community here in our region, and I am proud that the many businesspeople we work with on a daily basis are not only concerned with operating a successful business, but with the health and well-being of our community and all of our residents. Please support them if you can, because we are all in this together.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

Lamont to keynote member breakfast in Cromwell

December 9, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

The holiday season is in full swing in Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Before getting into some of the happenings of this week and the remainder of the month, I want to note that I very much enjoyed my visit to Powder Hollow Brewery in Middletown last Friday for its Grand Opening Celebration. Powder Hollow Brewery, which specializes in hand crafted microbrews designed for quality and taste, recently opened on Washington Street. This new location for the brewery features their 'experimental' pilot brewing system, along with local guest taps from other Connecticut breweries and wineries. I was happy to join Mayor Ben Florsheim and chamber Chairman Don DeVivo for the occasion, and we wish Michael McManus and the entire team at Powder Hollow nothing but the best. Sticking with the Grand Opening theme for a moment, I look forward to joining the mayor and Don once again, on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 10:00 a.m. at Y & J Nail Spa, Inc. on Main Street for their celebration. We wish Yu Chen and the entire team all the best as they embark on this exciting new business venture.

This week also features a number of other exciting events and activities in our region.

On Monday, I look forward to joining leaders from throughout the state for an important meeting in Hartford hosted by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC). This discussion will focus on the many economic and workforce development initiatives that are either underway, or being planned for rollout in early 2020. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner as these important conversations continue throughout the state.

Back in Middletown, our KeyBank Workshop Series continues on Tuesday, Dec. 10 with a session on Guerrilla Marketing presented by Patrick Ganino of Social Tuna. Guerrilla Marketing is a great alternative to traditional marketing. It uses unconventional tactics to get maximum results when promoting a brand, business or service at minimal costs. It is about taking the consumer by surprise and making a long-lasting impression that aims to strike the consumer at a more memorable and personal level. The session begins at 8:00 a.m. and will be held at the chamber office. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

On the chamber division front, this week is set to feature three important meetings throughout our county. On Wednesday, our Durham and Middlefield Division will hold its monthly meeting at A Second Chance CPR & First Aid Training in Durham. This meeting will feature local and chamber updates along with a presentation by Betsy Dean, Executive Director of Durham Middlefield Youth and Family Services. Thursday morning will feature our Cromwell Division meeting at Mattabassett District, and our Killingworth Division meeting at Chatfield B&B and Farm. Both of these meetings will feature important local updates for the business community in these important member towns. I would like to once again thank our division chairs, and all of our member businesses that step up to host these important chamber meetings.

The main event of the week is of course our annual Governor’s Breakfast which is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 13 at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has hosted the sitting Governor of Connecticut at our December Member Breakfast Meeting going back to the days of Gov. William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Ned Lamont to his first chamber Member Breakfast Meeting which will be a sold event, sponsored by Eversource. I thank the governor for taking the time, and thank Eversource for its sponsorship and its longtime support of our chamber.

Rounding out this week, the 34th Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney and the City of Middletown will hold its final day of events and activities this Saturday, Dec. 14. Planned events and activities include: The Fun Train, which will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, the free Holiday Photo Booth, a Petting Farm from JD’s Pony Express of Killingworth with animals including a sheep, goats, a rabbit, alpaca’s, and a miniature donkey named Wilbur, performances by the Connecticut Yuletide Carolers, an Ornament Decorating Workshop at The Buttonwood Tree, and various activities at the Russell Library. The highlight of the day will take place from 11:30 a.m.-12 Noon at Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, where Police Chief Bill McKenna will read stories with special our special guest, The Grinch. Holiday on Main Street is an institution in Middletown and in Middlesex County. It would not be possible without our dedicated committee of volunteers, staff, and of course, our sponsors, most notably the City of Middletown and Pratt & Whitney. Additional Holiday on Main sponsors include: Middletown Downtown Business District, iHeart Media, Community Health Center, Malloves Jewelers, Middlesex Eye Physicians, Webster Bank, Apple Rehab- Middletown, Cinder + Salt, Department of Children and Families, Leggett & Platt Aerospace Middletown, Middlesex YMCA, Russell Library, Adelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services, Dunkin Donuts, First Church, and Middletown Dental Associates. Finally, I would like to offer a special thank you to the Chairman of the event, Al Santostefano, Vice-Chairman, Rich Greco, and our Central Business Bureau Chairwoman, Pam Steele. We are very grateful for their efforts and support. For all of the details on Holiday on Main Street events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.

I would like to close this week’s column by previewing two very exciting chamber initiatives that are planned for 2020. First of all, members and other interested parties should keep an eye out for Leadership CT, a year long Leadership Program presented in partnership with Dale Carnegie. The Lead CT steering committee’s main strategic focus is to cultivate the region’s emerging leaders in their organizations, businesses, and the community at large. The goal is to provide both personal and professional training, to develop peer to peer focus groups, and to introduce or further develop a variety of critical skills. We look forward to introducing the Dale Carnegie Leadership Model to the regional business community, and we believe that it will take our top performers and turn them into the next generation of leaders.

Finally, the chamber’s economic resilience efforts will be brought to new levels in 2020. We recently partnered with Eversource to develop an Economic Resilience Guide that is available for all to see on www.middlesexchamber.com. Our economic resilience efforts are designed to protect local jobs and the local tax base, and to promote increased employer and employee awareness of natural and man-made hazards that exist in our community. We are encouraging our member businesses to develop emergency preparedness and business continuity plans because we believe if we are able to insulate our membership and the regional business community from the many threats out there, the better off we all will be. I will have much more on this important effort in the new year.

The holiday spirit is in the air, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.

Busy Holiday Season

December 2, 2019

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.

The 34th Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney and the City of Middletown, is off to a fast start after a very successful opening night on Nov. 29th, and a busy follow-up on Saturday the 30th. This Saturday, December 7th, the fun continues with Disabled American Veterans Middletown Chapter # 7 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, the Holiday Photo Booth, 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 Street Fire House, and after the reading, a “Book Signing” will take place and there will be plenty of opportunities for pictures. Volunteers from the Disabled American Veterans Middletown Chapter # 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 join us downtown. As is always the case with Holiday on Main Street, parking is free in all municipal 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 and the City of Middletown for their great support, our longtime event chairman, Al Santostefano, and vice chairman, Rich Greco, event coordinator Haley Stafford and the entire Holiday on Main Street Committee for its great work. Holiday on Main concludes on Saturday, December 14th. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.

In addition to Holiday on Main Street on Saturday, this week also features a number of other exciting events and activities. The week kicks off on Monday with a meeting of our Executive Committee beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the chamber office. Chamber Chairman Don DeVivo 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. This week also features meetings of our Portland and East Hampton Division, Central Business Bureau, and Chester, Deep River and Essex Division, along with meetings of a variety of chamber committees and councils.

The main event of the week is our Annual Real Estate Council Holiday Luncheon, sponsored by ServPro, which will be held at Luce Restaurant on Main Street in Middletown. Our member realtors and other chamber member professionals who support the real estate industry will get together for holiday networking and a great spread of food and drink. The Real Estate Council, under the leadership of co-chairs Nancy Currlin and Juliet Cavanaugh, does great work throughout the year in support of our member realtors. The Real Estate Council is also once again sponsoring a toy drive so we ask that attendees of the gathering bring an unwrapped toy in support of this important cause. We look forward to a great event.

On the business development front, I look forward to two grand opening celebrations that are scheduled for this week in Middlesex County. On Wednesday, chamber Chairman Don DeVivo and I will join Mayor Ben Florsheim for the Grand Opening of Lake View Creations on College Street in Middletown. Lake View Creations specializes in hand-designed jewelry and accessories that are both unique and affordable. We wish nothing but the best for Kerri Lee and the entire Lake View Creations family. On Thursday, Don and I will travel down county to join First Selectman Angus McDonald for the Grand Opening of Tailgaters Deep River. Tailgaters Deep River, located in an original, restored, post and beam barn with the theme of tailgating, is a pub serving beer, wine & spirits, along with a light fare menu that includes a selection of hot dogs, soups and fixin’s. We wish Brenda and James Jake all the best as they embark on this exciting new adventure for them, and for our region.

Looking ahead, next week also features some very important events for our chamber. Our KeyBank Workshop Series continues on Tuesday, Dec. 10 with a session on Guerrilla Marketing presented by Patrick Ganino of Social Tuna. Guerrilla Marketing is a great alternative to traditional marketing. It uses unconventional tactics to get maximum results when promoting a brand, business or service at minimal costs. It is about taking the consumer by surprise and making a long lasting impression that aims to strike the consumer at a more memorable and personal level. The session begins at 8:00 a.m. and will be held at the chamber office. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. I would also like to ask that chamber members and other interested parties save the date of next Friday, Dec. 13, for an important chamber morning in Cromwell. Gov. Ned Lamont will serve as keynote speaker for the first time at our annual Governor’s Breakfast at the Red Lion Hotel. The chamber is proud of the fact that the sitting governor of the State of Connecticut has addressed our organization in the month of December every year since the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Lamont to Middlesex County, and thank Eversource for its sponsorship of this important annual chamber event. I will have much more on this event in next week’s column.

Finally, I would like to close this week’s chamber column by addressing a serious situation for our city, the issue of vandalism. Whether it impacts a symbol of our cultural heritage, a gravestone, a building, or even a bridge overpass, vandalism is a senseless act that has no place in our community. The most recent example, the defacing of the Christopher Columbus statue in Harbor Park, has once again resulted in thousands of dollars in repair costs. Photographs show vandals spray painting the base of the statue that includes the names of more than 700 donors with red paint. This is the fourth time the statue has been vandalized since it was dedicated in 1996. Vandalism has no justification, and is completely unacceptable. The chamber looks forward to being a constructive partner as we work together to solve this problem in our community.

The holiday season is upon us, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Middletown Holiday on Main extravaganza highlight of the week

November 25, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

It is Thanksgiving time again in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not simply because of the great turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but because it inspires reflection and a true appreciation of what is important in life. I am blessed with a wonderful family, led by my wife Patty, and a network of friends that truly has my back. It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, a dynamic business organization with over 2,350 members that employ over 50,000 people. I am thankful for my staff at the chamber who works hard on behalf of the business community in Middlesex County on a daily basis. We have a dedicated Board of Directors, led by Chairman Don DeVivo, which truly makes Middlesex County a great place to live, work and play. I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America, a place where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in writing. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone keeps in mind those who are less fortunate during the holiday season.

Before moving on to the many great events and activities that are scheduled for this week and beyond, I want to take a moment to thank our local veterans and the many volunteers who put out, and then collected, thousands of American flags at the State Veterans Cemetery on Bow Lane during Veterans Week. Over 400 volunteers worked with members of local veteran’s organizations to deploy over 10,000 flags at gravestones throughout the cemetery grounds on Nov. 9th. The volunteers then returned on Nov. 16th to collect the flags. This wonderful tradition takes place around Memorial Day and Veterans Day every year. This is just another example of the great support that this community shows to the veterans who have done so much for all of us. On behalf of a grateful community, I say thank you to the volunteers, and of course, to our veterans.

The chamber calendar has a few important meetings scheduled in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. This Tuesday, our Westbrook Division makes its annual visit to Westbrook High School. This meeting will feature remarks from First Selectman Noel Bishop and Superintendent of Schools Pat Ciccone. The chamber has always valued its close working relationship with the school districts in our region, and that will certainly continue as we move forward. This week also features meetings of our Women’s Leadership Collaborative, and our Recovery Employment Program Steering Committee. We look forward to three very productive meetings.

The main event of the week is on Friday evening in downtown Middletown.

It is hard to believe, but the 34th Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney and the City of Middletown, is upon us.  Festivities begin this Friday at 4 p.m., with free wagon rides on Main Street. In front of the chamber building, the Kiwanis Club of Middletown members will be selling Hot Pretzels & Popcorn, and in front of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Middletown High School Crew Team will be selling Hot Chocolate, Coffee & Desserts.  There will be three Tree Lightings, a holiday parade up Main Street, and a number of other activities.

The first Tree Lighting, set to take place at 6 p.m., will illuminate the big tree on the South Green and will be led by Mayor Ben Florsheim and Santa Claus. Also on hand on the South Green will be the Middletown High School Chorus, the Woodrow Wilson 7 and 8th Grade Chorus, and the Keigwin Middle School Chorus. Last year, over 2,500 people were able to enjoy the holiday sights and sounds on the South Green, and even more are expected this year. The Carol Sing will begin at 5 p.m. prior to the tree lightings. After the tree is lit on the South Green, there will be a parade up Main Street, led by the Middletown High School Marching Band, the Woodrow Wilson Middle School 8th Grade Band, and Santa Claus, to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce where the tree on the roof will be lit at 6:15 p.m. for the second lighting of the evening. Immediately following the tree lighting, there will be free pictures with Santa, and wagon rides for the whole family until 8 p.m.  At 8:15 p.m., festivities will take place in front of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room at 695 Main Street highlighted by the third, and final Tree Lighting of the night. Santa will arrive to light the tree, and elves will be on hand to provide all children with complimentary popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate and other treats. Each Tree Lighting is free of charge to the public. Holiday on Main Street will continue on the next three Saturdays, November 30, December 7, and December 14 from 10:00am-2:00pm.

This Saturday’s event will feature The Civitan Club of Middletown selling Popcorn and Hot Pretzels in front of the chamber, and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio. The Fun Train will offer free rides up and down the sidewalk, and families will have the opportunity to take free horse and wagon rides, use the Holiday Photo Booth located in front of the Holiday Trinity Church, enjoy performances by The Connecticut Yuletide Carolers as they perform up and down Main Street, and meet Santa. At 12:30 p.m., a Holiday Story Time will take place at The Inn at Middletown with Clifford and Mayor Ben Florsheim. A Kung Fu Demonstration by Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, and a Pet Food Drive will be held throughout the day in front of Holy Trinity Church to benefit the homeless pets at Middletown Animal Control. Santa’s Mailbox will be in front of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce from November 18 through December 13. Children’s names and addresses should be on the letter so Santa can respond accordingly. Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in all city parking lots. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com. We hope to see you downtown!

As the end of November draws closer, it is time to start preparing for what will be a very busy December.

The chamber’s KeyBank Workshop Series continues on Tuesday, Dec. 10 with a session on Guerrilla Marketing presented by Patrick Ganino of Social Tuna. Guerrilla Marketing is a great alternative to traditional marketing. It uses unconventional tactics to get maximum results when promoting a brand, business or service at minimal costs. It is about taking the consumer by surprise and making a long lasting impression that aims to strike the consumer at a more memorable and personal level. The session begins at 8:00 a.m. and will be held at the chamber office. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

Finally, I would like to ask that chamber members and other interested parties save the date of Friday, Dec. 13 for an important chamber morning in Cromwell. Gov. Ned Lamont will serve as keynote speaker for the first time at our annual Governor’s Breakfast at the Red Lion Hotel. The chamber is proud of the fact that the sitting governor of the State of Connecticut has addressed our organization in the month of December every year since the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Lamont to Middlesex County, and thank Eversource for its sponsorship of this important annual chamber event. Speaking of Eversource, I would like to take a moment to congratulate the company on being ranked as the number one utility and 26th company overall out of 1,000 evaluated on a leading recognition of corporate citizenship -- the national list of America’s Most JUST Companies for 2020, presented by Forbes magazine and JUST Capital. The list celebrates publicly traded American corporations for their positive impact and leadership on priorities such as fair pay, ethical leadership, good benefits and work-life balance, equal opportunity, customer treatment and privacy, community support, environmental impact, and delivering shareholder return. Eversource is a great corporate citizen, and we thank their team for its longtime support of our organization and our community.

2019 has reached the homestretch, and the chamber continues to be on the move. Happy Thanksgiving!

SportsNet New York’s president, UConn’s Cavanaugh to visit Cromwell

November 18, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

November is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

Another busy week kicks off with Monday’s Member Breakfast Meeting at the Red Lion Cromwell featuring SNY President, Steve Raab, and UConn Head Men’s Hockey Coach, Mike Cavanaugh. This event is sponsored by SNY. Mike Cavanaugh begins his seventh season on the bench for the UConn Huskies in 2019-20.  Hired in the spring of 2014, Cavanaugh has guided UConn through the transition to Hockey East as the Huskies begin their sixth season of play in the toughest hockey conference in the country. SNY is the official television home of the New York Mets, New York Jets and all things New York Sports. Steve Raab was named President of SNY in April of 2007. In this capacity, he is responsible for all day-to-day operations, including production, programming, sales, distribution, marketing, and public relations for the network. We look forward to another great Member Breakfast Meeting, and thank Steve Raab and SNY, and Coach Cavanaugh for visiting with our membership during this very busy time.

On Tuesday morning, I look forward to attending the Ribbon Cutting for Adelbrook Bark-ery’s Business Expansion at its Riverview Center location in Middletown. The Adelbrook Bark-ery was started to provide a safe (and fun) place for the neuro-diverse 18-21 year old students who attend the Adelbrook Transitional Academy. The goal of the Transitional Academy and the Bark-ery are the same, to prepare students for life after graduation. I look forward to joining Mayor Ben Florsheim and other city and chamber leaders for this important occasion. From there, I will travel to Hartford where I will meet with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce. The metro chambers collectively represent thousands of businesses in our state, and these meetings always feature productive discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community. I look forward to the meeting, and thank my colleagues for their leadership throughout the state of Connecticut.

Wednesday afternoon features a Ribbon Cutting and Business Announcement at the chamber office in Middletown for Patterson Family Chocolates, your online chocolate store. We look forward to working with Ed Patterson and his team and are happy to welcome them to chamber membership.

On the networking front, our November Business After Work Networking Reception is scheduled for this Wednesday, November 20 at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. Our members and their guests always look forward to the delicious spread of food and drink provided by the Riverhouse team, along with the outstanding networking opportunities that the event provides. The Business After Work event will also feature the Central Business Bureau’s 2019 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. I want to take a moment to thank Liberty Bank for donating the wreaths on an annual basis, and of course, Owner Jim Bucko, General Manager Hattie Donner, and the entire Riverhouse team for hosting what will be a packed, and outstanding event. We look forward to a great night!

Thursday kicks off with a Workforce Alliance Executive Committee Meeting in New Haven. Workforce Alliance works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and local elected officials. The chamber continues to enjoy a very strong working relationship with Workforce Alliance, and we appreciate the support of President and CEO Bill Villano and his terrific team. Later on Thursday, the chamber’s Board of Directors will meet at the Middletown Elks Lodge for a Luncheon Meeting sponsored by Brown & Brown of CT d/b/a McCutcheon Burr & Sons and Arborio Corporation. In addition to reports from chamber committee chairs and key staff, the meeting will feature remarks from Commissioner Joseph Giulietti of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The mission of the Connecticut Department of Transportation is to provide a safe and efficient intermodal transportation network that improves the quality of life and promotes economic vitality for the State and the region. We look forward to hearing from the Commissioner, and thank him for taking the time to visit with our board. A busy Thursday wraps up in Southington for the 43rd Annual Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Dinner at the Aqua Turf. I look forward to serving as emcee for this important event that will officially induct nine Connecticut coaches into the Hall of Fame. We congratulate them, and thank them for all of their support of youth athletics. Thursday is certainly shaping up to be a very busy and productive day.

Rounding out the week on Saturday, I will attend the CASHO Annual Awards Banquet, also being held at the Aqua Turf. CASHO is a not-for-profit educational association whose mission is to provide education on public works functions throughout the state. I look forward to the event and appreciate the invitation from Joe Serra, secretary/treasurer of CASHO.

Looking ahead, and it is hard to believe, but the 34th Annual Holiday on Main Street is right around the corner. This major holiday event, presented by Pratt and Whitney and the City of Middletown, kicks off next Friday, Nov. 29 with a jam packed schedule of family friendly fun leading up to our three tree lightings in downtown Middletown. Join us from 4:00-8:30pm for free holiday wagon rides, a carol sing featuring the Middletown High School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School and Keigwin Middle School choirs, free pictures with Santa, and of course the tree lightings. Santa and Mayor Ben Florsheim will be lighting the tree at 6:00 p.m. sharp, so you don’t want to be late. Holiday on Main Street will continue on the next three Saturdays, November 30, December 7, and December 14 from 10:00am-2:00pm, and will feature free rides on the fun train, free horse and wagon rides, a holiday photo booth, popcorn and hot pretzels, and holiday story times. I will have much more information as Holiday on Main Street draws closer, but you can always visit www.holidayonmain.com for more information.

The chamber’s KeyBank Workshop Series continues on Tuesday, Dec. 10 with a session on Guerrilla Marketing presented by Patrick Ganino of Social Tuna. Guerrilla Marketing is a great alternative to traditional marketing. It uses unconventional tactics to get maximum results when promoting a brand, business or service at minimal costs. It is about taking the consumer by surprise and making a long lasting impression that aims to strike the consumer at a more memorable and personal level. The session begins at 8:00 a.m. and will be held at the chamber office. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

Finally, I would like to ask that chamber members and other interested parties save the date of Friday, Dec. 13 for an important chamber morning in Cromwell. Gov. Ned Lamont will serve as keynote speaker for the first time at our annual Governor’s Breakfast at the Red Lion Hotel. The chamber is proud of the fact that the sitting governor of the State of Connecticut has addressed our organization in the month of December every year since the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Lamont to Middlesex County, and thank Eversource for its sponsorship of this important annual chamber event.

The temperature may be dropping, but the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County. Have a great week!

A time to honor veterans

November 11, 2019

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached an important week here in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation, the week that includes Veterans Day. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to support our active duty, reserves, and guard personnel, along with the many local veterans that have served in the United States Armed Forces. This past Monday, November 4, the chamber held its 18th Annual Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by Middlesex Health. In addition to remarks from Medal of Honor recipient Paul W. “Buddy” Bucha, we were honored to present the 2019 William J. Pomfret Community Service Award to Reginald S. Farrington of Portland, and the 2019 AT&T Veteran Support Business of the Year Award to the Travelers Championship. As I have noted many times over the years, the Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting would not be possible without the year round effort of a great committee led by Phil Cacciola. This event has become a key part of our Member Breakfast series over the years, and we thank everyone that has a role in making this annual event so special to so many.

After a long and spirited campaign, Election Day 2019 is now officially in the books. I again want thank all the candidates that put their name on a ballot in Middlesex County for their willingness to run and to serve. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce certainly looks forward to working with all of our elected officials in the months and years ahead.

Switching gears to economic development, I had the pleasure of attending the press conference held last Thursday at the site of Medical Development Associates 50,000 Square Foot Heritage Medical Facility Construction Project on Saybrook Road. The chamber has supported this project since its inception, including at last Monday night’s meeting of the Common Council, and I thank Frank Galluzzo and Project Manager William Granuth, Director of Planning, Conservation and Development Joe Samolis for seeing it through. The project is a Class A 50,000 square foot medical facility which is under construction to support the growing need for world-class medical care in Middletown and Middlesex County. Medical Development Associates are in the process of erecting one of the two buildings which will house Middlesex Orthopedic Surgeons. I was pleased to view this construction site with Mayor Dan Drew, Mayor Elect Ben Florsheim, Economic Development Chair Gerry Daley, and Chamber Vice Chairman Tom Byrne. This 30,000 square foot building will be fully dedicated to their practice consisting of medical offices and a brand new physical therapy facility. Medical Development Associates is constructing an additional 20,000 square foot building which is already partially leased by Middlesex Dental Care. They are currently marketing build to suit suites available in late summer 2020. This project supports the growing need for world-class medical care in Middletown and Middlesex County, and will continue the growth of this important medical corridor.

This week features a Grand Opening for CapoBags Food Mart on South Main Street in Middletown, and a groundbreaking at the new Steady Habits Brewing Company location in Haddam. CapoBags Food Mart is offering delicious sushi and other options at its new South Main Street location. We wish owner Jason Chen and his team nothing but the best as they move forward with this new local eatery. Steady Habits is moving from Bridge Street in Haddam to an excellent new location on Saybrook Road in Haddam. We wish Director of Operations Jim Venditti and his team all the best as they bring this local business to the next level. On Wednesday morning, chamber VP Jeff Pugliese will be attend the Durham Economic Development Commission’s Breakfast, Networking & Informational Workshop taking place at the Durham Town Hall. This event is set to feature highlights of how global and national trends are affecting Connecticut’s economy and industries. I am glad the chamber will be represented at this important discussion happening in one of our member towns. Finally, on Friday afternoon, I will attend the Grand Opening celebration for 211 South Main LLC’s project on South Main Street. This is an exciting project for the city, one that will take a property that has been dormant for some time now and turn it into a terrific mixed use development in the heart of a key corridor. The chamber, as always, looks forward to being a constructive partner as this process moves forward, and I thank Rocky Kempenaar and his team for their great work. As you can see, the economic development activity continues in hop in Middlesex County.

On the chamber division front, this Thursday features two important division meetings, one in Cromwell, and one in Killingworth. The Cromwell Division will be held at the TPC River Highlands at 8:00 a.m., and the Killingworth Division will be held at Andie’s Cookies, also at 8:00 a.m. We look forward to two productive meetings and thank our members for their continued support.

Looking ahead to next week, two exciting chamber events are scheduled in different parts of our region. On Monday, Nov. 18, the chamber will host a Member Breakfast Meeting featuring SNY President, Steven Raab, and UConn Head Men’s Hockey Coach, Mike Cavanaugh. This event is sponsored by SNY. Mike Cavanaugh begins his seventh season on the bench for the UConn Huskies in 2019-20.  Hired in the spring of 2014, Cavanaugh has guided UConn through the transition to Hockey East as the Huskies begin their sixth season of play in the toughest hockey conference in the country. SNY is the official television home of the New York Mets, New York Jets and all things New York Sports. We look forward to another great Member Breakfast Meeting. Excitement also continues to build for our upcoming Business After Work Networking Reception at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam on Wednesday, Nov. 20th. 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. The Business After Work event will feature the Central Business Bureau’s 2019 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, annually donates the artificial wreaths for chamber member businesses to decorate, and we certainly appreciate that continued support. We look forward to a fun evening in Haddam on Nov. 20, and I want to once again thank Owner Jim Bucko, General Manager Hattie Donner, and the entire Riverhouse team for hosting this outstanding event.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!