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Larry McHugh Column

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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.

1st Wave of Business Openings Begins this Week

May 18, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

May continues to steam ahead in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

This Wednesday, May 20, has been an important date on the horizon for many weeks in our home state of Connecticut, as it marks the start of a gradual reopening of the state’s economy. Hair salons and barbershops, outdoor museums and zoos, offices, remaining retail, and restaurants (outdoor dining only) are allowed to reopen on Wednesday. There are of course some strict guidelines and controls in place for businesses that plan to reopen, including: 50% capacity limits, cleaning and disinfection protocols, face mask requirements, and limits on the size of meetings and social gatherings. All businesses that plan to reopen are required to self-certify prior to Wednesday through an online system on the Department of Economic and Community Development’s (DECD) website. We look forward to supporting our members, and the business community at large, as they navigate this important process. It is our hope that this first wave will be successful, and that we will continue to hit important public health related benchmarks that will lead to a further reopening of the economy. Any business that needs assistance on reopening should contact the chamber office right away. We are here to help.

While we continue to gear up for a re-opening in Middlesex County, the chamber team continues to do a great job for our membership and for the business community at large. This week is another busy one on the virtual meeting and webinar front. We had to postpone last Tuesday’s webinar featuring Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro due to her participation in important meetings in Washington D.C. on the next round of COVID-19 related federal stimulus legislation. That session has been rescheduled to this Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Congresswoman DeLauro has a very important role on the House Appropriations Committee, and we look forward to hearing an update from DC on all of these important matters.

This week’s installment of our Tuesday Tips campaign features a session titled, “Paycheck Protection Program: Where are We Now? An Up to Date Guide.” Tuesday Tips has featured weekly presentations from our colleagues in the legal profession who have repeatedly provided extremely valuable content. This week’s session will be led by Pullman and Comley, and we continue to appreciate their great support of this important chamber initiative.

On Wednesday afternoon, we look forward to a chamber hosted webinar featuring Deputy Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo from the Connecticut Department of Labor. We reached out to DOL because we have a number of members who are having issues with the unemployment application process through the Department of Labor’s website. Our businesses also have concerns about their laid off employees who are currently collecting unemployment, and the process surrounding their return to work. Finally, we are hearing many concerns from individuals who are self-employed about the unemployment application process. I appreciate the quick response from Commissioner Kurt Westby and Deputy Commissioner Bartolomeo, and we look forward to a productive session on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Middlesex County Revitalization Commission (MCRC) will meet via an online portal. MCRC is partnering with the City of Middletown on a Bridge Loan Program for city businesses, and it is also exploring ways to make a county wide impact through its revolving loan fund. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the around the clock efforts of Middlesex County’s municipal officials that make up this important commission. They are working extra hard for their communities during this crisis. It is recognized and appreciated.

Thursday afternoon includes a webinar on reopening led by attorneys from Reid and Riege, P.C., John R. Bashow and Adam T. Boston, and Rob Levandoski, who is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with Fuss & O'Neill. This session, “Are you Ready to Open in this New World?”, will address important issues surrounding the reopening of your business, including complying with rules and guidelines, and how to create a successful COVID-19 response plan. We appreciate the participation of these high-level industry professionals during what is undoubtedly a very busy time for them and their respective teams.

A busy week of webinars wraps up on Friday with a session led by the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. “The Inside Scoop on PPP Loan forgiveness: What it is and How to Navigate it”, will explore updated SBA guidelines for PPP loan forgiveness and other important issues. I want to once again thank Matt Pugliese, Associate State Director of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, and Jim Jackson, our resident Middlesex County Business Advisor with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. They have both been terrific resources for the business community since the beginning of this process, and we appreciate their efforts very much.

In addition to a packed week of content rich webinars, this week’s chamber calendar also features meetings of our Human Resources Steering Committee, Golf Committee, Killingworth Division, Recovery Employment Program Steering Committee, Board of Directors, and Cruise Night on Main Planning Committee. As you can see, the chamber continues to be on the move.

Looking ahead, we have two exciting and creative events to announce for the month of June. As you know, Middletown’s annual Cruise Night on Main has been postponed until next year, but for this year, we are going virtual. We are proud to introduce “Start your Engines to Sunday Funday-Middletown is Virtually Cruisin.” This event is powered by NAPA. We hope that you will join us on Sunday, June 14th, for a fantastic virtual event that will celebrate and cheer on the many American heroes who have been serving on the front lines through this difficult time. The route has been designed to pass the Middletown Police Department, Fire and Emergency Personnel, and Middlesex Health. We ask all who participate to honk as they drive by as a show of appreciation and support for these heroic efforts. We are expecting a number of vehicles, but please note that we will be following the social distancing guidelines outlined by the State of Connecticut. Supporters are also welcome to watch the event from the comfort and safety of their own home. This event will benefit Middletown youth programs, including the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. We are very excited about this creative idea, and will have much more information to share as we get closer. Please visit www.cruisenightonmain.com for more information.

I am also excited to announce that this year’s Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Travelers Championship Member Breakfast Meeting will take place, via an online portal, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. This year’s Travelers Championship will go on as scheduled, although it will unfortunately have to be played without fans due to COVID-19. I will have much more on this exciting chamber event as we get closer, but please save the date and save the date for another exciting week of professional golf right here in Middlesex County. I would like to thank Travelers Companies once again for their outstanding support of our chamber, and of so many community-based initiatives in our state. More to come!

Before closing, I want to remind everyone that the chamber’s reLAUNCH Campaign is officially underway. reLAUNCH serves as a catalyst to assist the Middlesex Chamber community with recovering and emerging from COVID-19 through innovation, communication and collaboration. Please visit www.middlesexchamber.com/relaunch to view what is essentially a resource guide which covers everything from communications and PR, marketing, human resources, workforce development, best business practices, signage, access to financing and much more. This will be a living guide that will grow as more information comes in and more restrictions are lifted. I would like to thank our Strategic Planning Committee, led by Teresa Opalacz, and chamber VP Johanna Bond for all of their great work on this important product.

I also want to acknowledge the recent announcement that the Durham Fair will not be held in 2020. I know this was a very difficult decision for Dan Miramant and his outstanding team of committed volunteers. The Durham Fair is an institution in Middlesex County and in the State of Connecticut, and it is easily one of the largest fairs in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers. The fair has not been cancelled since World War II, a fact that further emphasizes the massive impact that this virus has had in our community. All of us in this community continue to appreciate the year-round volunteer efforts of the Durham Fair Agricultural Association, and we look forward to the fair coming back stronger than ever in the fall of 2021.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone who had a role in last Thursday’s Masks for Heroes event that was held at Middletown High School. Masks for Heroes is a grassroots volunteer group that has now distributed over 1,000,000 surgical masks across the state, including over 35,000 in Middletown. The event was very well organized and executed, and I congratulate all involved and thank them for a job very well done.

Stay safe, keep going, and remember, the sun always shines in Middlesex County.

Chamber ready to support businesses as May 20 approaches

May 11, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

The month of May is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

While we all continue to navigate the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, I continue to be very optimistic about the future of our city, our county, our state, and our nation. Make no mistake however, the business community and the community at large are still hurting. The public health crisis, while trending in the right direction, is still a very serious issue, and we must take seriously the threat it continues to pose. Recently released economic data and unemployment figures are staggering and scary. However, as I have noted many times, we are a resilient people, and I know we will reverse those numbers through hard work, teamwork, ingenuity, and perseverance. The date of May 20 has been part of the public conversation in our state for some time now. Gov. Ned Lamont and his team continue to target that important date as the start of a gradual reopening of Connecticut’s economy. This chamber stands ready to work with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels, and we look forward to supporting the business community in Middlesex County in every conceivable way as we move forward. Let us come together once again to face down a common threat, and let the sun continue to shine on Middlesex County.

While planning for a re-opening in Middlesex County is very much underway, the chamber team continues to operate in virtual mode, and it continues to do a great job for our membership and for the business community at large. Last week featured well run, and productive meetings of the chamber’s Executive Committee, LEAD CT Steering Committee, Portland and East Hampton Division, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, Central Business Bureau (CBB), and Real Estate Council. The Portland and East Hampton Division and the CBB meetings were both very productive, as they featured great reports from local leaders on COVID response and an update on the Arrigoni Bridge and Saint John Square construction projects. I appreciate everyone’s continued support of, and dedication to, these important monthly chamber meetings.

Last Monday evening featured the second virtual meeting of the Middletown Common Council. I applaud the Mayor and the Council for another productive meeting under challenging circumstances, and I especially appreciate their support of economic relief measures including the responsible deployment of CDBG money in the city, and an innovative Middletown Bridge Loan Program which will be executed in partnership with the Middlesex County Revitalization Commission (MCRC). There is more work to be done on these fronts, but I know that the business community appreciates the strong message that is sent by these actions.

This week is another busy one for the chamber team as we continue to work every day to support our regional business community. Tuesday, May 12th is a packed chamber day from the morning into the evening. The latest installment of our KeyBank Workshop Series takes place on Tuesday morning via an online portal. CT. Small Business Development Center Counselor Jim Jackson will lead a session titled, “Strategic Planning Demystified.” This presentation will break down strategic planning into clear steps that lead to focused progress and predictable outcomes that any size organization can achieve. I thank Jim for leading this session, and again thank our friends at KeyBank for their continued support of this critical chamber Workshop Series. Later in the morning, at 11:00 a.m., our webinar tour with members of the Connecticut Congressional Delegation continues with a session featuring Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Congresswoman DeLauro has a very important role on the House Appropriations Committee, and we look forward to hearing her thoughts on what a future round of federal stimulus legislation might look like. We look forward to a productive session, and I thank Rosa for taking the time out to visit with our members. Tuesday afternoon includes the next installment of our very successful Tuesday Tips campaign which features weekly presentations from our colleagues in the legal profession. This session, presented by Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C., is titled “Positioning Your Business for Success When Connecticut Re-Opens.” This webinar will focus on practical considerations for getting back to business, including: Employment Law, Government Relief, Taxes, and Obtaining Forgiveness Under the Paycheck Protection Program. On behalf of the chamber, I thank the following UKS attorneys for their support of this session: Christopher L. Brigham, Valerie F. Ferdon, Richard M. Dighello, Donald R. Seifel and our friend, and Past Chamber Chairman, Richard D. Carella. We are also looking forward to Tuesday evening, when the chamber’s Side Street to Main Street BUSINESS “KNOW-HOW” returns with Program Class 9, Session 1. Business “KNOW-HOW” is an intensive four session entrepreneurial program which provides practical knowledge for starting and building a small business. This is the first time that this important chamber initiative will take place through an online portal. I want to once again thank Eversource for its sponsorship of this important economic community development program. Finally, Tuesday evening also features the May meeting of the chamber’s Automotive Council, which will also be meeting through an online portal for the first time. We look forward to a busy, but productive chamber Tuesday.

The rest of the week features meetings of the chamber’s Durham and Middlefield Division on Wednesday, Cromwell Division and Health Care Steering Committee on Thursday, and Legislative and Affordable Housing Committees on Friday. The division meetings will once again feature COVID related reports from our municipal leadership, along with reports from public health officials in each town. To close the loop on this week, I want to note that the MEWS+, the chamber’s effort to develop an innovation eco-system, will host a session on Thursday afternoon which will focus on “The Six Core Approaches for Marketing Your Small Business in this New COVID-19 World.” In this virtual workshop, Rebecca Mead of INQ Creative will share six core approaches to marketing your business in this modern era, and will discuss the challenges of navigating the COVID-19 “new normal." We expect the MEWS+ to play a key role for our entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and micro businesses moving forward, and we look forward to a productive session on Thursday.

Before closing, and as I do on a weekly basis, I want to once again urge the business community to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available at this time. Another reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which contains a wealth of information including recordings of the many webinars that we have hosted since the beginning of this crisis. As I have also noted repeatedly, our outstanding chamber team has created a special social media campaign which provides the opportunity for local businesses to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to. This campaign has seen hundreds of posts about economic and community support activity that is taking place in our region, and has close to 1300 members as of the end of last week. On the restaurant front, I will note again, that the chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting Middlesex County restaurants that are open for pick up orders. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support these local restaurants if you are able to do so safely. This is also true for many of our outstanding retail establishments who continue to employ innovative ways of staying open and operational. It is also a good time, if you are able, to support the local business community through the purchase of gift cards. All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart, and a deep sense of sadness, that I close this week’s chamber column by acknowledging the recent passing of Louis Petruzzello who died as a result of a tragic accident on May 1st. Louie was many things to many people. He was a great athlete, a fixture at the YMCA and throughout the community, a supporter of countless community-based initiatives, a friend to many, and someone who truly loved the city of Middletown. Louie was a kind and gentle man, and someone who exuded strength, humility, and grace throughout his life. Most importantly however, Louie was a devoted husband and father, and a true family man. His wife Deb, and his son Tony, are adored throughout this community and beyond. Tony lifts the spirits of everyone he meets, and I want him to know that we will all be there to support him, his mother, and all of Lou’s family and friends at this difficult time. Deb and Tony are, and will continue to be, in our thoughts and prayers. It goes without saying that this entire community is mourning Louie’s death right along with them. I hope they can take comfort in the fact that he led a life well lived, and I know that they are immensely proud. Louis Petruzzello will be missed by many.

We plan for brighter days ahead

May 4, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

It is hard to believe, but May is upon us in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation.

After what has been a long and difficult stretch for the business community and the community at large, I am cautiously optimistic and that if we hang in there and see this through, we are on the verge of a responsible and gradual reopening of our economy. Last week, Gov. Ned Lamont announced the beginnings of a four-stage strategy, with important conditions, that will hopefully lead us on the road to recovery. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has known since the beginning that this is first and foremost a public health crisis, and that a consistent decline in COVID related hospitalizations and an increase in testing capabilities is critical to any relaunch plan. However, we never stop thinking about our regional economy and the health of our businesses. This chamber stands ready to work with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels, and we look forward to supporting the business community in Middlesex County in every conceivable as we move forward. The tide is turning in our favor, but we must remain vigilant and smart, and we must continue to work together. I am so proud of and have so much faith in this community, and I know we will be standing strong in the end.

Even as we plan for brighter days ahead, the chamber team continues to operate in virtual mode, and it continues to do a great job for our membership and for the business community at large. Last week featured well run, and productive meetings of the chamber’s Westbrook Division, Chester, Deep River and Essex Division, Arrigoni Bridge Committee, Women’s Leadership Collaborative, and Nominating Committee. On the webinar front, we hosted a series of successful events including the latest installments of the KeyBank Workshop Series and Tuesday Tips campaign, and another session with the CT. Small Business Development Center on relief options available through federal stimulus legislation. On Friday afternoon, our chamber leadership team held its weekly meeting through zoom which focused on our support activities for the business community during this crisis, and a comprehensive strategy for the chamber moving forward. I would like to thank all of these chamber leaders for their unwavering support and dedication. The team includes Chamber Chairman Don DeVivo, Vice Chairman Tom Byrne, Immediate Past Chairman Jay Polke, Strategic Planning Chair Teresa Opalacz, and Treasurer Rick Morin.

The calendar moves full steam ahead this week with a host of important events and activities conducted through online portals. It kicks off on Monday with a zoom Executive Committee meeting led by our Chairman, Don DeVivo. As I have noted many times over the years, the chamber’s Executive Committee features a variety of business and community leaders from a number of industry sectors. This meeting will feature an update from key chamber members and staff, along with a breakdown of our efforts to support the business community through this crisis. We look forward another productive meeting, and I thank our members for hanging in there with us. In addition to the Executive meeting, chamber staff will be busy this week executing important meetings of our LEAD CT Steering Committee, Portland and East Hampton Division, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, Central Business Bureau, and Real Estate Council. We look forward to a busy week of chamber meetings.

The Tuesday Tips campaign is back this week with another important session, this one titled, "Surviving the COVID-19 Crisis: Strategies for Landlords and Tenants." In this webinar, Pullman & Comley’s Retired Judge Robert Holzberg will moderate a panel discussion including Real Estate Attorney Geoff Fay, Financial Restructuring Attorney Jonathan A. Kaplan, and Property Tax and Valuation Attorney Laura Cardillo focused on preparing landlords, tenants and bank lenders for some of the key challenges they will face moving forward. I continue to appreciate the support of Pullman & Comley, who has been alternating weeks with Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, to bring this critical content from the legal community to our membership. These sessions have been very well received, and they will continue as we move forward. The MEWS+, the chamber’s effort to develop an innovation eco system in our region, is also gearing up for a busy week. COLLISION, a MEWS+ led pitch competition, will host the latest installment of Wesleyan Incubator Demo Day on Tuesday evening. Over a dozen aspiring student entrepreneurs will pitch their social benefit business ideas via zoom. Students will share their pre-recorded pitches and conduct a live Q&A following each pitch. On Thursday, the MEWS+ will host a webinar titled, "I'm a Business Owner- Can I Ever Retire?” This session will be led by Ann Pellegrini, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor with Edward Jones. We look forward to two productive sessions, and I continue to be proud of this ascendant chamber initiative which will become even more important in the context of COVID recovery. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, the chamber will host an online visit from Mark Hayward, District Director of Connecticut and Rhode Island’s SBA offices, who will provide an update from the federal side with respect to PPP, EIDL, and other relief measures. I thank the Office of Congressman John Larson for helping us schedule this important meeting with Mark.

Switching gears a bit, I want to take a moment to note how proud I am of our Real Estate Council which recently delivered a box of over 600 get well letters to patients at Middlesex Health. Our Real Estate Council has been such an active chamber group for many years, and I am not surprised that its members stepped up to support our community during this very challenging time. I know the gesture was very much appreciated by the team and the patients at Middlesex Health, and I thank our Real Estate Council Co-Chairs, Juliet Cavanaugh and Nancy Currlin, along with chamber VP Johanna Bond who has served as staff liaison to this important chamber council for a long period of time. This is just another example of our chamber being a business organization, but even more importantly, a community organization.

Before closing, and as I do on a weekly basis, I want to once again urge the business community to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available at this time. Another reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which contains a wealth of information including recordings of the outstanding webinars that we have hosted since the beginning of this crisis. As I have also noted repeatedly, our outstanding chamber team has created a special social media campaign which provides the opportunity for local businesses to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to. This campaign has seen hundreds of posts about economic and community support activity that is taking place in our region, and has over 1350 followers as of the end of last week. On the restaurant front, I will note again, that the chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting Middlesex County restaurants that are open for pick up orders. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support these local restaurants if you are able to do so safely. It is also a good time, if you are able, to support the local business community through the purchase of gift cards. All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong.

Finally, I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Phil Redford at the age of 91. Many of us knew Phil as the longtime owner of Middletown Plate Glass Company, Inc. which he acquired in 1967. The company was started by Phil’s grandfather in 1874 as Redford Paint & Glass. Phil Redford was a fixture in this community and he supported a variety of local causes throughout his life including the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. He served with honor in the United States Army, for which we are all grateful, and he was a strong and dignified man. Our thoughts and prayers are with Phil’s family at this difficult time. Phil Redford will be missed by many.

On a closing note, stay safe, stay healthy, and keep going. Have a great week, Middlesex County. Brighter days are ahead.

Online meetings mean chamber can still serve businesses

April 27, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

Amazingly, the calendar turns from April to May this week in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. It has now been over six weeks since we all started to collectively deal with this COVID-19 situation which has caused major damage to public health and to our economy. However, as I have repeatedly noted, it has also brought out the best in our community, and for that, I am immensely proud. I would like to take a moment to offer my weekly shout out from the chamber to all of those who are working so hard to effectively manage this crisis. From our friends on the front lines at Middlesex Health and other medical facilities, to our first responders, to our public officials who are working so hard, to our friends who are serving the neediest among us, we say, once again, thank you.

On the chamber front, I continue to be so proud of my terrific staff who is providing top level service to our membership, and to the business community at large, at a time when it is needed the most. Last week was another busy one which featured well-run and productive meetings of our East Haddam & Haddam Division, and a number of our industry-based councils and committees. All of these meetings are being held via online portal, or in some cases, via conference call. Our staff also continues to plan, and execute, informative webinars for the benefit of the business community. Last week featured a session on financial planning during a financial downturn led by Pullman and Comley, and a session hosted by the MEWS+ which detailed how the chamber’s response is helping the entrepreneur community in Middlesex County. Finally, on Friday afternoon, we were joined by Congressman John Larson for an interactive webinar on the newly passed federal stimulus bill which includes, among other measures, over $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). I thank Congressman Larson for joining us, and we look forward to staying in touch with his office as we move forward. Each of these chamber led events featured over 50 attendees, and in the case of the Congressman’s session, we had almost 100. All of our webinars have been very well received by the businesses who participated, and we will continue to organize these important sessions for as long as it is necessary.

The chamber calendar marches on this week with more important content for the benefit of the business community. On Monday, the latest installment of our KeyBank Workshop Series features a session titled, “The Ultimate Guide to Hosting an Online Webinar." Some of the key components include: how to choose between a web meeting and a webinar, the new security features of the zoom platform, best practices for participating in a web event, alternatives to zoom, how to effectively livestream, and some best practices with respect to licensing and other product specific information. We continue to appreciate the support of KeyBank, who has been right there with us as we have transitioned from an in person, to a virtual workshop series. The chamber’s very successful Tuesday Tips campaign, which features weekly webinars with top legal professionals, continues on Tuesday with a session led by Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. titled, “Positioning Your Business for Success When Connecticut Re-Opens.” This webinar, beginning at 2:00 p.m., will focus on practical considerations for getting back to business including: employment law, making your business safety complaint, navigating the intersection of the SBA and CARES Act relief, relief certification and the False Claims Act, tax law, and obtaining forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program. The program will feature an opportunity for questions and answers with UKS attorneys Christopher L. Brigham, Valerie F. Ferdon, Richard M. Dighello, Donald R. Seifel and Richard D. Carella. We thank them all for taking the time to provide this critical content. Wednesday afternoon features another chamber hosted webinar with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. This session, featuring CTSBDC Associate State Director Matt Pugliese and Middlesex County Business Counselor Jim Jackson, will address the newly passed federal stimulus legislation. Specifically, the webinar will outline any changes or updates that have or will be made to PPP and EIDL, and will detail what a businessperson should do if they already applied but have not yet received funding. I thank Jim and Matt for joining us once again, and look forward to a great session.

Other chamber meetings on the calendar this week include the Westbrook Division, Chester, Deep River and Essex Division, the Arrigoni Bridge Committee, our Women’s Leadership Collaborative, and our Nominating Committee which will select chamber officer candidates for next year. The Arrigoni Bridge Committee meeting will feature updates from DOT and from the contractor, Mohawk Northeast, on not only the bridge project itself, but on the work that is continuing in Saint John Square. The main goal of the committee is to make sure that access to the bridge is not compromised during the construction, and that emergency and other critical vehicles can access the construction zones at all times. The chamber is of course also monitoring the economic impact of the project, and will continue to be a constructive partner until its conclusion. I once again want to thank Middletown Fire Chief Rob Kronenberger and Portland Public Works Director Bob Shea who are serving as co-chairs of this important chamber committee. We look forward to another productive meeting on Tuesday.

On Thursday afternoon, chamber Vice Presidents Jeff Pugliese and Johanna Bond will represent us on an important 60-minute webinar focused on reactivating the state’s pandemic-stricken economy. This webinar is hosted by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA.) The Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, established by Gov. Ned Lamont, is busy developing guidelines and recommendations for our state. This webinar will begin with DECD Commissioner David Lehman who will provide an overview of the administration’s approach and priorities. Attendees will also hear from four members of the advisory group’s business subcommittee which includes CBIA President Joe Brennan, CT. Retail Merchants Association President Tim Phelan, EBP Supply Solutions CEO Meredith Reuben, and Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Garrett Sheehan. This is a very important topic for all of us, and our team will be sure to share the details of the webinar with the Middlesex business community.

Before closing, and as I do on a weekly basis, I want to once again urge the business community to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available at this time. Another reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which includes a survey which will help us help you, along with a number of resources which we are updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. As part of the tool kit, you can access all of the outstanding webinars that we have hosted since the beginning of this crisis. They contain very helpful information on everything from the CARES Act, to legal advice, accounting advice, best practices for working virtually, and much, much more. We have also created a social media campaign which allows our members to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to. This campaign has seen hundreds of posts about economic and community support activity that is taking place in our region, and has over 1300 followers as of the end of last week. On the restaurant front, I will note again, that the chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting Middlesex County restaurants that are open for pick up orders. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support these local restaurants if you are able to do so safely. It is also a good time, if you are able, to support the local business community through the purchase of gift cards. All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong.

Finally, I want to take a moment to again send out best wishes on behalf of the chamber to our entire community. This is undoubtedly a very difficult and even unprecedented time. However, I continue to believe that we will come through this, together, and we will be stronger on the other side. The sun always shines in Middlesex County, and we will never waiver on that.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep going. Have a great week.

Strength, resolve, true leadership mark city's COVID-19 response

April 20, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

An unprecedented April is moving right along in Middlesex County, and throughout our great nation.

The chamber team, along with all of our partners in the community, is doing its best to provide support and guidance during this very difficult stretch. Everyone is working very hard, as a team, and it is truly inspiring. Our friends at Middlesex Health and other front-line facilities are literally putting their lives on the line to treat sick patients, and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This also holds true for our first responders and other professionals in the community. We are so grateful for their efforts, and we always will be. Our municipal leaders throughout Middlesex County have responded to this crisis with strength, resolve, and true leadership. In Middletown, Mayor Ben Florsheim continues to lead an organized and professional response for the city. The status calls held at various points throughout the week are productive and informative for all who participate. They feature reports on everything from current cases of COVID-19 in our community and the medical response, to how the education community is responding, to police and fire, to support for seniors and our most vulnerable residents, to the impact on the economy, and much, much more. I continue to be very proud of the chamber team who is providing top level service to our membership, and to the business community at large, at a time when it is needed the most. Last week was another busy one which featured well run, and productive meetings of our Killingworth Division, Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, Affordable Housing Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee. The board meeting was especially productive, as it featured reports from the leaders of two of our member banks, remarks from DECD Deputy Commissioner Glendowlyn Thames, and a report from Middlesex Hospital CEO Vin Capece. As part of his report, Vin noted how much he and his team appreciated the surprise fire truck brigade that descended on the hospital facility last Tuesday. The gesture was meant to boost morale and show gratitude for the great work of the Middlesex Health team, and it was very successful. The board meeting also featured a unanimous motion, that the chamber develop a letter to Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation urging decisive action on additional stimulus legislation to support the business community. The letter, which was sent last Friday, stressed that the need for additional federal resources is massive, and it is immediate. We have members that are doing their best to develop and submit applications for the relief packages that are available, but the reality is, there is simply not enough money available at this time to mitigate the economic damage that is resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to work with our elected leaders at all levels on an economic recovery plan for the business community in our region. In addition to all of these successful chamber meetings held last week, our team also executed helpful webinars featuring leaders from the banking, accounting, legal, and business counseling fields. We are fighting hard to support our businesses, and to be a good community partner, and you can bet that those efforts will continue.

This week includes more important content for the benefit of the business community in Middlesex County. Tuesday afternoon features the fourth installment of the chamber’s new Tuesday Tips campaign, which provides critical information from the legal community via informative webinars. We look forward to another informative conversation titled, “Planning Strategies for Individuals Looking Beyond the Current Crisis.” Attorneys from Pullman & Comley’s Tax and Trusts & Estates practices will cover: Beneficial Income Tax Changes for Individuals in the CARES Act, Why this is a good time to work on your estate plan, and Valuable Estate Planning Opportunities in the Current Financial Downturn. I want to thank the following members of the Pullman & Comley team for taking the time out of their busy schedules to delivery this important information to the chamber audience: Hon. Robert L. Holzberg (ret.), Lee Hoffman, D. Robert Morris, Alan Parker, and Lauren Davies. We look forward to a terrific session. Also, on Tuesday, the MEWS+ will host a special webinar titled, "Readying for Recovery: Resources for Middlesex County Businesses.” This session will provide the MEWS+ community, made up of startups, entrepreneurs and micro businesses, with the opportunity to learn more about how the chamber can be a resource for them now, and in the future. I will join my VP’s, Jeff Pugliese and Johanna Bond, for in depth discussion on the chamber’s activities during this crisis, and how we plan to recover and come back stronger than ever. This week’s chamber calendar also features a meeting of our East Haddam and Haddam Division on Thursday morning, and other important online gatherings of our industry-based councils and committees. On the workforce development front, I am proud to note that our Professional Training and Development Program is transitioning from in person classes to an online platform. These programs are free to the public, and are designed to provide skills training for job seekers, and for employees that are looking to grow in their professional capacity. More information can be found on our website, www.middlesexchamber.com. The chamber is on the move, and we don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

With respect to the large downtown events that the chamber and the city produce on an annual basis, we continue to have regular conversations about how to proceed. The city, the chamber, and Wesleyan University recently announced, that the second annual Middletown Pride celebration has been re-scheduled for Saturday, August 29, 2020. The event will once again be a demonstration and celebration of the history, lives and contributions of Middletown’s LGBTQIA residents. Middletown Pride will consist of a parade down Main Street, followed by a festival on the South Green and its surrounding areas. The parade will begin at 2:00 p.m., the festival will kick-off immediately after its conclusion and will run until 8:00 p.m. The festival will once again feature live entertainment, delicious food, a wide variety of vendors, information booths, and a lot of family friendly fun. The Middletown Pride team, led by Assistant General Counsel Christopher Forte, will continue to monitor the situation presented by COVID-19, and will take appropriate action in light of all federal, state and local guidelines to safeguard the well-being of its participants. More to come on that front. We will have additional announcements in the coming days regarding Cruise Night on Main and other events that so many people look forward to on an annual basis. I can assure you, we are all doing our best.

Before closing, I want to once again urge the business community to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available at this time. Another reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which includes a survey which will help us help you, along with a number of resources which we are updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. We have also created a social media campaign which allows our members to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to. This campaign has seen over 1200 posts about economic activity that is taking place in our region, an amazing stat that I am very proud of. On the restaurant front, I will note again, that the chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting Middlesex County restaurants that are open for pick up orders. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support these local restaurants if you are able to do so safely. It is also a good time, if you are able, to support the local business community through the purchase of gift cards. All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong. Finally, all of the terrific webinars that the chamber team has put together have been recorded and put on our website. I encourage you to take advantage of this critically important content. This is without question, an extremely challenging time for all of us. However, this community is showing its true colors in so many ways. We are resilient, we are strong, we are in it together, and I have no doubt, that we will get through this and will be stronger on the back end.

I am afraid I must once again close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of Frank Perrotti at the age of 88. Frank was a longtime supporter and friend of mine, and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Many of us knew him through this ownership of Perrotti's Farm & Garden Center in Middlefield, which he ran for over 30 years. I was honored to coach two of his sons at Xavier during their high school days. They were excellent football players, and even better kids. Frank’s daughter, Mary Ann, is an outstanding supporter of the chamber through her leadership role at Liberty Bank. She is a member of numerous chamber committees, supports all of our events, volunteers to support our programs and community initiatives, and supports us in countless other ways. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary Ann, and Frank’s entire family at this difficult time. Frank Perrotti made a major impact throughout his life, and he will be missed by many.

Middlesex County business community will bounce back

April 13, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached mid-April in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. However, as we all know, it is not a typical mid-April. In normal times, I would be using this week’s chamber column to preview our Business and Education Partnership Breakfast, our Career Fair Expo, and many other spring events happening in our community. However, that is unfortunately not the case this year, as the public health and economic fallout resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be top of mind for all of us. These are difficult times for our community and for communities across the United States. We are concerned about the health of our family, friends and colleagues, and we are concerned about the economy in Middlesex County and beyond. There are still so many unknowns about this situation. We don’t know how long it will take for the public health crisis to subside. We don’t know how long businesses will be closed or only able to operate on a limited basis. We don’t know how long it will be before we can hold events that bring us all together in the spirit of cooperation and fellowship. There are, however, a few things that I have always known, and that have been reinforced over the past few weeks. First of all, we are blessed to be a part of a wonderful community. People in Middlesex County truly care about one another and the community at large. Political party affiliations and other labels are out the window, and everyone is coming together to reach a common goal, get through this crisis healthy and stable, and ready to come back stronger than ever. The business community in our region is really hurting, but it is resilient, and it is not going anywhere. We are all in this together, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.

As I have noted in previous weeks, the outstanding staff at the chamber continues to provide top level service to our membership at a time when it is needed the most. The chamber remains operational, and has transitioned to video conference meetings for the near future. Last week featured well run, and productive meetings of our Executive Committee, LEAD CT Steering Committee, Durham and Middlefield Division, Cromwell Division, Health Care Council Steering Committee, and Real Estate Council. On Monday afternoon, we partnered with Congressman Joe Courtney on a webinar focusing on the CARES Act, the federal stimulus legislation which was recently passed and signed into law. We will continue to set up these important conversations with Members of Congress and other key leaders at the federal, state and local levels. This week also features excellent web-based content for the benefit of the business community in Middlesex County. On Monday afternoon, the first virtual session of our KeyBank Workshop Series will take place through a webinar titled, “PPP & More – What is Best for Your Business or Non-Profit.” Members and other interested parties are welcome to join us for an in-depth discussion with an experienced panel including: James Barger, Connecticut & Massachusetts Market President for KeyBank, Drew Andrews, CPA, Managing Partner and CEO of Whittlesey, and Brian Kerrigan, J.D., a Partner with Whittlesey. Tuesday afternoon features the third installment of the chamber’s new Tuesday Tips campaign which provides critical information from the legal community via informative webinars. We look forward to another informative conversation titled, “Looking Ahead – Getting Back to Business.” Hosted by Attorneys Rich Carella, Chris Brigham, Kevin McEleney and Donald Doeg of Updike Kelly & Spellacy, P.C., this webinar will focus on looking ahead and anticipating issues related to getting your business back to operations, including: Landlord / Tenant Law and the re-opening of businesses and offices, Employment Law and the re-hiring of employees, Insurance Law, and business interruption claims. A busy week wraps up on Friday with a special zoom-based Town Hall webinar with Matt Pugliese, Associate Director of the CT. Small Business Development Center, who will provide real time updates on the funding opportunities that are available to businesses in our region and throughout the state. We look forward to excellent presentations from our esteemed guests who will help us cut through some of the confusion surrounding the COVID-19 relief packages. I thank all of them personally, and on behalf of the chamber, for taking the time to lead these important discussions. In addition to all of these important webinars, this week features virtual meetings of the chamber’s Killingworth Division, Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, and Affordable Housing Committee. Also, our Strategic Planning Committee has been holding virtual meetings on a weekly basis which has been so helpful during this period. I appreciate the commitment of these active and engaged chamber leaders who make up this important committee. As you can see, the chamber is, and will stay, on the move.

Before closing, I want to once again urge the business community to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available at this time. Another reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which includes a survey which will help us help you, along with a number of resources which we will be updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. We have also created a social media campaign which allows our members to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to. I will note again, that the chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting Middlesex County restaurants that are open for pick up orders. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support these local restaurants if you are able to do so safely. It is also a good time, if you are able, to support the local business community through the purchase of gift cards. All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong.

Finally, I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Vin Volpe at the age of 91. Vin Volpe led an amazing life, and he helped so many people along the way. He grew up in Waterbury, but fortunately for us, he found his way to Middlesex County through his professional career. As a six-year-old boy in the 1930’s, Vin joined his older siblings Dorothy and Leo on the Vaudeville circuit as the Volpe Trio. His family knew at that time that he was destined to make a major impact in his life. After high school, he enlisted in the US Army where he served in Trieste, Italy in the 1940’s. In fact, he got a U.S. Army Freedom Team Salute for his service in World War II. Those of us in Middlesex County know Vin as the longtime President of Jarvis Products in Middletown. A temporary summer job at Jarvis in the 1950’s eventually led to an incredible 65-year career with the company. Vin built Jarvis into a powerhouse through ingenuity, commitment, and good old-fashioned hard work. Thanks in large part to Vin’s efforts, Jarvis has a truly global reach, and it is a company that Middletown and Middlesex County are truly lucky to have. In addition to this success in business, Vin supported countless community causes throughout his life. I will forever be grateful for his support of the chamber, and for our personal friendship that lasted many years until his passing. While all of this was so important to Vin, nothing was more important than his wonderful family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Susanne, his children, grandchildren, colleagues at Jarvis, and his vast network of friends at this difficult time. Vin Volpe was old school, he led by example, and he will be missed by many. We are all grateful for his service to our country, and to our community. We will remember him fondly.

Be well, Middlesex County, brighter days are ahead.

More important than ever to support local businesses

April 6, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

March has turned to April in Middlesex County and across our great nation. These continue to be tough times for the business community and for the community at large as we all grapple with the fallout from the COVID-19 situation. I continue to be very inspired and proud of the efforts of my chamber team, and by the strong and continued leadership of our public officials during this crisis. From our local leaders on the municipal level in Middlesex County, to our governor and legislative delegation at the state level, and to our partners at the federal level, everyone is stepping up to do whatever they can to be a constructive partner during this difficult period. I am also very proud of the resilience and the faith that is being shown by our membership at this time. While everyone is impacted in some way, we are seeing countless examples of individuals stepping up and offering help of some kind, in some way, and we are seeing it every day. We are so grateful for the efforts of Vin Capece and his amazing team at Middlesex Health. They, along with our first responders, are true professionals, and they are doing remarkable work on the front lines of this crisis in our region. As I noted last week, they continue to have our thanks, today, and every day.

As I also noted last week, the outstanding staff at the chamber continues to provide top level service to our membership at a time when it is needed the most. The chamber remains operational, and has transitioned to video conference meetings for the near future. Last week featured well run, and productive meetings of our Portland and East Hampton Division, our Environment and Infrastructure Committee, our Central Business Bureau, and our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division. I appreciate all of the support of our members who are jumping onto these important online meetings and calls.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, we were honored to be joined for a special zoom meeting with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. Sen. Blumenthal did a great job breaking down the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act, and he provided some important insight for our members into which programs might be most appropriate for them and for their industry sector. I very much appreciate the fact that he took the time out to visit with our members during this tough time for all of us. The senator’s staff recorded the conversation and has sent it to our staff. It is available on the chamber website if you are interested. From the chamber’s end, the meeting was led by our Chairman, Don DeVivo, and our Legislative Committee Co-Chair, Rich Carella, who both did an excellent job steering the conversation. This Monday, April 6, the chamber is holding another zoom meeting with U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney who represents Connecticut’s second congressional district. We plan to follow the same format as the meeting with Sen. Blumenthal, and look forward to another productive discussion for the benefit of our members. I also thank Congressman Courtney for his willingness to join us, and for staying in constant touch with our team.

Sticking with the zoom theme for a moment, a very productive webinar was held last Friday afternoon featuring Jim Jackson, CT Small Business Development Counselor, who went over in detail the many small business relief options that are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). He was able to cut through some of the confusion and answered important questions about the difference between disaster loans, the PPP Loans, EIDL, how to access relief if you are an existing SBA borrower, how to access professional business counseling during this crisis, and best practices for the application process. Jim is an excellent resource that we are fortunate to have in Middlesex County, and I appreciate his continued hard work in support of his clients and of the entire business community in our region.

This week is sure to be another busy one for the chamber team and for our membership. It kicks off on Monday with a zoom Executive Committee meeting led by our Chairman, Don DeVivo. As I have noted many times over the years, the chamber’s Executive Committee features a variety of business and community leaders from a number of industry sectors. This meeting will feature an update from key chamber members and staff, along with a breakdown of our efforts to support the business community through this crisis. We look forward another productive meeting, and I thank our members for hanging in there with us.

Tuesday afternoon features the second installment of the chamber’s new Tuesday Tips campaign which provides critical information from the legal community via informative webinars. This week’s session on the CARES Act will be led by the Hon. Robert Holzberg (ret.), and three of his partners from Pullman and Comley. The title of the webinar is “The CARES Act in Bite Size Portions”, and it will focus on providing practical answers to the three most frequently asked questions about the federal package:

  • Is my business eligible for assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program?
  • What does my business need to know about unemployment and family leave policies?
  • What are my obligations to workers who have Covid-19 or whose family members are sick?

Tuesday Tips will alternate on a weekly basis between Pullman and Comley, and Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C., two outstanding members of ours from the legal field. We are grateful to both firms for their support of this initiative, and of our chamber.

In addition to the Executive Committee and the session with Congressman Courtney, this week features virtual meetings of our LEAD CT Steering Committee, Durham and Middlefield Division, Cromwell Division, Health Care Council Steering Committee, and Real Estate Council. The chamber will continue to deliver for our members, and we will all get through this together.

I continue to urge our members to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available to you, or will become available to you in the coming days. Just a reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which includes a survey which will help us help you, along with a number of resources which we will be updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. We have also created a social media campaign which allows our members to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to.

As I noted last week, this is of course a tough time for all industry sectors, but particularly for our area restaurants, many of whom are staying open for takeout orders. The chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting the restaurants that are open for business at this time. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support them if you are able to do so safely. It is also a good time, if you are able, to support the local business community through the purchase of gift cards. All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong.

If you need anything at all, please contact the chamber office for support. Thank you, and be well.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

Tough times now but brighter days ahead

March 30, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

Well, it was certainly a different March than we are accustomed to in Middlesex County, and April is sure to be as well.

However, I must say, that I am very proud of our community for the way it is stepping up collectively, working together, and doing everything we can to manage this COVID-19 situation that we all continue to grapple with. Mayor Ben Florsheim and other leaders of Middletown’s response team have shown strong and sustained leadership throughout the past few weeks. There are daily conference calls, led by the mayor, that connect all of the city’s key stakeholders, and they have been very productive and useful. Councilman Ed McKeon, in partnership with the Community Health Center, organized a city-wide video conference last Tuesday night which allowed Middletown’s residents and businesses to hear directly from the city’s institutions on how they are dealing with the many challenges that are a result of this crisis. This type of coordination is going on throughout Middlesex County, and I so appreciate the around the clock efforts of all of our municipal leaders. They are indeed, committed public servants. Whether it is the public health response, the continuation of vital public services, continuing to educate our children, or helping the business community and the regional economy through this time, this coordination allows the county’s response to be a true team response, and there is nothing I appreciate more that teamwork. Our friends at Middlesex Health and the Community Health Center, along with our region’s first responders, are doing remarkable work on the front lines of this crisis in our region. They have our thanks today, and every day.

I am also proud of my fantastic team at the chamber for the way they have adapted to this situation. They continue to provide top level service to our membership at a time when it is needed the most. The chamber remains operational, and has transitioned to video conference meetings for the near future. Chamber Vice Presidents Jeff Pugliese and Johanna Bond have been very busy throughout this entire process. Johanna has led the effort to get our staff trained in how to conduct these vital online conference meetings. In fact, she has even trained me, and now I am “zooming” into meetings on a daily basis. If you asked me years ago, or even months ago, if I would be participating in vital meetings via video conference from home, every day, I certainly would not have believed you. Johanna, with the support our staff, is also gathering critical resources from a variety of sources and centralizing them into concise emails to our members. Jeff is participating in countless calls and video conference meetings with public officials at all levels, our fellow chambers from around the state, and members in many different industry sectors throughout the county. He is also continuing the work of the Middlesex County Revitalization Commission, our regional revolving loan fund which is led by Chairman Ed Bailey, to assist existing borrowers and other businesses who need support at this time. I want to be clear however, that the excellent work coming from the chamber is not just coming form the leadership team. Our entire staff is working very hard in support of our members, and I am very grateful for that. Danielle Aletta, Steve Ciskowski, Jennifer De Kine, Cathy Duncan, Daniellelee Gagon-Smith, Sandy Heinly-Canning, Sierra Lopez, Lorenzo Marshall, Charles Mitchell, Haley Stafford, and the team that manages our MEWS+ efforts, Tim Laubacher, Susan Hayes and Rebecca Mead. I am so proud of all of them.

This week features virtual meetings of our Portland and East Hampton Division, our Environment and Infrastructure Committee, our Central Business Bureau, and our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division. The chamber will continue to deliver for our members, and we will all get through this together.

I continue to urge our members to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available to you, or will become available to you in the coming days. Just a reminder that if you visit the chamber’s website, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which includes a survey which will help us help you, along with a number of resources which we will be updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. We have also created a social media campaign which allows our members to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to.

In addition to the resources that are available through the chamber, we also have the ability to connect our members and other interested parties to the many other important resources that are available at this time. The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) recently announced a bridge loan program to provide emergency cash flow relief to small businesses and nonprofits negatively impacted by the coronavirus. Under the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan program, a qualifying business or nonprofit organization can apply for a loan of up to $75,000 or three months of operating expenses (whichever is lesser). The link to the application can be found on the chamber’s website. If businesses find themselves in the very unfortunate position of having to lay off employees, we can connect them to the Department of Labor who has critical information for employers and employees alike. Finally, the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) has extended deadlines for filing and payments associated with certain state business tax returns. Details are on DRS’s website which can be accessed through the chamber website. If a business has questions or needs any technical assistance on any of these fronts, please contact the chamber, and we will do our best to assist.

This is of course a tough time for all industry sectors, but particularly for our area restaurants, many of whom are staying open for takeout orders. The chamber website has a section dedicated to promoting the restaurants that are open for business at this time. This information is also available through our social media platforms. Please support them if you are able to do so safely.

Before closing, I want to give a special shout out to a few public officials that serve our region so well. First, State Sen. Norm Needleman, who is also First Selectman of Essex, has been in constant contact with Jeff and me throughout this crisis. Before entering the political fray, Norm was a longtime supporter of our chamber through his business, Tower Labs in Essex. He is such a constructive partner, and always has the chamber’s back. It is very much appreciated. I also want to congratulate State Rep. Joe Serra on his recently announced retirement after serving residents of the 33rd General Assembly District for nearly 28 years. Before his time in the legislature, Joe served the Middletown Department of Public Works for 37 years, starting in 1959. He was appointed Deputy Director of Public Works in 1979, and held that position until he retired in August 1996. Joe is a longtime friend to me and to the chamber, and we are all thankful for his longtime public service. I will have much more on Joe’s retirement and impact in future versions of the chamber column, but we are certainly grateful for his service.

It has been a tough few weeks, and it will probably be a very challenging month of April. However, I have no doubt, that if we continue to work together, we will come through this, and will be stronger on the other side.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County, and brighter days are ahead.

Middlesex Chamber helping businesses during coronavirus outbreak

March 23, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

As we begin another tough week in Middlesex County, I have to open this week’s column once again by addressing the topic that will be top of mind for everyone for some time, and that is the COVID-19 situation that we are all grappling with.

As was noted last week, the chamber is keenly aware that this is a very difficult time for the business community in Middlesex County. The chamber team continues to work extra hard to make sure that we are a trusted resource as we collectively work to navigate this unique situation. We are staying in constant touch with our elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, and are pushing hard for swift action to mitigate the economic damage that is being caused by this global pandemic. The chamber remains operational, and we are going to hold critical meetings via conference call and through online portals. The chamber staff is able to work remotely, and will continue to be there for you and your business. Our message to you is to hang in there, and to lean on the chamber and other resources that are available to you, or will become available to you in the coming days. We are not only pushing, every day, for the quick availability of resources for the business community, but we are leading the effort that will allow chamber members to effectively support each other throughout this crisis. We need to hear from you, our valued members. We want to know how this crisis is affecting your business, and how we can help.

If you visit our website, www.middlesexchamber.com, you can access the Coronavirus Tool Kit which includes a survey which will help us help you, along with a number of resources which we will be updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. We have also created a social media campaign which allows our members to share the creative ideas they are employing to stay operational and helpful to their fellow community members during this period. Please connect with the chamber’s "SHOUT IT OUT!" campaign, and let us know what you are up to.

In addition to the resources that are available through the chamber, we also have the ability to connect our members and other interested parties to the many other important resources that are available at this time. The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). If businesses find themselves in the very unfortunate position of having to lay off employees, we can connect them to the Department of Labor who has critical information for employers and employees alike. Finally, the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) has extended deadlines for filing and payments associated with certain state business tax returns. Details are on DRS’s website which can be accessed through the chamber website.

This week will feature a variety of important conference calls with the City of Middletown, the State of Connecticut, Members of Congress, chambers from around the state, and other partners.

All businesses, large and small, are part of the fabric of this community. It is time to come together, to support each other, so we can weather this storm and come back strong.

Before closing, I want to take a moment to thank my entire dedicated chamber staff, especially my Vice Presidents Jeff Pugliese and Johanna Bond, for their great work and commitment to our organization and to the business community in Middlesex County. I am proud of them all every day, and especially during these difficult times.

We are all in this together, and we will get through this. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will do everything it can to be a resource for the business community throughout this period.

In closing, this week marks the final week at the chamber for our longtime Controller, Nancy Prue, who is retiring from her position after 27 years of outstanding service. Words cannot adequately express my feelings about Nancy, and my appreciation of her work and her professionalism. She was a dedicated, loyal, and hard-working member of the chamber team who did an excellent job in a very important position. Throughout her career with us, she was a steady and composed presence who showed up ready to work, every day. On behalf of our entire membership and our staff, I thank Nancy, and her family, and wish her nothing but the best in her well-deserved retirement. She will always be a member of the chamber team.

Remember, the sun always shines in Middlesex County. I will never waiver on that

Stay safe!

 

Chamber is resource on COVID-19 for business community

March 16, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

I want to begin this week’s column by addressing the topic that is top of mind for everyone, and that is the COVID-19 breakout that is having a major impact across the world. We are aware that this is a difficult time for the business community in Middlesex County and for our membership. I want everyone to know that the chamber is working very hard to be a trusted resource in the community as we collectively work to navigate this unique situation. We are staying in constant touch with our elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, and are pushing hard for swift action to mitigate the economic damage that is being caused by this global pandemic. We have also created a page on our website titled the “Coronavirus Tool-Kit” which we will be updating on a regular basis as more information becomes available. Included in that tool kit are tips and best practices for the employer community and the community at large. On the economic front, we will continue to share resources with our members including a link to the US Small Business Administration website which contains additional guidance for businesses and employers to plan and respond to the current situation. There is also information on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, and other resources available through SBA.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge, with gratitude, the great job that Vin Capece and the team at Middlesex Health are doing to combat this virus in our community. We were proud to partner with Middlesex Health on a Coronavirus Workshop at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell last Friday. I would like to thank the panelists from Middlesex Health who did a terrific job with their remarks on Friday, Jonathan Bankoff, M.D, Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Alina Filozov, D.O., Section Chief, Infectious Disease & Epidemiologist, Jodi Parisi, Infection Prevention Manager, and Jim Hite, Director, Environmental Safety & Protective Services. As I have noted many times over the years, we are so fortunate to have Middlesex Health as a key stakeholder in our region.

We are all in this together, and we will get through this. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will do everything it can to be a resource for the business community throughout this period. Remember, the sun always shines in Middlesex County.

As the month of March moves right along in Middlesex County, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that one of my favorite days of the year, St. Patrick’s Day, is coming up this weekend. St. Patrick’s Day is a truly global celebration of Irish heritage and tradition, and I am very proud that the residents and businesses of Middlesex County have warmly embraced the holiday. Whether you plan to celebrate by wearing your favorite green tie, sweater or shirt, by enjoying a nice plate of corned beef and cabbage, or by enjoying a hearty libation or two, I hope that everyone in our region enjoys a very happy, healthy and safe St. Patrick’s Day.

Unfortunately, the Westfield Division that was scheduled for Wednesday morning has been postponed to another date. We will continue to work with the Mayor’s office and the Public Health Department to disseminate the important information that we were going to cover at the meeting.

On the workforce development front, I look forward to attending the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee Meeting on 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. Later on Thursday, our Board of Directors will make its annual visit to the Griswold Inn in Essex for its March meeting. The board meeting will feature updates from committee chairs and other members, along with reports from key chamber staff who are working very hard in support of the business community in our region. I would like to thank longtime friends and members Herb Clark and Norm Needleman for hosting the meeting, and for providing the delicious lunch that will be served by the great team at "The Gris." 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.

We are very mindful of some of the concerns surrounding the holding of in person meetings, and we are being very flexible with call in options and other means of connecting with our members. We will continue to keep our members informed on a daily basis on all of these issues.

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 Opening celebration for Mindbrakes in Main Street Market, Middletown on Friday afternoon. The mission at Mindbrakes is to provide alternative pathways to a healthy lifestyle through education, support, products and services. We look forward to working with the entire Mindbrakes team as we move forward, and we wish them all the best in 2020 and beyond.

While there is uncertainty about the legislative schedule at this point, the chamber’s Legislative Committee will continue to stay very active and engaged in support of our members and of the Middlesex business community. The first installment of our Legislative Leadership Series was held last Monday, March 9, with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz at the Inn at Middletown. The speaker gave us a candid assessment of the legislative session to this point, and as always, I appreciate his willingness to join us during the session. We continue to work with legislative leadership on the development of meetings or other ways to connect on these important issues in the coming months.

Let’s hang in there, together, and continue to fight for Middlesex County. Have a great week!

Coronavirus forum tops week’s business activities

March 9, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

The clocks have officially sprung ahead in Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

As the legislative session rolls along in Hartford, the chamber’s Legislative Committee continues to stay very active and engaged in support of our members and of the Middlesex business community. The first installment of our Legislative Leadership Series will kick off this Monday, March 9 with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz at the Inn at Middletown from 8:00-9:30 a.m. At this special meeting, Speaker Aresimowicz will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2020 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2020 Public Policy Agenda. I would like to thank Updike, Kelly and Spellacy for sponsoring, and Speaker Aresimowicz for once again speaking with our chamber members at this annual event. We look forward to another productive discussion. I also ask that our members save the date of Friday, March 27, for a Legislative Leadership Series breakfast event featuring Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff at the Courtyard by Marriott. This event is sponsored by Eversource, and we very much appreciate their continued support of our effort to work closely with legislative leadership on an annual basis. I will have more on the meeting with Sen. Duff, and on our efforts to secure other legislative leaders as we move through the month of March.

A busy Tuesday kicks off at the chamber with the March edition of our KeyBank Workshop Series. This session, titled “"Hiring, Discipline and Firing: Employment Best Practices,” will be held from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Presented by Richard Hinton of the law firm Pullman & Comley, the discussion will focus on helping small business owners, HR personnel, and managers understand the legal issues surrounding modern hiring and firing decisions. The presentation will also cover practical steps that employers can take to minimize litigation risk, and will detail best practices for employment background checks, drug testing and medical inquiries, conducting a comprehensive application and interview process, identifying fraudulent employment and/or educational references, when to discipline and when to fire, effective preparation for termination, and the most common difficulties faced during the process. We look forward to another great session for the benefit of our members, and I thank our friends at KeyBank once again for their sponsorship of this important series.

On the chamber division front, this week features meetings of our Durham & Middlefield Division at The Red Barn in Durham on Wednesday, our Cromwell Division at Mosaic on Thursday, and our Killingworth Division at the Emergency Operations Center at the Town Hall Complex in Killingworth, also on Thursday. The chamber divisions function as sub chambers, and they allow us to stay current on the many important issues that face our members in our 13 member towns. As I have noted many times, the divisions are critical to the operation of our chamber, and we continue to appreciate our members who support these important meetings.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, I look forward to speaking to The Kiwanis Club of Middletown at its weekly meeting at Vero Cucino Rustico. Kiwanis International is a global organization of members dedicated to serving the children of the world. I appreciate the invitation from the Middletown chapter, and look forward to reconnecting with this terrific local service organization who does important work in our community.

This coming Friday, March 13, the chamber will partner with Middlesex Health on a Coronavirus Workshop at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell beginning at 8:00 a.m. This workshop will help attendees understand the facts about the virus, including how it spreads, what the symptoms are, how you can protect yourself and your family, and what Middlesex Health is doing to prepare our community. The panel will consist of Jonathan Bankoff, M.D, Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Alina Filozov, D.O., Section Chief, Infectious Disease & Epidemiologist, Jodi Parisi, Infection Prevention Manager, and Jim Hite, Director, Environmental Safety & Protective Services. I thank Middlesex Health CEO Vin Capece and his team for being so proactive on this front, and we look forward to a very informative discussion.

On the Member Breakfast front, excitement continues to build for our March event featuring UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma on Monday, March 16 at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. 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 which is sure to sell out. Immediately following the Member Breakfast Meeting, the chamber will host an important workshop titled "The Vaping Epidemic - The Truth & Consequences.” This workshop will be presented in partnership with the City of Middletown and the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council. We look forward to a very productive morning on March 16 in Rocky Hill.

On the networking front, we are very much looking forward to our March Business After Work reception on Tuesday, March 31 at Saint Clements Castle in Portland. This member only event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a great spread of food and drink courtesy of our host, and as we like to say, the best networking around. Saint Clements Castle is situated on over 90 beautiful acres in the great town of Portland, and we look forward to our first chamber Business After Work event at this local landmark. On behalf of the chamber, I would like to thank Peter Callan and the entire team at Saint Clements for hosting us on March 31. We look forward to a terrific evening.

Saint Patrick’s Day is almost here, spring is right behind it, and the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.

Have a great week!

CT Business Day a chance to connect with legislators

March 2, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

The month of March is upon us, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

Another busy week kicks off on Monday at the chamber office as our Executive Committee holds its March meeting. This committed group of business leaders will discuss a number of important issues to the business community including the status of regional economic development projects, upcoming events and activities, the ongoing legislative session, and much more. I continue to appreciate the support of our Chairman, Don DeVivo, and this outstanding group of strong corporate citizens. We look forward to another productive meeting.

This coming Wednesday, March 4, hundreds of business leaders, as well as our partner chambers of commerce from across the state, will converge on the state Capitol for Connecticut Business Day. This full morning of events is set to feature remarks from a variety of state government leaders, breakouts sessions, connection to your legislator events, and much more. Connecticut Business Day is another opportunity for the business community to tell state lawmakers how pending legislation impacts their ability to create jobs and grow our state’s economy. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

On the chamber division front, this week features meetings of our Portland and East Hampton Division and our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division. The Portland and East Hampton Division will meet on Wednesday at Petzold’s Marine Center in Portland. The meeting will feature State Comptroller Kevin Lembo as guest speaker who will discuss the state’s financial and economic outlook. The Chester, Deep River and Essex Division will meet on Friday at Chester Town Hall. This meeting will feature local and chamber updates, as well as remarks from Brian White, Superintendent of Schools, Regional School District 4. As I have noted many times, the chamber divisions are critical to the operation of our chamber, and we continue to appreciate our members who support these important meetings.

Immediately following the Portland and East Hampton Division meeting on Wednesday, Petzold’s Marine Center will hold their 75th Anniversary Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Petzold’s is a longtime and active member of our chamber, and I congratulate them on 75 outstanding years in business. Petzold’s provides a wide range of boat services, from seasonal commissioning and decommissioning, winter storage, summer slips, engine repair, repowering, custom canvas, electrical installation or customization, and much more. In fact, their 14,000 sq. ft heated showroom is one of the largest in New England. We are very lucky to have Petzold’s as an anchor business in Middlesex County, and I wish their entire team nothing but the best as we move forward. Here’s to 75 more!

On Thursday morning, the chamber’s Central Business Bureau will meet at the chamber office at 8:00 a.m. This meeting will feature local city and chamber updates, as well as a visit from the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Mohawk Northeast, Inc who will discuss the rehabilitation of the Arrigoni Bridge approach spans carrying Routes 17 and 6 in Middletown and Portland. This project will take place simultaneously with the Saint John’s Square/Main Street intersection operational improvement project in Middletown. Construction activities will be completed in three separate stages in order to maintain traffic flow through the project limits while providing the contractor with adequate space to efficiently complete construction.  In each stage, Rt. 17/66 traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction with the use of temporary precast concrete barrier (TPCB).  TPCB is expected to be in place for a maximum of 540 days. Work on St. John’s Square and Main Street consists of the geometric realignment of the intersection to improve safety and operational efficiency, as well as the addition of two turn-lanes. This information was sent to us by DOT. We look forward to welcoming our guests from CT DOT and Mohawk Northeast, Inc., and will continue to provide updates as this project progresses.

As I have repeatedly noted in the chamber column over the past few weeks, the 2020 Regular Session of the CT. General Assembly is off and running in Hartford. The chamber’s Legislative Committee hosted a very productive Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by Comcast, last Friday in Cromwell. 12 members of the General Assembly joined us for an important discussion on the many issues of importance to the business community in Middlesex County. Moving forward, our Legislative Leadership Series will kick off next Monday, March 9 with Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz at the Inn at Middletown from 8:00-9:30 a.m. At this special meeting, Speaker Aresimowicz will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2020 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2020 Public Policy Agenda. I would like to thank Updike, Kelly and Spellacy for sponsoring, and Speaker Aresimowicz for once again speaking with our chamber members at this annual event.

On Friday, March 13, the chamber will partner with Middlesex Health on a Coronavirus Workshop at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell beginning at 8:00 a.m. This workshop will help attendees understand the facts about the virus, including how it spreads, what the symptoms are, how you can protect yourself and your family, and what Middlesex Health is doing to prepare. The panel will consist of Jonathan Bankoff, M.D, Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Alina Filozov, D.O., Section Chief, Infectious Disease & Epidemiologist,

Jodi Parisi, Infection Prevention Manager, and Jim Hite, Director, Environmental Safety & Protective Services. I thank Middlesex Health CEO Vin Capece and his team for being so proactive on this front, and we will certainly share additional details as we get closer.

On the Member Breakfast front, excitement continues to build for our March event featuring UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma on Monday, March 16 at the Sheraton Hartford South. 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 which is sure to sell out. Immediately following the Member Breakfast Meeting, the chamber will host an important workshop titled "The Vaping Epidemic - The Truth & Consequences.” This workshop will be presented in partnership with the City of Middletown and the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council. We look forward to a very productive morning on March 16 in Rocky Hill.

I would like to close this week’s chamber column on a personal note. Later this week, a bridge carrying West Street over the rail line near the Middlefield line will be officially named for the late Middletown Fire Capt., Joe Pagano, who suffered a fatal heart attack in 2006 at the age of 52. Joe was a terrific firefighter, but much more importantly, he was an even better man. He was a former player for me during my high school football coaching days at Xavier High School, and I was certainly proud to coach him. He was dedicated to the Middletown Fire Department, to the city of Middletown, and first and foremost, to his wonderful family. I look forward to attending the ceremony and sharing a few words, and will always have fond memories of Joe.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

Sheraton Hartford South Hotel hosts Business After Work

February 24, 2020

By: Larry McHugh

The final week of February is another busy one in Middlesex County, and the chamber is ready to “leap” into the lucky month of March.

On the chamber division front, this week features meetings of our Westbrook Division and our East Haddam & Haddam Division. The Westbrook Division meeting will take place on Tuesday morning at Westbrook Outlets. In addition to local and chamber reports, the meeting will feature a visit from State Comptroller Kevin Lembo. The East Haddam & Haddam Division meeting will take place on Thursday morning at Franklin Academy in East Haddam, and will feature reports from a variety of local stakeholders. The chamber divisions continue to be very active and engaged throughout Middlesex County. We look forward to two more productive meetings this week, and thank our members for their support.

In addition to the Westbrook Division meeting in the morning, Tuesday also features a visit to Hartford for a lunch meeting 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. The ongoing legislative session in Hartford is sure to be an important topic of discussion. I look forward to seeing my colleagues again, and continuing these important discussions.

Tuesday evening features our February Business After Work Networking Reception at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill from 5:00-7:00 p.m. As always, the event will feature a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests along with outstanding networking opportunities. I want to once again thank Sheraton General Manager Anthony Baxter, Director of Sales and Marketing Gina Molde, Senior Business Travel Sales Manager Ken Gribbon, Executive Chef Jim Oswald, Catering Sales Manager Katie Gonzalez, and their entire team for hosting this event. We look forward to a great evening at this outstanding local facility.

This Wednesday, 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. 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.

As I have noted many times, the chamber is very fortunate to have an active and engaged Legislative Committee which is led by Co-Chairs, Rich Carella and Maureen Westbrook. Our 2020 Legislative Breakfast is scheduled for this Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. Sponsored by Comcast, the 2020 Legislative Breakfast will feature legislators that represent the 15 Middlesex County towns in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives. This breakfast represents a great opportunity, on an annual basis, for our members to network with these important elected leaders that represent our region. I would like to thank our delegation for not only attending the event, but for their service to our state. Finally, I thank Comcast for its great support of this important event, and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber will continue to stay engaged throughout this legislative session.

On the Member Breakfast front, I would like to remind members and other interested parties that the chamber’s March event 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!

Before closing, I would like to congratulate Middlesex Hospital, a part of Middlesex Health, which recently earned the Healthgrades 2020 America’s 100 Best Hospitals Award, the only hospital in Connecticut to receive such an honor. The distinction places Middlesex in the top 2 percent of nearly 4,500 hospitals assessed nationwide for its consistent, year-over-year superior clinical performance as measured by Healthgrades, a resource that connects consumers, physicians and health systems. This information is from a recent media release about the award. I have noted many times over the years that Middletown and Middlesex County are extremely lucky to have Middlesex Health as a key stakeholder in our region. They consistently provide outstanding medical care, and support a variety of community causes on an annual basis. I would like to congratulate President and CEO, and past chamber Chairman, Vin Capece, and his entire team, on this incredible achievement.

In closing, I want to make everyone aware that Connecticut Department of Transportation recently announced the start of construction for the rehabilitation of the Arrigoni Bridge approach spans carrying Routes 17 and 66 in Middletown and Portland. This project will take place simultaneously with the Saint John’s Square/Main Street intersection operational improvement project in Middletown. Construction is set to begin on or about February 27, 2020. Construction activities will be completed in three separate stages in order to maintain traffic flow through the project limits while providing the contractor with adequate space to efficiently complete construction. Chamber VP Jeff Pugliese and I recently attended a meeting with the Department of Transportation and the contractor on the project, Mohawk Northeast, Inc. We will stay in constant communication with the department and the contractor throughout the duration of this process. As you may recall, the chamber established an Arrigoni Bridge Committee during previous construction projects on or near the bridge. This committee is comprised of chamber staff, and local municipal representatives from Middletown, Cromwell and Portland including Police, Fire, and Emergency Management personnel. Representatives from Middlesex Health, Community Health Center, and other local key stakeholders will also be involved. The Arrigoni Bridge Committee will once again be tasked with minimizing the impact of the construction, and making sure that emergency personnel, tow trucks, and other critical vehicles can access the construction zones at all times. We will certainly keep everyone updated through this column and through other means as the project moves forward, but we all need to be prepared for this work to continue for the next two years. Any questions or concerns can be directed to the chamber office.

Have a great week, and remember, the sun always shines in Middlesex County.

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!