On the Move with Larry McHugh
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.
August 13, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
Another busy week is upon us in Middlesex County and throughout our great state.
On Thursday morning in New Haven, I will attend a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee. Workforce Alliance, a key chamber partner in our effort to be a bridge between job seekers and employers, works to improve the delivery of workforce services in close collaboration with business, education and training providers, and elected officials. On Thursday afternoon, the chamber Board of Directors will hold its summer meeting at the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. In addition to reports from committee chairs and key staff, the meeting will feature an update from the Connecticut Tourism Coalition which supports the state’s tourism industry by addressing key legislative, regulatory and budgeting issues through public education and outreach. I look forward to two productive meetings, and thank Essex Steam Train and Riverboat President Kevin Dodd for hosting our Board of Directors on Thursday.
The highlight of the week is of course the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania which is scheduled for this Wednesday evening on Main Street. This event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, is held in memory of a founding sponsor, Dan M. Hunter, and is driven by Haymond Law. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for the 13th installment of this annual city event which will showcase custom bikes, and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. In addition to Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., the Hunter Family, and Haymond Law, event sponsors include: City of Middletown, Liberty Bank, Middletown Downtown Business District, Brookfield Indian Motorcycle, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Bank of America, Gengras Motorcycles, Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, MedExpress Urgent Care, The Flood Law Firm, Marcum LLP New Haven, Witter’s Web, All American Productions, Middlesex Music Academy, Lyman Orchards Golf Club, First & Last Tavern, and WMRD/WLIS Radio. Motorcycle Mania benefits Middletown youth programs, and past proceeds have supported the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation and Community Services Department Youth Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. There is a $10 entry donation for bikes, and a $15 entry donation for award bikes. Entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by WMRD/WLIS Radio, which will broadcast live in front of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and iHeart Media, which will broadcast in the Gazebo on the South Green. The Patrones will perform on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Finally, the All American Productions Fashion Show will take place on the Showmobile at 6 p.m. I want to take a moment to once again offer a special thank you to the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco and Event Coordinator Haley Stafford, for all of its hard work in putting this major event together. Finally, I want to once again thank the City of Middletown for its strong and enduring support of the event. From Mayor Drew, to members of the Common Council, to the Police, Fire, Parking, and Public Works Departments, the city’s support is critical to the operation of this event, and it is very much appreciated. Main Street will be rocking Wednesday night and we all look forward to another great event. The Rain Date for the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is next Wednesday, August 22.
Next week, another busy one, will feature a major Business After Work networking reception on Tuesday, Aug. 21 at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink at this annual event which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. The Business After Work is for key employees of chamber members and will, as always, feature some of the best networking around. I thank the Dattilo family, Director of Sales Keith Lindelow, Senior Sales Manager Karen Robidoux, and the entire Water’s Edge team for hosting us and for their continued support of our chamber. The Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by People’s United Bank, will feature an update from the coach on the upcoming season of Husky football which begins on Thursday, August 30 vs. UCF. Coach Edsall recently returned to the position as Head Coach at UConn, and we are thrilled that he is back leading the Huskies. I want to once again thank Coach Edsall for taking time out of his schedule to meet with our membership, and People’s United Bank for sponsoring the Member Breakfast Meeting.
On the save the date front, the chamber will welcome FedEx Ground President & CEO Henry Maier as guest speaker at a Member Breakfast Meeting on Friday, September 21. This event will be immediately followed by a Lenders Forum which will feature a panel discussion and mini expo with representatives of bank, non-bank, and community lending sources. I also ask that chamber members save the date of Wednesday, October 24 which is our Connecticut Connections event, Middlesex County's Premier Business EXPO. There is much more to come on these exciting events and activities, but please be sure to save the dates now.
It is hard to believe, but our six week tour of Middlesex County’s economic development highlights comes to an end this week as we visit the beautiful towns of Chester and Deep River. Chester continues to enjoy economic development success through its manufacturing anchors and its classic New England downtown. Whelen Engineering, founded in George Whelen’s garage in 1952, has developed life-saving lighting products for police, fire, EMS and DOT professionals for over six decades. Whelen’s state of the art Chester facility continues to be a key local employer and an outstanding corporate citizen. The company has also been a pioneer in developing the workforce talent pipeline in the field of manufacturing. Roto North America, a leading supplier of North American and European window and door hardware, is another outstanding regional employer and corporate citizen. I continue to appreciate the support of its president, and chamber board member, Chris Dimou and thank him for his leadership of this terrific company. Since 1954, Greenwald Industries has accommodated customer needs through quality manufacturing, assembling, and testing of hardware. Greenwald has built lasting partnerships with commercial laundry giants such as Whirlpool and Alliance and excels as a key supplier. In its 120,000 square feet Chester facility, Greenwald’s talented professionals adapt to customer needs and help solidify Middlesex County’s manufacturing base. All of this, combined with a beautiful downtown that features outstanding attractions like The Pattaconk Bar and Grille, The River Tavern, and Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre, means Chester is truly on the move.
Next door in Deep River, another quintessential New England town, residents also enjoy a strong local economy with key anchors and unmistakable small town charm. Nestled at the Deep River waterfront, the quaint Riverwind Inn serves as a special place for visitors to enjoy Connecticut’s beautiful River Valley. The Red House Restaurant on Deep River’s Main Street specializes in pleasing guests with a wide array of delectable options, including their signature meats. On the manufacturing front, Smith & Wesson Precision Components continues to develop fire arms out of their Deep River location as it has for over 120 years. InterPro 3D Printing Services & Systems has aided companies in their efforts to reduce costs and produce quicker turnaround times for over 30 years. Deep River also has a deep sense of history, pride and culture. The Deep River Ancient Muster is the oldest and largest gathering of drum and fife aficionados in the entire world. Referred to as the “Grandaddy of All Musters” and “A Colonial Woodstock,” the Muster always occurs on the 3rd Saturday in July, and it was a monumental success once again this year.
For these reasons and many more, we are very fortunate to have the towns of Chester and Deep River as key stakeholders in our organization. I continue to appreciate the great work and support of Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, and all of the towns’ stakeholders.
While there is much to celebrate in our region, I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of John F. Olson at the age of 83. It is appropriate that we are celebrating the towns of Chester and Deep River this week, because John was a lifelong resident of Deep River, and made such an impact in Chester through his leadership of Whelen Engineering. John graduated from Valley Regional High School in 1953, later earning his bachelor degree in engineering from the University of New Hampshire. He became the first full-time employee, and eventually the CEO and President of Whelen Engineering Company. Under John’s leadership, Whelen became a true leader in the emergency lighting industry. He also led efforts to partner with Valley Regional High School on the development of an Introduction to Manufacturing class that was held on site at Whelen. This program has become a model of cooperation between business and education, and it undoubtedly has had a positive impact on the development of the manufacturing workforce pipeline in our state. John enjoyed great success in business, but he also made sure to give back to his community through service as a volunteer firefighter, philanthropist, ambulance member, and a member of many other boards and commissions. John was also a strong supporter of UConn Athletics, along with a number of other causes and initiatives over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife of 56 years, Elinor, his two sons, his grandchildren, his brother, and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. John Olson was a great man, and he will be missed by many.
August 6, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
The summer is moving right along in Middlesex County as the first full week of August has arrived.
The week kicks off on Monday with the August meeting of our Executive Committee, the chamber’s top governing body. Under the leadership of our chairman, Jay Polke, Monday’s meeting will cover a number of important topics including the upcoming fall calendar, economic development projects that are progressing throughout Middlesex County, and other issues of importance to the business community. I continue to appreciate the support of our dedicated and engaged Executive Committee, and look forward to another productive meeting.
Tuesday features a meeting of the chamber’s Cromwell Division at Donnelly’s Irish Pub which recently became a member of our organization. The meeting, which will be led by Cromwell Division Chairman Rodney Bitgood, will feature reports from Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Manager Tony Salvatore, and other town leaders. Immediately following the meeting, a Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening Celebration will be held for Donnelly’s. We certainly wish General Manager Sean Yenkelun and his entire team the best of luck as they move forward with the business. We look forward to working with them.
On Wednesday, I look forward to stopping by the Connecticut Association of Street & Highway Officials’ 47th Annual Golf Tournament and Outing at Tunxis Plantation in Farmington. CASHO is a not-for-profit educational association whose mission is to provide education on Public Works functions throughout the state. I appreciate the invitation from Joe Serra, and look forward to seeing many friends and colleagues.
Back in Middletown, the chamber’s Central Business Bureau also continues to be very active during the summer months. CBB meetings are typically held on the first Thursday of each month but the August meeting was bumped to this week by our Member Breakfast Meeting with Ray Allen. The agenda will once again feature reports from a number of City of Middletown Department Directors who will cover a variety of topics for the downtown business community. The Central Business Bureau continues to be an effective way in which we connect downtown businesses to key city officials and other community leaders. We look forward to another productive session.
A key segment of the CBB meeting will be an update on next week’s 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania. This major annual event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd. & the Hunter family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will take place on Wednesday, August 15 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Middletown Motorcycle Mania is held in memory of Dan M. Hunter, one of the event’s founding sponsors. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for this 13th annual city event, which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. Motorcycle Mania benefits Middletown youth programs, and past proceeds have supported the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program, Middletown Recreation and Community Services Department Youth Programs, and the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. There is a $10 entry donation, and $15 entry donation for award bikes. Entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by WMRD/WLIS Radio, which will broadcast live in front of the chamber and iHeart Media, which will broadcast in the gazebo on the South Green. The Patrones Band, an energetic rock-and-roll cover band, will perform on the Showmobile in front of Bank of America from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Finally, the All American Productions Fashion Show will take place on the Showmobile at 6 p.m. I will have much more on the event in next week’s column, but I want to take a moment to offer a special thank you to the Middletown Motorcycle Mania Planning Committee, led by Chairman Rich Greco and Event Coordinator Haley Stafford, for all of its hard work in putting this major event together. Finally, I want to once again thank the city of Middletown for its strong and enduring support of the event. From Mayor Drew to members of the Common Council to the police, fire, parking, and Public Works departments, the city’s support is critical to the operation of this event and it is very much appreciated. Main Street will be rocking next Wednesday night and we all look forward to another great event.
Following the CBB meeting, I will attend the Ribbon Cutting of Tonia’s Tailoring Featuring Lola, with Deputy Mayor Bob Santangelo and other city dignitaries. Tonia Herring and Lola Hardwick are both graduates of the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program. We wish them continued success in the tailoring and clothing alteration business at their new location inside Main Street Market in Middletown.
Looking ahead on the chamber calendar, August also features a major Business After Work networking reception on Tuesday, Aug. 21 at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink at this annual event which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. The Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by People’s United Bank, will feature an update from the coach on the upcoming season of Husky football which begins on Thursday, August 30 vs. UCF. Coach Edsall recently returned to the position as Head Coach at UConn, and we are thrilled that he is back leading the Huskies. I will have more on both of these important chamber events as we get closer.
To close this week’s column, we will take a quick trip down county to check on the economic development activity in beautiful towns of Essex and Westbrook. In Essex, recent efforts by dedicated leaders and residents have enhanced the already sterling reputation that the town enjoys throughout the northeastern United States. Key anchors like the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Ivoryton Playhouse, Connecticut River Museum, and The Griswold Inn, in partnership with over 700 more town businesses, continue to attract tourists and tourism dollars throughout the year. Strategic partnerships with the state have improved the town’s infrastructure in recent years and helped to make it a more walkable and attractive place. The Steam Train’s continued growth and expansion has been a game changer for the entire region, the playhouse’s restoration and resurgence has revitalized Ivoryton village, and the historic seaport village continues to connect us to the river and to our colonial past. All of this, combined with a successful Summer Concert Series, the Ivoryton Farmer’s Market, and even the recent filming of two movies in town, means Essex is truly on the move. I congratulate First Selectman Norm Needleman and the entire Board of Selectmen, Economic Development Consultant Susan Malan, and all town stakeholders for their terrific work.
Next door in Westbrook, the beautiful shoreline beaches, great tourist attractions, delicious dining options, and much more make the town another Middlesex County gem. Those who have visited Water’s Edge Resort and Spa know that it is without question one of the best attractions in the state. The summer season continues to hop at Water’s Edge as guests enjoy the beach, pool, live music, variety of great food, top notch accommodations, and much more. This key major employer and tourist attraction is also a strong member of our chamber. Westbrook also continues its efforts to recruit new businesses to its downtown area adjacent to the town center. I am very excited that four new businesses have, or soon will be occupying this area. We will continue to support the town as it works to revitalize its Town Center. Over at Westbrook Outlets, which was recently rebranded after Tanger sold the property, management is actively developing the outlets with new businesses and restaurants. On the infrastructure front, Connecticut Water has modernized many of the aging water mains, and the town has committed major capital funding to develop infrastructure including a complete sidewalk initiative. Also, improvements in the zoning code will support the growth of Westbrook’s business community moving forward. Finally, a subcommittee of the Shoreline Basic Needs Task Force, the Economic Action Committee, is working on a number of key initiatives ranging from economic development, to workforce development, and more. The chamber looks forward to working with this all volunteer group on job shadowing, mentoring, internships, and career exploration. I thank First Selectman Noel Bishop, the Board of Selectmen, the Economic Development Commission, and all town stakeholders for their excellent work.
The sun always shines in Middlesex County!
July 30, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
A busy summer continues in Middlesex County as we enter the month of August.
This week’s chamber column will continue its tour throughout Middlesex County, and the outstanding economic development activity that is taking place. However, before getting to that, I want to take a moment to preview some of the upcoming chamber events and activities.
A key pillar of the Middlesex County economy is of course, tourism. One of the key tourist attractions in our region is Goodspeed Musicals. The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam and The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester continues to attract outstanding shows and talent to our region on an annual basis. I look forward to attending the Goodspeed Executive Committee meeting on Monday afternoon, and will continue to stress the importance of tourism to our economy.
On the chamber event front, we look forward to welcoming former UConn and NBA Star Ray Allen as guest speaker at our Member Breakfast Meeting this Thursday, August 2nd at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. As I noted last week, we are all so proud that Ray is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 which will be officially inducted in September in Springfield. This is a well-deserved honor for Ray who had a fantastic career with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Seattle Supersonics, the Boston Celtics, and the Miami Heat. He has also supported a variety of charities and community causes throughout his life and career. At the event on the 2nd, pre-signed copies of Ray’s book “From the Outside: My Journey through Life and the Game I Love" will be available for a presale price of $24, and will be sold on the day of the event for the full price of $30. I would like to again thank Ray Allen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit with our membership. I also want to thank DATTCO, led by its President and chamber Vice Chairman Don DeVivo, for sponsoring the Member Breakfast Meeting. We look forward to a great event on Thursday in Cromwell.
Switching gears to the workforce development front, week three of the 2018 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program continues today at a number of locations throughout the city of Middletown. 70 Middletown youngsters have been placed into this six week long program which provides valuable work experience in a wide variety of professional fields. During these six important weeks, our young people not only learn the fundamentals of employment, such as getting to work on time and ready to contribute, but also the pride that comes with putting in a solid work week and receiving a paycheck that was earned through hard and honest work. Every time I mention this program, I make sure to thank the over 30 businesses and organizations in Middletown that are serving as host worksites this summer. It is critical that we have host worksites from a wide variety of industry sectors that are willing to step up and provide the work and supervision that is necessary to truly make this an effective workforce development initiative. I would also like to take a moment to once again thank our 2018 team of funding partners for their great contributions to this program. Without them, this program would simply not be possible. Our 2018 team of funding partners is as follows: Workforce Alliance; The City of Middletown; Peach Pit Foundation; Community Foundation of Middlesex County/Chuck and Rachel Wiltsie Fund, Howard and Yvonne McAuliffe Fund, Elizabeth Swaim Middletown Fund; Liberty Bank Foundation; Jarvis Products Corporation; MiddleOak; Pegasus Manufacturing; Greenwald Industries; Stone Investment Properties; Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski; and Middlesex United Way. I will continue to provide updates as this important program progresses through the summer.
Now that August is almost upon us, planning for the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is entering its final phase. This major annual event, presented by Hunter’s Ambulance, Hunter Limousines Ltd., & the Hunter Family, and driven by Haymond Law Office, will be held on Wednesday, August 15 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Middletown Motorcycle Mania is held in memory of Dan M. Hunter, one of the event’s founding sponsors. Over 6,000 bikes are expected to converge on Main Street for this 13th annual city event which will showcase custom and vintage motorcycles. All bikes are welcome to come out for what has become the largest one-day summer motorcycle event in New England, and this year’s version is sure to be a fantastic time for everyone involved. There is a $10 entry donation for motorcycles and a $15 donation for motorcycles entering the Antique and Vintage or Show Bike judging. I will have much more on Middletown Motorcycle Mania in next week’s column, and more information can be found at MiddletownMotorcycleMania.com.
Sticking with the major event theme for just a moment, I ask that everyone please save the date of Wednesday, October 24, 2018 for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County's Premier Business EXPO. We hope to make the 2018 Connecticut Connections Business EXPO one of the best ever. The committee is working hard to prepare a program of great ideas for this year's show, but we are always looking for suggestions from members and other interested parties. It is safe to say however, that a wide array of products and services will be presented by over 125 local, state and national vendors. We will host seminars and workshops targeted to your business needs, as well as the Middlesex County Health & Wellness Fair, the Fall Middlesex County Career Fair, and the annual Small Business Awards Luncheon. More to come on this full day of events and activities, but please save the date.
Before closing with the latest installment of our economic development tour, I want to note that I, along with Jeff Pugliese and Jennifer De Kine from the chamber team, had a great meeting with Cromwell Superintendent of Schools John Maloney and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Krista Karch last Monday at the chamber office. John and Krista are doing a great job, and we had a productive discussion on how we can work together to strategically connect our local students to the many industry sectors in Middlesex County. We will continue this important discussion as the academic year approaches, and I thank John and Krista for their support.
This week’s installment of the economic development tour will cover the wonderful Middlesex County towns of Durham and Middlefield. Durham is probably best known as being the home of The Durham Fair, the largest fair in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers. The 99th Annual Durham Fair will be held from September 27-30 on the famous fairgrounds in the heart of Durham. We will have much more on the fair in the coming weeks, but it is guaranteed to once again provide four terrific days of good, clean wholesome fun. In addition to the Durham Fair, the town has a number of other exciting updates to report. The Durham Economic Development Commission has spent the last year and a half tackling some of the smaller tasks set forth in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development adopted in 2016. The town has also been working on an Economic Strategies Plan to compile an inventory of existing local businesses, and plans to reach out to its many home-based businesses to offer support and assistance should they decide to expand to a commercial or industrial location. The EDC has been creating a list of available commercial and industrial properties, and has been working with local farmers to draft regulations that will offer more opportunities for agri-tourism. This agri-tourism initiative is a very exciting opportunity for farmers to think outside the box of traditional farming, and to stay current with the rest of the farming communities in the U.S. Furthermore, the Durham EDC and Planning and Zoning Commission will be working with the Sustainable Durham team to create a Buy Local campaign as well as a plan to accentuate the town’s tourism attractions. Durham is also working to strategically pair tenants with empty industrial and commercial properties, and is in the process of targeting more ambitious projects for Durham’s available, undeveloped commercial properties. Finally, the town has recently entered into an agreement with Mary Dickerson of Dickerson Development Consulting LLC who will work to complete more tasks set forth in the Plan of Conservation and Development. We know Mary well from her great work over in Portland, and we look forward to working with her as she adds these Durham efforts to her plate. Additional economic development opportunities in Durham will be available after the recent installation of water and natural gas utilities. The chamber was proud to support both of these important infrastructure investments, and we will continue to be a constructive partner as they come to fruition. I continue to appreciate the longtime friendship and support of Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis, and also thank the EDC and all of the town’s stakeholders for their great work.
Next door in Middlefield, the local economy continues to be strong thanks to good leadership and the presence of key tourism anchors and terrific manufacturers. Owned and operated by the Lyman Family since 1741, Lyman Orchards is recognized as the 12th oldest family-owned business in America. For generations of Connecticut families and visitors, it has been a year-round destination for great food, family fun, and championship golf. Lyman Orchards also continues to develop new attractions and events to the delight of each visitor that comes into Middlefield. It is a key regional employer, a strong corporate citizen, and one of our top tourist attractions. For these reasons and more, it is indeed, Connecticut’s sweet spot. Golf in Middlefield is of course not restricted to the Lyman courses. Indian Springs Golf Course has been serving the golf community with its scenic, challenging, 9-hole public golf course in town for over 50 years. From leagues to special events, the great course is enjoyed by many players of all skill levels throughout the season. Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort is the first full service year-round urban mountain sports park and resort featuring skiing, snowboarding, tubing, mountain biking and synthetic snow adventures for all its visitors. The newly renovated lodge includes the Marketplace for casual dining and large events. On the second floor of the lodge is the Ridgeside Tavern, Fire at The Ridge Restaurant, and 10 hotel rooms. Among many other awards and recognitions, Powder Ridge received the chamber’s 2017 Business Growth & Expansion Business of the Year Award. In addition to being another key local employer, Powder Ridge also continues to create additional tourism buzz for our region. The chamber will be right there to support Sean Hayes and his team as it continues to grow and develop in the coming years. In addition to these tourist hot spots, Middlefield is home to a strong manufacturing base anchored by Zygo Corporation, Cooper Atkins Corporation, Rogers Manufacturing and R.E.F Machine Company, Inc. Zygo is a worldwide supplier of optical metrology instruments, high precision optical components, and complex electro-optical system design and manufacturing services. The company is packed with hundreds of high performing employees who are doing amazing things in metrology. Cooper Atkins Corporation, a customer-centric technology leader in monitoring solutions for the global foodservice, healthcare and industrial markets, is another key local anchor. Recently acquired by Emerson, Cooper Atkins has over 150 employees doing terrific work in their industry. Our friends at Rogers Manufacturing continue to build their brand and their terrific company which specializes in all aspects of Plastics Manufacturing. Bob Fowler and his team at R.E.F. Machine Company have been producing results in the precision machining field since 1964, all while employing local individuals. All of this, combined with the work of Mickey Fowler who is doing a great job filling the commercial spaces at 6 Way Road means that Middlefield is truly on the move. I congratulate First Selectman Ed Bailey and the entire Middlefield team for their continued good work. We look forward to working with them as we move forward.
The Sun Always Shines in Middlesex County!
July 23, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
As the summer moves right along in Middlesex County, so does our economic development tour of the region which continues to hop with events and activities. Today, we will focus on the classic New England towns of Haddam and East Haddam.
In the great Town of Haddam, approximately 25 town businesses will be represented at the Market on the Green celebration in late July, and the popular Yoga on the Green initiative will take place twice a month through the end of the August. On the business development front, Personal Fitness Solutions will be opening another business in town in the next couple of months, and Spirit and Balance LLC recently opened on Killingworth Road. River’s Edge Home Center on Bridge Street, a key corridor leading to the Connecticut River and the Swing Bridge, recently completed an outstanding remodel of its showroom and façade which is sure to attract additional customers and visitors to town. As I have mentioned many times in previous columns, the State Bond Commission recently approved a long-awaited infrastructure project that will bring clean water to the Tylerville area of Haddam. This is not only a huge win for Haddam and for Middlesex County, but it is an example of local stakeholders coming together to develop sound public policy that serves the best interests of their constituents. The town is also currently planning its Haddam River Days celebration, and the Economic Development Commission recently purchased light-up holiday decorations for this coming season to be used in Higganum Center.
Over in East Haddam, interest in the village district has increased significantly since the beautiful new Town Hall opened back in February on Plains Road. With Town Hall relocating out of the village district, the area is now being targeted for strategic commercial development. The anchor of this region is, of course, the Goodspeed Opera House. Since its inception in 1963, Goodspeed has produced over 250 musicals, including over 70 world premieres, and exported 21 productions to Broadway. It stands as the first regional theatre in America to earn two special Tony Awards, and it mounts both new and newly revived musicals each year on its main stage at the Opera House in East Haddam, and on its second stage at the Terris Theater in Chester. Goodspeed produces a total of more than 400 performances during the April to December season which attract over 130,000 patrons to the CT. River Valley. Goodspeed, which is widely recognized as “The Home of the American Musical”, will continue to serve as a thriving artist colony and a top tourist destination in the heart of Middlesex County. Right next door, the Gelston House Restaurant and Inn continues to attract visitors to town through its outstanding menu and unmatched views of the river. Over at Fox Hopyard, the golf and dining options are some of the best that this state has to offer. Finally, it is safe to say that the locals are very happy about the recent investments made by Dutch Oil in the Moodus section, and the expansion plans of Staehly Farm and Winery on Town Street which will have a big impact on that section of East Haddam. The chamber looks forward to supporting the town as it works to engage in strategic development all while maintaining its classic New England feel.
In an effort to support the development of both towns, the chamber recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of a federal BUILD Grant application that is being jointly submitted by Haddam and East Haddam. We believe that the Federal BUILD grant will help connect the two towns through the construction of a sidewalk on the historic Swing Bridge over the Connecticut River. Not only will the new pedestrian walkway better connect tourists and residents to nearby attractions such as the Goodspeed Opera House and the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, it will also provide better access to the riverfront on both sides and will increase the safety of everyone who frequents the area. I continue to appreciate the great work and leadership of Haddam HadFirst Selectwoman Lizz Milardo, Town Planner Liz Glidden, Economic Development Coordinator Robin Munster, and the entire Haddam team, and East Haddam First Selectman Emmett Lyman, the Board of Selectman, and the entire East Haddam team. The sun continues to shine on Middlesex County!
The chamber calendar also continues to be ripe with activity as we look ahead to the month of August. This Tuesday in New Haven, I look forward to 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. I look forward to another productive meeting and thank my colleagues for their continued good work across the state.
On Wednesday, I look forward to attending the Grand Opening Celebration for Compass Powder Coating, LLC in Middletown at 12 p.m. Compass Powder Coating is a family owned and operated business that is ready to expand on its efforts to supply manufacturers in the northeast with high-quality powder coating. They have a state-of-the-art facility and a passionate, professional staff. I look forward to joining Mike Tashash and the entire Compass team at the event, and wish them the best moving forward.
On Thursday morning, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee where we will continue our discussions on developing a prepared and productive workforce in our state. Workforce Alliance is committed to delivering employment solutions that connect people with jobs or training, and employers with skilled workers in South Central CT. The chamber is proud of its relationship with Workforce Alliance, and we will continue to connect job seekers to employers in Middlesex County.
On the chamber event front, we look forward to welcoming former UConn and NBA Star Ray Allen as guest speaker at a Member Breakfast Meeting on Thursday, August 2 at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. We are all so proud that Ray is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 which will be officially inducted in September. This is a well-deserved honor for Ray who had a fantastic career with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Seattle Supersonics, the Boston Celtics, and the Miami Heat. He has also supported a variety of charities and community causes throughout his life and career. At the event on the 2nd, Ray will be signing copies of his book “From the Outside: My Journey through Life and the Game I Love". Books are available for a presale price of $24 and will be sold on the day of the event for the full price of $30. I would like to again thank Ray Allen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit with our membership. I also want to thank DATTCO, led by its President and chamber Vice Chairman Don Devivo, for sponsoring the Member Breakfast Meeting. We look forward to a great event!
Chamber members and other interested parties should also save the dates for the 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania which is scheduled for Wednesday, August 15, our annual Business After Work Networking Reception at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa on Tuesday, August 21, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall is scheduled for Wednesday, August 22. More to come on each of these important events.
I, unfortunately, must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Robert "Bob" Louis Del Russo Sr. at the age of 78. Bob was a resident of Portland and was co-owner and Secretary/Treasurer of The Waverly Printing Company in town before retiring in 1998. Bob, along with his father, brother and many dedicated employees, grew this innovative company into a powerhouse which became known throughout New England for its high-quality corporate printing services. He was also a fantastic football player who, among other highlights, played in the very first Connecticut All-Star East-West Nutmeg Bowl. My experience with Bob goes all the way back to my days at the MX Corporation which was dedicated to raising funds for Xavier and Mercy High Schools and was also a very strong supporter of the chamber. He was a terrific man, a hard worker, and someone who valued family and friends above all else. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of 58 years, MaryAnn, his son, Robert Jr., his daughter, Pamela, his grandchildren, his sister, and his entire network of family and friends. Bob Del Russo will be missed by many.
July 16, 2018
By: Larry McHugh
We have reached mid-July in Middlesex County and the region continues to be hot with economic activity.
Before covering some of the exciting updates from the great towns of Portland and East Hampton, I want to touch on a few more important updates from the City of Middletown. Work continues on the massive renovation project for Liberty Bank’s new, 90,000 square-feet Corporate Headquarters set on a stunning 23 acres at 245 Long Hill Road. While maintaining its commitment to the downtown area and all of the city’s communities, Liberty Bank plans to transition nearly 300 employees to its new home this fall. They expect to receive their certificate of occupancy in late September and, shortly after, they’ll make the move. In addition to three stories of light filled workspace, state of the art training facilities, adjustable height work stations, and many conference rooms, Liberty’s new home will have a fitness center, cafeteria with two outdoor patios, walking trails, a light harvesting system, energy saving and efficiency features, high-end security, and much, much more. Having the majority of Liberty Bank’s support team in one location will afford new opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and efficiency that simply doesn’t exist when spread over multiple buildings. However, don’t think for one minute that Liberty is abandoning its forever home on Main Street. Their Main Office Branch team will remain in place, and once renovation is complete, more than 100 members of the Commercial Lending group and most of their Investment Services team will occupy 315 Main Street and the nearby Annex. Back in April, Liberty Bank sponsored the chamber’s annual Business and Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast Meeting. During his remarks, Liberty’s President and CEO, Chandler Howard, did a great job rolling out the plans for the Bank’s transition to its new headquarters, and the renderings that were displayed in the ballroom looked outstanding. As always, Liberty Bank will continue to be a critical player in the regional economy, a major employer in our city, and one of the best corporate citizens anywhere.
Work also continues on the Community Health Center’s new Knowledge & Technology Center on Grand Street in Middletown. The new, three-story, 30,000 square-feet building will house information technology, telehealth, communications, human resources and other critical CHC offices. The new center will provide room for clinical and medical education services in other CHC sites as space is made available by the centralization of services in the new building, provide appropriate climate-controlled environment for CHC’s sophisticated information technology infrastructure which supports the statewide organization, centralize technology and knowledge services and staff currently spread inefficiently throughout the state, and will allow for the creation of technology-equipped meetings rooms for the expanding telehealth and workforce development programs of the Weitzman Institute. As I noted at the ground breaking back in May of 2017, the Community Health Center has been a long time member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and has been a key player in our community on a number of fronts. This project will be an important economic and community development initiative for a critical Middletown neighborhood- the North End. I congratulate Founder Mark Masselli, Senior Vice President and Clinical Director Margaret Flinter, and their entire team. The chamber looks forward to being a constructive partner as the project moves towards completion.
As I mentioned last week, the economy is strong throughout Middlesex County, and this week, I would like to cover some highlights from Portland and East Hampton. Over in Portland, excitement continues to build as the Brainerd Place project received its demolition permit approvals and is completing preliminary site work for the mixed use development. Demolition work is expected to begin in late summer, 2018. The project will bring 240 market rate apartments and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial and office space. Over on Main Street, Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions LLC has completed construction on an addition to their manufacturing facility. Down by the river, Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park kicked off the summer season with a newly expanded beach area that increases their capacity to 2500 visitors. Finally, Portland's Riverfront Summer Concert Series begins this Tuesday, July 17 at 6:30 pm with a performance by the Michael Cleary Band. The future is bright in the Town of Portland and it is due to sound management, entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, and dedicated residents. I thank First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield, Economic Development Consultant Mary Dickerson, and all of the town’s stakeholders for their hard work. Portland’s neighbor, the Town of East Hampton, is also on the move. A 70 acre mixed-use commercial residential development called Edgewater Hill is currently under development. Construction began after the Town decided to become a partner in the project and offer a tax abatement. East Hampton also just oversaw the completion of a new NAPA Auto Parts store, along with a new coffee shop in the village center called ECO Coffee. On the housing front, 22 applications for new houses have been submitted in 2018, and on the retail front, work is set to commence on a new Dollar General store. The town is also hard at work on the cleanup and redevelopment of 1 & 13 Watrous Street, a Brownfields site that they hope to return to a productive and tax generating use. Finally, the Town Council recently added another Economic Development tool for redeveloping the village center by passing a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan. The town believes that the TIF plan will generate funds that can be reinvested in the village center to help with redevelopment. I thank Town Manager Mike Maniscalco, the Town Council, and the entire East Hampton leadership structure for its great work and dedication. Finally, I know that both Portland and East Hampton are excited about recent additions and improvements to the Airline Trail which will attract hikers, bikers and other visitors to these beautiful towns. As you can see, things are happening across the river. I will continue to provide economic development updates from throughout our region in the coming weeks, but it is clear that the sun is shining on Middlesex County.
Another important economic development initiative that the chamber is active with is the C-PACE initiative. We are proud to partner with our friends at the Connecticut Green Bank to help member businesses afford energy efficiency and clean energy upgrades. Together we are promoting a clean energy financing tool called Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE. This innovative solution provides long-term, low interest financing to help local building owners take control of their energy costs. With 100% financing, no upfront cost required, and terms of up to 25 years available through C-PACE, energy upgrades are more affordable and accessible than ever. C-PACE helps local businesses save money on their energy bills and reinvest this money into other parts of the business. When businesses thrive, it can help spur economic development and support job creation. With C-PACE, building owners can enjoy the advantages of energy upgrades immediately and pay for them over time. It’s a safe investment that produces returns immediately and for years to come. I encourage our members to explore to program and its benefits. For more information on C-PACE, contact chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese.
Sticking with the economic development theme of the day, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Side Street to Main Street “Business Know-How” Program 2018 Certificate Presentation Ceremony will be held this Tuesday at the chamber’s Main Street facility. Generously funded with a grant from Eversource Energy, the program is an intensive four-session course which provides practical knowledge for starting and building a small business in Connecticut. The program is targeted for minority small business owners in Middlesex County and surrounding areas within the Eversource Energy footprint. Designed as a companion to the chamber’s award-winning Side Street to Main Street Business and Leadership Development Program sponsored by Aetna, Business Know-How offers a bridge for business owners hoping to participate in the program, now entering its 22nd year this fall. I appreciate Eversource’s support of this important community and economic development initiative, and we look forward to the ceremony.
On the summer event front, the Citizens Bank 5K Summer Fun Run will be held on Wednesday evening in downtown Middletown and the surrounding areas. This unique family-oriented festival and road race will once again attract a huge field of runners and a number of supportive spectators. The half-mile Kids Fun Run begins at 6:30 p.m. and the 5K Road Race begins at 6:45 p.m. The post-race festivities and award presentations will be held between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The committee charged with planning and executing this event does a fine job every year, and I want to thank them for their hard work. Finally, we should all recognize the efforts of the city personnel who work hard to make this event safe and successful on an annual basis. I look forward to another fun evening in downtown Middletown on Wednesday.
In closing, I ask that chamber members and other interested parties save the dates for a number of exciting events coming up in the month of August. A special Member Breakfast Meeting and Book Signing featuring former UConn and NBA Star Ray Allen is scheduled for Thursday, August 2nd. Ray is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018, and I am so appreciative that he is taking the time to once again visit with our membership. The 13th Annual Middletown Motorcycle Mania is scheduled for Wednesday, August 15, our annual Business After Work Networking Reception at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is scheduled for Tuesday, August 21, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall is scheduled for Wednesday, August 22. I will have much more as we get closer, but please save the dates. We’re on the move!