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.

Recapping some important business events

October 16, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

A busy October continues this week in Middlesex County, but before looking ahead, I would like to begin this week’s column by recapping a few important events that took place last week.

2017 Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase, was a very successful all-day affair at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell on Wednesday. The showcase featured a number of events and activities, from a Small Business Awards Luncheon honoring many of our county’s small business champions, a Career Fair with over 50 employers and hundreds of job seekers, to the showcase hall featuring over 100 exhibitors from a wide variety of industry sectors, a number of workshops which covered a variety of important topics, and the Executive Evening Business After Work networking reception which was very well attended by our members and their guests. I would like to once again thank our presenting sponsors, Comcast Business and the Radisson Hotel Cromwell, media partner Hartford Business Journal, and all of our other sponsors and supporters for their great support of Connecticut Connections. I also want to thank our Connections Committee, led by Chairman Lou Brockett, our many volunteers, and the chamber staff who stepped up once again and executed a terrific event. Chamber Vice President Johanna Bond has been our lead events coordinator for many years now. She did another outstanding job putting this day together and I continue to appreciate her efforts, and the efforts of my entire team. This year’s Connecticut Connections is in the books, but the chamber continues to move forward in support of the business community here in Middlesex County.

On Thursday afternoon of last week, I joined chamber Chairman Rick Morin, Vice Chairman Jay Polke, and Haddam First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo at a Two Year Anniversary celebration for Whole Harmony Apothecary in Haddam. Whole Harmony Apothecary offers award winning hand crafted artisan teas prepared by Stacey Wood and David Soule. Their teas are available at their store in Haddam and across Connecticut.  I would like to officially welcome the Whole Harmony team to chamber membership, and wish them continued success as we move forward.

To close out the work week, last Friday featured a meeting of the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division which included remarks from the candidates for First Selectman in each of these important member towns. I would like to thank Camp Hazen for hosting the meeting, and the candidates for attending to discuss their respective platforms with our members.

Finally, on Saturday, I visited the campus of Wesleyan University for the Salute to Service: Honoring our Veterans festivities. The day featured a brunch for veterans & Wesleyan Posse veteran scholars, and an exciting football game between Wesleyan and Bates. I congratulate President Michael Roth and his entire team on a job well done.

This week also features some important division meetings, including a meeting of our South Middletown Division on Tuesday morning at Village at South Farms, and our Durham and Middlefield Division at the Lyman Homestead on Wednesday.

On Thursday, our Board of Directors will make its annual October visit to Greenwald Industries in Chester. I want to take a moment to thank Greenwald’s Managing Director, and past Chamber Chairman, Len Samela, for hosting our group once again. We look forward to another productive meeting.

Prior to attending the chamber board meeting on Thursday, I will attend a meeting of Workforce Alliance’s Executive Committee where we will continue our discussions on developing a prepared productive workforce in our state. The chamber is proud of its relationship with Workforce Alliance, and of its ongoing work to connect job seekers to employers in our region.

This week closes on Friday evening with a visit to The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford for an event in honor of UConn legend Dee Rowe who was recently awarded the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame.  Dee Rowe is a terrific man who has been critical to the development of UConn over his 48 years of service to the school. I look forward to celebrating with him and his family on Friday night.

Even though October still has plenty of life left in it, the chamber team is already planning for the month of November as well. Chamber members and other interested individuals should save the date of November 6 for our 16th Annual Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting. This major chamber event, sponsored by Middlesex Hospital, will feature Colonel Christopher H. Beckert, Director at Center for Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA., as Keynote Speaker. Colonel Beckert, the son of past chamber Chairman John Beckert, has a terrific military resume which includes among a number of other distinctions, service as Aide-de-Camp for the Commanding General at Fifth Corps in Heidelberg, Germany, and as Strategic Advisor for Leader Development in the Pentagon to the 36th and 37th Army Chiefs of Staff. We look forward to welcoming Chris back to Middlesex County, and are certainly excited about his remarks. Each year as a key component of this event, the chamber presents the prestigious William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award to a local Veteran of the United States Armed Forces, in recognition of his or her distinguished service to the citizens of Connecticut and selfless commitment to public service. I am proud to announce that this year’s winner is Thomas Goglia of Middletown. Tom Goglia is a proud veteran who served our country with distinction. He also has a remarkable record of community service and is a deserving recipient of this prestigious award. We look forward to honoring him at this year’s Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting on November 6th. I will continue to share important details about the Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting as we approach the event.

The chamber team is also gearing up for our November Business After Work Networking Reception and annual Festival of Wreaths Silent Auction on Wednesday, November 8th, for members and their guests at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam.  The Riverhouse team always puts out a delicious spread of food and drink, and this event always features outstanding networking and a huge crowd.  The highlight of the evening will be the Festival of Wreaths Silent Auction featuring beautifully decorated artificial wreaths which will be displayed for viewing and bidding until the auction closes at 6:45 p.m.  The funds that are raised from the auction will benefit the Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, and the Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program.  Liberty Bank donated the artificial wreaths for chamber member businesses to decorate, and we certainly appreciate that. We look forward to a fun evening in Haddam on November 8, and I thank Jim Bucko and the entire Riverhouse team for once again hosting this outstanding annual event.

Before wrapping up, I want to take a moment to congratulate Cromwell officials, especially Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Manager Tony Salvatore, Town Planner Stuart Popper, and the Town Council, on the recent announcement that Scannell Properties of Indiana intends to construct a warehouse on a 28.77-acre parcel of land in the northern section of town. The chamber looks forward to being a constructive partner as this process moves forward.

I am afraid I must close this week’s chamber column on a sad note after the recent passing of Robert E. “Bob” Coleman at the age of 91. Bob Coleman was a longtime chamber member and supporter, and a strong supporter of mine during my coaching days at Xavier High School. Bob Coleman was of course widely known as President of the Coleman Brothers Shows, a traveling carnival that his father Richard started in 1916. Under Bob’s leadership, the shows became a true family affair, and the Middletown show which takes place every April is a local institution that is cherished by Middletown residents and visitors. In addition to the annual rain that comes with the carnival in Middletown, the show brings good cheer, good food, and a lot of fun for people of all ages. In addition to this outstanding legacy, Bob also played center field for the New York Giants in the late 1940’s, and was a member of the American Legion Hall of Fame, President of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, and a Lifetime Member of the Elks and of the 100 Club. He was a terrific man who led a life well lived, and I’m grateful for his support. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bob’s wife Rachael, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and his entire network of family and friends at this difficult time. Robert E. “Bob” Coleman will be missed by many.

Connecticut Connections business expo Wednesday offers day of activities

October 9, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

It’s October in Middlesex County, which means the time has come for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase. However, before diving into what will be a full day of events and activities on Wednesday in Cromwell, I would like to quickly address a few other important matters.

The City of Middletown Common Council held an important meeting last Monday evening at City Hall where it acted on a number of important agenda items. Chamber VP Jeff Pugliese spoke in public session to request the city’s support for a dynamic co-working initiative that will complement the many other economic development initiatives that are currently underway in Middletown. Our idea, as currently stands, is called the MEWS+. The plan for the MEWS+, which stands for Middletown Entrepreneurs Work Space and more, is to use the second floor at the chamber office as headquarters. Headquarters will also serve as the official co-working space for now. The reason that there is a plus (+) in the name, is that we expect this initiative to be much more than just a co-working space. We want our initiative to be a resource for freelancers and entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and small businesses, and the Wesleyan and Middlesex Community College communities. I would like to thank the council and the Mayor for supporting this initiative which is already being supported by our partners at Wesleyan University, Liberty Bank, and Middlesex Hospital. Wesleyan was especially critical to this process, and I appreciate the strong support of President Michael Roth, Vice President and Chief of Staff Andy Tanaka, Vice President for Finance and Administration Nate Peters, and their entire team. We look forward to providing students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the opportunity to engage and network with local businesspeople of all shapes and sizes, and from a variety of industry sectors. Work has already begun on developing the space and the related activities, and the chamber will continue to keep everyone appraised of our progress. The council also voted to approve the proposed lease agreement between the City and Connecticut River Events, LLC, for the Lady Katharine Cruise Line’s dockage at the City’s Riverfront Harbor Park. The chamber wholeheartedly supports this lease and the partnership with The Valley Railroad Company that it brings. Middlesex County is lucky to have the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat as a key tourism stakeholder, and the chamber is proud to help the company build its important relationship with the City of Middletown.

In addition to Connecticut Connections 2017, this week also features an important event that will honor the retiring Superintendent of Schools in Middletown, Dr. Pat Charles, and an exciting Grand Opening event in Cromwell. The event for Dr. Charles is actually a Retirement Roast hosted by the Middlesex United Way which is scheduled for this Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. Dr. Charles has done a fantastic job leading the Middletown school system, and the Westbrook school system before that, and I look forward to attending what I know will be a fun night of comedy and philanthropy in Haddam. Earlier in the day, at 4 p.m., I look forward to joining Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza and Town Manager Tony Salvatore at the Grand Opening celebration for Molly Maid of Central CT on Country Squire Drive. Molly Maid, which specializes in comprehensive and professional house cleaning, is a welcome addition to the local business community and to chamber membership. I look forward to celebrating with their entire team on Thursday afternoon.

I want to take a moment to mention that my wife Patty and I had a great time at J.R. Marino’s surprise birthday party which was held last Saturday night at Mattabessett Canoe Club at Harbor Park. J.R. and his wife Tamba have been longtime friends and supporters of me and of our chamber. We were happy to attend the event and appreciate their continued support.

Finally, I want to thank past chamber Chairwoman Darlene Briggs for doing an outstanding job with her remarks at a recent memorial service for T. Gerald “Gerry” Dyar. Gerry Dyar was a member of our Board of Directors, chairman of our Transportation Committee and a recipient of our 2010 Distinguished Citizen Award. He was a longtime resident of Westbrook, and was a key person who pushed for the merger of the Westbrook Chamber and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. He was a good man, and Darlene did an outstanding job honoring him at the service.

As I noted earlier, this week features 2017 Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase.  Scheduled for this Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell, the showcase event will feature a full day of events and activities. The general public is invited to visit with over 115 exhibitors, from a number of different industries, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The 2017 Connecticut Connections begins with Opening Ceremonies at 11 a.m., and will be immediately followed by the Sixth Annual Small Business Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.  This luncheon event is sponsored by Comcast Business, and features remarks by Commissioner Catherine Smith of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.  The 2017 Small Business of the Year Award winners are selected from a wide variety of industry sectors. I am proud to announce that this year’s winners are: Brothers Auto Body – Cromwell, as Business of the Year (1-30 employees), Citizens Bank - County Wide, as Business of the Year (31+ employees), Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort – Middlefield, as Business Growth & Expansion Awardee, Whelen Engineering – Chester, as Manufacturer of the Year, Dental Health Care - Gloria F. Perry, DMD – Cromwell, as Minority Owned Business of the Year, Victorian Inspirations – Portland, as Outstanding New Business Under 5 Years, Pocketful of Posies – Middletown, as Retail Business of the Year, Ivoryton Playhouse – Ivoryton, as Tourism/Hospitality Business of the Year, and Charles IT – Middletown, as Technology Business of the Year. I congratulate all of our small business champions, and we look forward to honoring them on Wednesday.

The Middlesex County Fall Career Fair, featuring over 50 employers that are currently hiring, will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Middlesex County Fall Career Fair is sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Workforce Alliance, and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Professional Resume Writers will be on site to assist in the development of resumes and cover letters. For a list of participating companies and positions available, please visit http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/jobfairs/.

The Annual Health and Wellness Fair, sponsored by Middlesex Hospital, will highlight best practices for promoting health and wellness in your company and in your life. The Health and Wellness Fair will feature a Flu Vaccination Clinic, Blood Pressure Screenings, Balance Testing and much more. All Health and Wellness Fair services are free unless otherwise noted. More information on the Health & Wellness Fair is available on middlesexchamber.com.

Connecticut Connections will feature three first session workshops to choose from starting at 1:30 p.m. One workshop option is the Middlesex Chamber Women’s Business Alliance Know it, Own it, Rock it! Workshop Series: “Striving for Excellence not Perfection.” Another workshop option is an Energy and Vendor Forum sponsored by Eversource.  This workshop is designed to make your business more energy efficient. An additional first session workshop to choose from is Improving Employee Health: Value Based Insurance Design, which finds innovative strategies that aim to improve employee health, drive productivity and result in smarter healthcare spending. The afternoon includes a “Power Pitch & Networking Event”, a Let’s Make A Deal package deal creation event hosted by our Tourism Committee, an informational event on health insurance in Connecticut hosted by CT. Health Plans, and a 5 Minute Solution event hosted by the MEWS+. The evening features two specific events geared towards Young Professionals including a speed networking event and a Young Professionals Trivia Event. The members only Octoberfest Executive Evening Event, to be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., will feature a great spread of complimentary food, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks, over 115 exhibitors, raffle prizes, and terrific networking.  Chamber members can register online for Executive Evening at www.middlesexchamber.com.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all Connecticut Connections sponsors for their strong support of this major event.  They include, Presenting Sponsors: Comcast Business, Radisson Hotel Cromwell, Chamber Insurance Trust, Media Sponsor: Hartford Business Journal, Platinum Sponsors: Bouvier Insurance, Eversource Energy, Lantern Energy, Pratt & Whitney, Tower Laboratories LTD, Titanium Sponsors: Connecticut Lottery, People’s United Bank, Workforce Alliance, Gold Sponsors: A&A Office, Bank of America, NFP, The Mattabassett District, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C., Silver Sponsors: Community Health Center, DATTCO Inc., Lyman Orchards, Suburban Stationers, Xavier High School, Bronze Sponsors: A Second Chance CPR & First Aid Training LLC, Employers Association of the Northeast, Executive Offices, Suburban Office Furniture, and The Durham Manufacturing Company. For more information, or to register for Connecticut Connection events and activities, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

UConn Basketball Coach Ollie to keynote next member breakfast

October 2, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

We have reached the month of October in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

I would like to begin this week’s column by noting just how excited the chamber was to join Mayor Dan Drew and his team as we officially welcomed three outstanding engineering companies to Middletown over the past few weeks. These companies, Belcan, QuEST Global, and Cyient, are all full of high performing engineers and support staff, and they are a welcome addition to the local business community. Belcan is located in the former National Paint building at the corner of Washington Street and DeKoven Drive. QuEST Global and Cyient have moved into space in the upper floors of the Main Street Market. Main Street Market Owner Mike Stone was critical in this whole effort, and we appreciate his support and dedication to downtown.  Collectively, they will bring over 200 engineering jobs to the downtown area, and their economic impact will be felt throughout our region. Once again, the Pratt & Whitney Middletown Engine Center was a key factor in these companies establishing a presence in our city. We look forward to working with them as they grow and thrive right here in Middlesex County. I congratulate Mayor Drew, the Common Council, and the entire city staff on landing these important companies. As you can see, Middletown and Middlesex County are on the move!

Back on the chamber front, this week features a number of important meetings and activities. Our Executive Committee, the chamber’s top governing body which is currently under the leadership of our Chairman, Rick Morin, will meet this afternoon at the chamber office in Middletown. I continue to appreciate the support of this outstanding group which is truly representative of the business community in Middlesex County. We look forward to another productive meeting which will cover a variety of topics.

On Monday evening, the City of Middletown Common Council will hold its October meeting and there are a number of important items on the agenda. The chamber will appear before the council to address a few key items. First of all, we will officially request the city’s support for the MEWS+, an exciting co-working initiative that will complement the many other economic development initiatives that are currently underway. Chamber VP Jeff Pugliese and some of our dedicated members have been working hard to develop this concept. The plan for the MEWS+, which stands for Middletown Entrepreneurs Work Space and more, is to use the currently vacant second floor at the chamber office as headquarters. The initiative will set up a series of “Meet-ups” in Middletown that will begin the process of creating a true innovation eco system in our city. We want our initiative to be a resource for freelancers and entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and small businesses, and the Wesleyan and Middlesex Community College communities. It will be a great place to start a new business or grow an existing company. As a co-working initiative, it provides not only a place to work, but also a collaborative working environment. This shared workspace environment will attract a creative class of developers, designers, strategists, artisans, writers, inventors, engineers and professional office nomads. We also expect the MEWS+ to be a bridge to the many manufacturing and engineering companies in Middlesex County. The city’s support would bolster this initiative which is already being supported by our friends and partners at Wesleyan University and Liberty Bank. We look forward to a good discussion on this important topic with the council on Monday evening. Another agenda item of importance is the proposed lease agreement between the City and Connecticut River Events, LLC, for the Lady Katharine Cruise Line’s dockage at the City’s Riverfront Harbor Park. The chamber wholeheartedly supports this lease and the partnership with The Valley Railroad Company that it brings. The Valley Railroad Company operates the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, a very popular local tourist attraction. They are looking to build a relationship with the City of Middletown, starting with the Lady Katharine. The proposed lease with Connecticut River Events, LLC, a subsidiary of The Valley Railroad Company, would provide a continuing boost to our local economy. Whether by train or by water, the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat can provide an exciting link to the rest of the county, and I urge members of the council to recognize this and to support the lease. Finally, the chamber will be on hand to officially support the approval of the naming of the men’s hardball field at Pat Kidney Field in honor of Jerome “Buzzy” Levin. Buzzy was an outstanding local businessman and a strong community supporter, and this is a fitting honor for this terrific man who passed away recently. Finally, the chamber will also support the approval of the naming of the tennis courts at Pat Kidney Field to honor Harold “Hal” Kaplan. Hal Kaplan, for whom the Middletown Mentor Program is now named, had an outstanding career in education here in Middletown. He has also supported a number of community initiatives along the way, and very much deserves to have the courts named after him. I look forward to attending what I hope is a very productive Common Council meeting on Monday night.

A busy week continues on Wednesday as our Portland and East Hampton division meets at Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton. This meeting will feature a Meet the Candidates Forum for the upcoming municipal elections in the towns, along with a number of other important local updates. Our Central Business Bureau meets on Thursday morning at the chamber office. This important meeting will once again feature reports from Mayor Dan Drew and the leaders of a number of city departments.

Thursday afternoon features a visit to Essex for an Open House celebration hosted by CMS, Computer Management Services. CMS, which recently moved to a new location on Plains Road, is a great company and a valued chamber member. I look forward to joining Susan and Harvey Payton and their entire team and appreciate the invitation to attend. On Thursday evening, The Middlesex Health System, Inc., will hold the Annual Meeting of its Corporators in Westbrook. This meeting will also feature the reveal of the new Cancer Center at the outstanding Shoreline Medical Center. I appreciate the continued good work of CEO Vin Capece and his team, and look forward to a nice evening on the shoreline.

The chamber’s October Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for this Friday, Oct. 6, at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. UConn Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Ollie will serve as guest speaker for this major chamber event which is sponsored by ConnectiCare. Coach Ollie will offer a preview of this year’s Husky team, and will once again provide us with some insight on his leadership and management style. Every year, Coach Ollie provides a message that goes well beyond basketball, and we certainly look forward to another great event which will be sold out once again. I would like to thank the Coach for visiting with our membership, and our friends at ConnectiCare for their sponsorship of the event and longstanding support of our chamber.

Looking ahead, the Westfield Community Carnival will take place this weekend at 94 Miner St, Middletown, directly behind the Westfield Fire Department. This event, sponsored by the Third Congregational Church of Middletown and others, will feature carnival rides, games, live entertainment, craft and food vendors, a beer and wine tent, cash raffles and basket drawings, face painting, magicians, and balloon art. The carnival will take place on Friday from 5-10:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 12-8:00 p.m., and features free admission. For additional information, please visit https://westfieldcarnival.com/.

I want to close this week’s column by reminding everyone about Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase, which will be held on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. The general public is invited to visit with over 115 exhibitors, from a number of different industries, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The 2017 Connecticut Connections begins with Opening Ceremonies at 11 a.m., and will be immediately followed by the Sixth Annual Small Business Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. The Middlesex County Fall Career Fair, featuring over 50 employers that are currently hiring, will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Middlesex County Fall Career Fair is sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Workforce Alliance, and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Professional Resume Writers will be on site to assist in the development of resumes and cover letters. For a list of participating companies and positions available, please visit http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/jobfairs/. The Annual Health and Wellness Fair, sponsored by Middlesex Hospital, will highlight best practices for promoting health and wellness in your company and in your life. The Business Showcase will also feature workshops geared towards women in business, young professionals, the development of an innovation eco system, value based insurance design, tourism, and much, much more. The Members Only “Executive Evening” portion of the event will provide members with the opportunity to enjoy complimentary hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, wine, beer and soft drinks and to check out the many exhibitors displaying their products and services. For more information on Connecticut Connections, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. I will have much more in next week’s column. The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

Middlesex County NAACP McHugh Business Award to be given Thursday

September 25, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Autumn has arrived in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. As the temperature cools and the leaves change, the chamber team is gearing up for another busy stretch that includes a number of important events and activities.


Before previewing the meetings and events that are scheduled for this week, and for the first few weeks of October, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the great work of the Durham Fair Association and all of its volunteers and supporters. The 98th Durham Fair provided us with four days of good, clean, wholesome fun, and it proved once again that this largest fair in the state is indeed the best fair of them all. Association President Dan Miramant and the entire Durham Fair team did a great job, and we continue to appreciate all of their hard work and dedication to this Middlesex County institution managed entirely, by unpaid volunteers. We are already looking forward to the 99th edition of the Durham Fair, and the chamber will be right there with them as they approach their 100th year.

This week features a number of important meetings as we close out the month of September. The chamber’s Westbrook Division will meet on Tuesday morning at The Captain Stannard House, a terrific Bed and Breakfast establishment and longtime member of our chamber. This is the Westbrook Division’s first meeting since its summer hiatus, and we look forward to hearing an update from Town Planner Meg Parulis as well other town and local business officials. Our Haddam and East Haddam Division meets on Thursday morning at The Saybrook at Haddam. Another longtime chamber member and supporter, the Saybrook at Haddam provides gracious retirement living, assisted living, and memory care services to residents. We look forward to welcoming officials from the CT Department of Transportation who will provide our group with an update on the new opening schedules for the East Haddam Swing Bridge. As I have noted many times, our divisions continue to play a critical role in our organization.

Tuesday afternoon features a meeting of the chief executives of the eight metro chambers of commerce in the State of Connecticut. The eight metro chambers, which make up a working group designed to collaborate on a number of important business issues, meet regularly at different locations throughout the state. This particular meeting features a visit from Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith. I look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow Connecticut chamber executives, and thank Commissioner Smith for coming to visit with us once again.

On Thursday evening, I have the honor of attending the Middlesex County NAACP Branch 32nd Freedom Fund Dinner at the Italian Society of Middletown. I am very proud that the Middlesex County NAACP Branch gives an annual business award that bears my name, and I enjoy presenting the award every year at this important event. I am proud to announce that this year’s recipient is Eversource, New England's largest energy provider, and an outstanding corporate citizen. Eversource supports a wide variety of community causes and is committed to diversity in its workforce and throughout its vast network of operations. In addition to a number of chamber events and activities, the company sponsors the Side Street to Main Street Supplemental Program Business “Know-How”, an intensive four-session Program designed to develop and support minority small business ownership in our region. Middlesex County is fortunate to have an active and engaged NAACP branch, and I value the chamber’s longtime partnership with the organization.

Looking ahead to October, the chamber’s next Member Breakfast Meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 6 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. UConn Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Ollie will serve as guest speaker for this major chamber event which is sponsored by ConnectiCare. Coach Ollie will offer a preview of this year’s Husky team, and will once again provide us with some insight on his leadership and management style. Every year, Coach Ollie provides a message that goes well beyond basketball, and we certainly look forward to another great event which will be sold out once again.

Speaking of big October events in Middlesex County, I am excited to announce that Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase, will be held on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Cromwell. The general public is invited to visit with over 115 exhibitors, from a number of different industries, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The 2017 Connecticut Connections begins with Opening Ceremonies at 11 a.m., and will be immediately followed by the Sixth Annual Small Business Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.  This luncheon event is sponsored by Comcast Business, and features remarks by Commissioner Catherine Smith of the Connecticut DECD.  The 2017 Small Business of the Year Award winners are selected from a wide variety of industry sectors. I am proud to announce that this year’s winners are: Brothers Auto Body – Cromwell as Business of the Year (1-30 employees), Citizens Bank - County Wide as Business of the Year (31+ employees), Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort – Middlefield as Business Growth & Expansion Awardee, Whelen Engineering – Chester as Manufacturer of the Year, Dental Health Care - Gloria F. Perry, DMD – Cromwell as Minority Owned Business of the Year, Victorian Inspirations– Portland as Outstanding New Business Under 5 Years, Pocketful of Posies – Middletown, Retail Business of the Year, Ivoryton Playhouse – Ivoryton as Tourism/Hospitality Business of the Year, and Charles IT – Middletown as Technology Business of the Year. I congratulate all of our small business champions, and we look forward to honoring them on Oct. 11.

The Middlesex County Fall Career Fair, featuring over 50 employers that are currently hiring, will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Middlesex County Fall Career Fair is sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Workforce Alliance, and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Professional Resume Writers will be on site to assist in the development of resumes and cover letters. For a list of participating companies and positions available, please visit http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/jobfairs/.

The Annual Health and Wellness Fair, sponsored by Middlesex Hospital, will highlight best practices for promoting health and wellness in your company and in your life. The Health and Wellness Fair will feature a Flu Vaccination Clinic (cost TBA, most insurances accepted), Blood Pressure Screenings, Balance Testing and Much More. All Health and Wellness Fair services are free unless otherwise noted. More information on the Health & Wellness Fair is available on middlesexchamber.com

Connecticut Connections will feature three first session workshops to choose from starting at 1:30 p.m.  One workshop option is the Middlesex Chamber Women’s Business Alliance Workshop:  “Striving for Excellence not Perfection” – The workshop teaches the concept that striving for excellence can really motivate and inspire you, while striving for perfection can be completely demoralizing. Another workshop option is an Energy and Vendor Forum sponsored by Eversource.  This workshop is designed to make your business more energy efficient. An additional first session workshop to choose from is Improving Employee Health: Value Based Insurance Design, which finds innovative strategies that aim to improve employee health, drive productivity and result in smarter healthcare spending. In the afternoon at 3:15 p.m. there will be a second Middlesex Chamber Women’s Business Alliance workshop: “Power Pitch & Networking Event”, which provides a quick lesson on a killer elevator pitch and then gives folks the opportunity to test out their pitch live in person. From 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Tourism Steering Committee will present a Let’s Make A Deal, package deal creation event to create package deals for tourism for the winter season.

At 4 p.m. Connecticut Chamber Health Plans will be holding an informational event on health insurance in Connecticut. New this year, is the “Middletown Entrepreneurial Workspace Plus Round-table Business & Beer.” The Middletown Entrepreneurial Workspace Plus or MEWS+ is an experimental co-working space that is being developed for entrepreneurs in Middlesex County to help better connect with existing companies and educational infrastructure that exists. This session will take place at 4:30 p.m. Two specific events will be geared towards Young Professionals including a speed networking event from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. followed by a Young Professionals Trivia Event at 7:30 p.m. Exciting activities will take place throughout the day including a “Where’s Lucky Larry” Scavenger Hunt and a Photo Booth Frenzy. Professional headshots will also be available by professional photographer Walt Jedziniak. The headshots are ideal for LinkedIn, Professional Office Displays and Professional Biographies. The headshots will include digital copies and cost $50, of which $10 will be donated to Middlesex Chamber Youth Programs. The members only Octoberfest Executive Evening Event, to be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., will feature a great spread of complimentary food, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks, over 115 exhibitors, raffle prizes, and terrific networking.  Also included in the Executive Evening event is the Witch’s Brew, Lorraine C. McHugh Scholarship Benefit Room. Proceeds will benefit Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County. Chamber members can register online for Executive Evening at www.middlesexchamber.com. 

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all Connecticut Connections sponsors for their strong support of this major event. They include Presenting Sponsors: Comcast Business, Radisson Hotel, Chamber Insurance Trust; Media Sponsor: Hartford Business Journal; Platinum Sponsors: Bouvier Insurance, Eversource Energy, Lantern Energy, Pratt & Whitney, Tower Laboratories Ltd.; Titanium Sponsors: Connecticut Lottery, People’s United Bank, Workforce Alliance; Gold Sponsors: A&A Office, Bank of America, NFP, The Mattabassett District, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C.; Silver Sponsors: Community Health Center, DATTCO Inc., Lyman Orchards, Suburban Stationers, Xavier High School; Bronze Sponsors: A Second Chance CPR & First Aid Training LLC, Employers Association of the Northeast, Executive Offices, Suburban Office Furniture, The Durham Manufacturing Company. For more information, or to register for Connecticut Connections events and activities, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

I will have more on the Connecticut Connections Event in next week’s chamber column.

I would like to close this week’s column by noting just how excited the chamber is to join Mayor Dan Drew and his team as we officially welcome three outstanding engineering companies to Middletown. These companies, Belcan, QuEST Global, and Cyient, are all full of young, high performing engineers and support staff, and they are a welcome addition to the local business community. Belcan is located in the former National Paint building at the corner of Washington Street and deKoven Drive. QuEST Global and Cyient have moved into space in the upper floors of the Main Street Market. Main Street Market Owner Mike Stone was critical in this whole effort, and we appreciate his support and dedication to downtown.  Collectively, they will bring over 200 engineering jobs to the downtown area, and their economic impact will be felt throughout our region. Once again, the Pratt & Whitney Middletown Engine Center was a key factor in these companies establishing a presence in our city. We look forward to working with them as they grow and thrive right here in Middlesex County. I congratulate Mayor Drew, the Common Council, and the entire city staff on landing these important companies. As you can see, Middletown and Middlesex County are on the move!

Durham Fair chock full of wholesome family fun Sept. 21-23

September 18, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Welcome to Durham Fair week in Middlesex County!

The 98th Annual Durham Fair will be held on the famous Durham Fairgrounds beginning this Thursday. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale, all volunteer run agricultural event right here in Middlesex County. The Durham Fair, which remains the largest fair in the state of Connecticut, continues to provide four terrific days of good clean wholesome fun. It kicks off on Thursday with an Antique Farm Equipment Demo, two Lumberjack Shows, Demolition Derby, and outstanding entertainment from a number of country musicians. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday feature full days of events and activities including entertainment headliners like Brothers Osborne, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, the first ever USO Show Troupe Show at the fair, monster truck rallies, livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, the educational Discovery Tent, arts and crafts, rides and games on the Midway, the Connecticut Wine Festival, and a number of outstanding shopping and culinary options.

The Durham Fair, which began in 1916, is one of the largest fairs in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to our region every September and we are so proud that it calls Middlesex County home. The Fair recently received the 2017 Connecticut Governor’s Tourism Volunteer of the Year Award for being a 100-percent volunteer-led event which invests many of its profits back into the community. It was also once again named Best Country Fair by Connecticut Magazine, something we have all known for many years.

I am very proud of Durham Fair President Dan Miramant and his committed team of volunteers who have been hard at work preparing for this year’s fair, the 98th in its rich history. The Fair, gearing up for its 100th edition in 2019, was established in 1916, but no fairs were held in 1938 because of a hurricane that hit the area, and during the World War II years of 1942, 1943, and 1944. I am also proud that Sunday has been designated as Military Appreciation Day, and all active duty United States military personnel and veterans will receive free admission to the fair.

The chamber’s Durham and Middlefield Division held a terrific meeting on the fairgrounds last Wednesday and was fortunate enough get a preview of the many activities planned for this week, and to tour the grounds, which look great and ready to go. The chamber will continue to be right there with Dan and his team as they steamroll through their first 100 years. For more information on the 2017 Durham Fair, please visit www.durhamfair.com. See you on the Fairgrounds!

Before previewing some of the other happenings of the week, I want to mention a few quick events which were held last week.  

The Main Street Stroll, which was held on Saturday, Sept. 9, was a very successful day of events and activities held throughout downtown. Led by Wesleyan University, and supported by the City of Middletown, the Middletown Downtown Business District, and a host of volunteers, the Stroll truly was a family friendly “open house’ for downtown. It not only highlighted many of our key stakeholders, but it celebrated the recent opening of the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, and the return of the Wesleyan student body from summer break. Kidcity Children’s Museum Executive Director Jennifer Alexander and Wesleyan University’s Campus and Community Engagement Manager Rani Arbo did a fantastic job with the logistics of the event, and I appreciate their effort and their longstanding commitment to downtown. I also want to thank Cathy Lechowicz for her support of the day’s activities, and all of the businesses and volunteers that participated to make it such a great day. Middletown is truly lucky to have so many people dedicated to its cultural and economic success.

I was happy to attend an event last Wednesday which marked the completion of major capital improvements to the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. The New England Air Museum is committed to presenting the story of aviation, and is supported by a number of chamber members including Pratt & Whitney. I attended the NEAM relaunch, which featured Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other special guests, with chamber VP Johanna Bond, and our Tourism Committee Co-Chairman Bob Bell. I congratulate NEAM Board President Scott Ashton, Executive Director Jerry Roberts, and their entire team on the completion of these projects. The facility looks terrific.

On last Saturday evening, my wife Patty and I attended a 60th birthday celebration for Bill Wrang down in Westbrook. Bill is a great friend and has been an active member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce since 2000.  He currently sits on the Chamber’s Board of Directors and has contributed to the work of the Affordable Housing Committee and the Legislative Committee. Bill is an Executive Vice President at Webster Bank and has coordinated the bank’s support and involvement in our chamber for many years. I appreciate his continued support and was happy to join him and his family on Saturday night.

Looking ahead to this week, I look forward to attending the Grand Opening Celebration for FibreDust, LLC at its New Lane location in Cromwell on Tuesday afternoon. FibreDust provides growers with organic, renewable, eco-friendly substrate using coir. Coir, also known as coco peat, is a “soil less” growing media made from coconut husks. I look forward to joining Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza and Town Manager Tony Salvatore, chamber Chairman Rick Morin and Vice Chairman Jay Polke, and Cromwell Division Chairman Rodney Bitgood as we collectively welcome Andrew Pidgeon and his entire team to chamber membership and to the Middlesex business community.

Thursday features the September meeting of the chamber’s Board of Directors at the Middletown Elks Lodge from     11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. This meeting is hosted by Liberty Bank, and I appreciate the strong and continued support of Chandler Howard and his entire team. We look forward to another productive chamber Board meeting which will feature reports from chamber members and key staff.

Also on Thursday, I look forward to attending an Open House Celebration for Nathan L Jacobson & Associates in Chester which is celebrating its 45th Anniversary. Nathan L Jacobson & Associates is a consulting civil and environmental engineering company that began in 1972. Geoff Jacobson, who took over the company’s presidency from his father in 1998, is a terrific member and chairman of our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division. I congratulate him and his team on their continued success and wish them well moving forward.

Friday morning features a Board of Directors meeting for the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) at the chamber office. MCSAAC is recognized as one of thirteen public/private partnerships (Regional Action Councils) in the State of Connecticut. Established in 1991, MCSAAC is a council of the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Its purpose is to reduce the incidence of alcohol and other drug abuse. The board will discuss continued funding related challenges for MCSAAC, and will continue its efforts to ensure a future for this important organization.

Friday also includes a visit to the “The Mane Event”, hosted by Manes & Motions Therapeutic Riding Center in Middletown. Manes & Motions Therapeutic Riding Center provides equine-assisted activities for the purpose of contributing positively to the well-being of children and adults living with special needs in the areas of education, sports and recreation. It is a program of Hospital for Special Care, which is another strong and active member of our chamber. I appreciate the continued good work of HSC CEO Lynn Ricci and her team, and look forward to attending the Mane Event on Friday.

I want to take a moment to remind our members that thanks to our friends in the Athletics Departments at Wesleyan University and Yale University, free tickets are now available for two exciting local football games on Saturday, Sept. 23. Kicking off at 1:00 p.m. at the historic Yale Bowl in New Haven, Yale will take on Cornell University in an exciting Ivy League matchup. This is a great opportunity to bring your family, employees, and/or valued customers to see some terrific football. Please mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the chamber to receive your tickets with the number of tickets you would like, or pick up tickets from the chamber office on Main Street in Middletown. These complimentary tickets are available on a first come, first served basis. I would like to thank Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett, and Deputy Director of Internal Operations Wayne Dean for providing these tickets for our members. We look forward to seeing you at the Yale Bowl! A busy Saturday of football continues at Corwin Stadium on Andrus Field at Wesleyan University with a 6:00 p.m. game between Wesleyan and Tufts University. Admission for this game is free and those interested can simply head to campus to enjoy the game which kicks off the Cardinals 2017 home schedule. I want to thank all of our friends at Wesleyan, especially Director of Athletics Mike Whalen, for providing this opportunity to the community.

I will close this week’s chamber column by once again asking chamber members and community members alike to save the date of Wednesday, Oct. 11 for the 2017 Connecticut Connections Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase Event. This full day of events and activities will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Formerly known as the Middlesex County Business to Business Expo, Connecticut Connections will feature our 5th Annual Small Business Awards Luncheon featuring DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith, a number of important workshops, over 100 exhibitors from a variety of industry sectors, the Middlesex County Career Fair featuring over 50 employers, and much, much more. The next three chamber columns will feature much more information on the 2017 Connecticut Connections Middlesex County’s Premier Business Event, but everyone should be sure to save the date of Oct. 11.

We have reached Durham Fair week in Middlesex County, and may the sun shine down on the historic fairgrounds.

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