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.

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.

Middletown will mark 911 anniversary with remembrance at Vets Park

September 11, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

In clear sign that the summer is winding down and the fall is approaching, football season is underway and the baseball pennant races are heating up. However, before I cover the many chamber events and activities that are on the horizon, I want to acknowledge the fact that today is a somber anniversary for our nation. Sixteen years ago, the September 11, 2001 terror attacks took place in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. We will never forget that terrible day, those we lost, and the toll it took on our country. We will also never forget the shows of patriotism, togetherness, and sense of a common purpose that we all experienced in the aftermath of the attacks. This year’s September 11th Remembrance in Middletown will be held at Veterans Memorial Park on Walnut Grove Road. This event will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. at the Trees of Honor Memorial. The public is invited to attend. America keeps moving forward, that is all we can do, but we will always remember those we lost, and we will keep their families in our thoughts today, and every day.

September is in full swing in Middlesex County and the chamber is very much on the move. Our divisions resumed their monthly meeting schedule last week after a brief hiatus over the summer months. The Portland & East Hampton Division held a terrific meeting at Portland Library on Wednesday, the Central Business Bureau met on Thursday at the chamber, and our Chester, Deep River & Essex Division met on Friday at Essex Town Hall. This week is sure to be another busy one throughout Middlesex County. Our Executive Committee will meet today at the chamber office from 11:30-1:00 p.m. This committee, led by Chairman Rick Morin, is our top governing body, and it represents all industry sectors in Middlesex County. On Tuesday, our Automotive Council will meet at Cantina Café Ristorante in Middletown, on Wednesday, our Durham and Middlefield Division makes its annual visit to the Durham Fairgrounds. This meeting will feature local updates and of course, a preview of the upcoming Durham Fair. The Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council will meet on Wednesday morning at the chamber office, and on Thursday morning, our Cromwell Division at the Mattabassett District in Cromwell, and the Health Care Steering Committee, at the chamber office. Finally, meetings of our Legislative Committee and Affordable Housing Committee will be held on Friday morning at the chamber office.

In addition to the many committee and division meetings that are scheduled for this week, the latest installment of the KeyBank Workshop Series will be held on Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. at the chamber office. The topic is “Hiring & Firing”, and it will be presented by Chris Bringham of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. Chris Bringham, a shareholder at UKS and chairman of its employment practices group, focuses his practice on representing and counseling schools and businesses with respect to workplace and employment law issues. This presentation offers a comprehensive overview of current employment law and will be extremely valuable for managers, human resource directors, and others in your organization. Please visit www.middlesexchamber.com or contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I continue to appreciate the support of Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team.

An exciting Grand Opening celebration is also scheduled for Tuesday in East Hampton. Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers has opened a new location in East Hampton, and I certainly wish Todd Cacopardo and his team great success as we move forward. Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers offer treatment for orthopedic and sports medicine injuries, post-operative rehabilitation, workers compensation injuries, neck and back pain, tendonitis, fractures and more. I look forward to attending the grand opening with local East Hampton leaders, and am glad that Todd and his team will be providing these important services in our region.

A busy Wednesday includes a visit to The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks to celebrate major renovations to the facility that were supported in part by a grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. 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 look forward to joining Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, chamber VP Johanna Bond, our Tourism Committee Co-Chairman Bob Bell, and many other dignitaries at the event.

I also look forward to visiting the President’s House on the campus of Wesleyan University on Wednesday afternoon for a reception in honor of the school’s Posse Veteran Scholars’ Program. The Posse Foundation launched its veterans’ initiative in 2012 in an effort to increase the rates at which veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities. Wesleyan is a participating university in this outstanding program. I look forward to attending the reception, hosted by President Michael Roth and Professor Kari Weil, and thank them for their support of our veterans and of so many community based initiatives.

Excitement continues to build for Wednesday evening’s Business After Work networking reception which will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruises Boat, “Mystique”, which is docked at 80 Harbor Drive, Harbor Park, in Middletown. Members can board the boat at 5 p.m. and network while docked until 6:00 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Mystique will take a trip down river and will return at the close of the Business After Work at 7:00 p.m. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and of course, the best networking around. Excitement is building for the event on the boat and I want to thank the new owner of Lady Katharine Cruises, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, for hosting this event and for their strong support of our chamber. Kevin Dodd and his team continue to do great work throughout the region, and we continue to appreciate their effort.

I mentioned earlier in this week’s column that we have an important division meeting scheduled on the Durham Fairgrounds this Wednesday. As I noted last week, Durham Fair President Dan Miramant and his committed team of volunteers have been hard at work preparing for this year’s fair, the 98th in its rich history. The Durham 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. The Fair continues to provide four terrific days of good clean wholesome fun. From entertainment headliners like Brothers Osborne, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, and the first ever USO Show Troupe, to livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, to the educational Discovery Tent, to arts and crafts and a number of shopping options, the Durham Fair has it all. The Fair will also once again feature an array of food options, a number of games, and outstanding events and activities. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale agricultural event in Middlesex County.  The Durham Fair is the largest fair in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers, and it is truly a unique event. For more information, please visit www.durhamfair.com.

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 want to close this week’s chamber column by asking chamber members and community members alike to save the date of Wednesday, Oct. 11 for Middlesex County’s Premier Business Showcase, the 2017 Connecticut Connections 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, the connections event will feature our 5th Annual Small Business Awards Ceremony 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. I will continue to provide updates as we get closer to this major event, but everyone should be sure to save the date of Oct. 11.

We have reached mid-September in Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.

The importance of Labor Day in local community

September 4, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

Today, we celebrate Labor Day in Middlesex County and around our great nation. Every year on Labor Day, I take some time to talk about the importance of the holiday which is designed to provide a day of rest for working men and women. In addition to honoring the commitment and dedication of hard working Americans, Labor Day also represents the traditional end of summer and serves as an ideal time to chart a path for the rest of the year. The chamber's far-reaching membership, 2,175 businesses that employ nearly 50,000 people, allows me to observe the outstanding diversity in the Middlesex County workforce. The men and women of the Middlesex community not only provide the economic productivity that allows us to maintain a high standard of living, but they give back each and every day, and provide a great example for our young people. Despite the many differences in occupations, there is a definite common theme among those in our county and statewide workforce, everyone works hard. A job in any field requires a personal commitment and a lot of time and effort. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has continued to implement successful workforce development programs throughout the past year. As a result of our great working relationships with a number of key partners, the chamber is able to serve as a bridge that connects job seekers to employers. A strong workforce is the key to a strong economy, and the chamber is proud of its workforce development initiatives. Enjoy your Labor Day Middlesex County, but let us not forget our fellow citizens who are currently looking for work, and let’s never forget those who serve our country in a variety of ways.

As usual, the first full week of September is packed with a number of chamber meetings and activities. Our Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Committee will meet tomorrow at 8 a.m. in the chamber conference room. This important chamber group is charged with planning and executing the annual Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting which is always a huge event for our organization. This year’s event is scheduled for Monday, November 6, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell with guest speaker Colonel Christopher Beckert, Director at Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA. We look forward to another outstanding Support the Troops & Honor the Veterans event and continue to appreciate the good work of the committee which is led by its Chairman, Phil Cacciola. Wednesday morning features meetings of the chamber’s Portland and East Hampton Division and the Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee. The Portland and East Hampton division meeting, to be held at Portland Library, will feature local updates from key municipal officials and chamber members. The chamber’s divisions continue to be a vital link to our member towns and to each individual local business community within our service area. The Environment, Land Use, and Energy Committee is comprised of attorneys, engineers, environmental specialists, developers and other professionals. The committee focuses on important environment, land use and energy issues that have a direct impact on the business community in Middlesex County. This committee, as all of our industry based groups do, also continues to be an important piece of the chamber’s infrastructure. On Thursday morning, our Central Business Bureau will meet at 8:00 a.m. in the chamber conference room. This meeting, which will feature updates from a number of key Middletown stakeholders including Mayor Drew and city department directors, is hosted by Adelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services. We look forward to another productive CBB meeting on Thursday morning. This Friday, our Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division will meet at the Essex Town Hall Auditorium at 8:00am. This division, also known as our Down County Division, will host members of our Affordable Housing Committee including chamber VP Jeff Pugliese and the committee’s chairman, Bob Fusari, for a presentation on housing as an economic driver in Middlesex County. This busy week comes to a close on Friday afternoon with the official grand opening celebration for Wayback Burgers on Main Street in Middletown. Wayback Burgers offers delicious burgers with a wide selection of toppings, crispy and grilled chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, fresh salads and delicious sides including fries, onion rings, and house-made chips. I look forward to joining Mayor Drew and other city dignitaries as we collectively congratulate Jessica & Michael Light, who live in Durham, on their new venture. We look forward to working with them and wish them nothing but success moving forward.

A busy September continues next week with an important business seminar and a Business After Work networking reception on the river. The seminar, which is the latest installment of the KeyBank Workshop Series, will be held on Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. at the chamber office. The topic is “Hiring & Firing”, and it will be presented by Chris Bringham of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. Chris Bringham, a shareholder at UKS and chairman of its employment practices group, focuses his practice on representing and counseling schools and businesses with respect to workplace and employment law issues. This presentation offers a comprehensive overview of current employment law and will be extremely valuable for managers, human resources directors, and others in your organization. Please visit www.middlesexchamber.com or contact the chamber for registration information. This important chamber Workshop Series is sponsored by KeyBank, and I continue to appreciate the support of Market President Jeff Hubbard and his entire team.

Next Wednesday, September 13 beginning at 5:00 p.m., the chamber’s Business After Work networking reception will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique”, which is docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown. Members can board the boat at 5 p.m. and network while docked until 6:00 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Mystique will take a trip down river and will return at the close of the Business After Work at 7:00 p.m. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and of course, the best networking around. Excitement is building for the event on the boat and I want to thank the new owner of Lady Katharine Cruises, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, for hosting this event and for their strong support of our chamber. Kevin Dodd and his team continue to great work throughout region, and we continue to appreciate their effort.

Excitement also continues to build as the 98th Durham Fair, which will be held from September 21-24 on the famous fairgrounds in the heart of Durham, gets closer and closer. Durham Agricultural Fair Association President Dan Miramant and his team of committed volunteers have been hard at work preparing for the week, and we certainly appreciate their year round efforts. The Durham 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. The Durham Fair continues to provide four terrific days of good clean wholesome fun. From entertainment headliners like Brothers Osborne, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, and the first ever USO Show Troupe, to livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, to the educational Discovery Tent, to arts and crafts and a number of shopping options, the Durham Fair has it all. The Fair will also once again feature an array of food options, a number of games, and outstanding events and activities. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale agricultural event in Middlesex County.  The Durham Fair is the largest fair in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers, and it is truly a unique event. For more information, please visit www.durhamfair.com.

Unfortunately, I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of two longtime supporters of the chamber, Joseph Guida and Philip Armetta. Joe Guida made a major impact in Middletown and in Middlesex County throughout his life. He was critical to the dedication of open space land in the city, and served in a variety of roles that supported the responsible management and development of the riverfront area. Joe also supported countless community initiatives including the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Association of Dairy and Food Sanitarians, Inc., the Middletown Lion's Club, Middletown Elks Club, the Boy Scouts, the CT Farm Bureau and many more. Joe Guida was a community man and a businessman but most importantly, he was a family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family and vast network of friends at this time. He will be missed by many. Another individual who made a major impact locally, Phil Armetta, also passed away recently. As his obituary recently noted, Phil was a long-time, active member, and a great supporter of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Earlier in life, Phil served in the US Army in occupied Germany in the period following World War II. After he returned home, Phil worked hard as a truck driver and maintenance worker before embarking on an exciting business career. In 1970, Phil bought a small trash hauler, Dainty Rubbish, and eventually built it into a regional powerhouse. Under Phil’s leadership, Dainty was not only an important local employer and business, but it was a strong corporate citizen and a leader in the trash to energy field. In fact, Phil’s leadership and determination led to the construction of waste to energy plants in Bristol and Lisbon, and a large natural gas fueled power plant and water storage facility in Middletown. Phil Armetta will also be missed by many, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Toni and his entire family at this difficult time. Finally, I want to officially close this week’s column by acknowledging the recent passing of Carolyn Kohs. Carolyn Kohs was an outstanding wife and mother who always strongly supported her family. Words cannot accurately express my admiration for her. My thoughts are with her husband Art, her children, grandchildren and the long list of friends and admirers that she leaves behind. Carolyn Kohs was a wonderful person and I am grateful to have known her. She will certainly be missed.

September is upon us, and the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.

Powder Ridge to unveil 365 Synthetic Snow Park

August 28, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

August gives way to September this week in Middlesex County, but the chamber calendar continues to be hot with events and activities.

Last week was another busy one for the chamber team that featured an important division meeting, a Business After Work networking reception, a Member Breakfast Meeting, and a few chamber committee meetings. Our Westfield Division met on Tuesday morning at the Centerpoint Connecticut offices on Centerpoint Drive in Middletown. Hosted by Makiaris Media and OfficePlace, the meeting featured a presentation from Bill Robb, Project Manager at Barton Malow Construction Company, on the progress of the 525,000 square-foot FedEx Ground Distribution Center that is under construction in the Westfield section of town. Eric Adamczyk and John Sweat, who handle facilities and project management for FedEx Ground, were also on hand to address what is planned for when the company officially takes over control of the facility from Barton Malow. It was a very productive meeting and I thank our partners at Barton Malow and FedEx for attending and for addressing our members. The chamber’s August Business After Work networking reception was held on Tuesday evening at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook. It was a beautiful night on the shore, and our record crowd of members in attendance had a blast. I want to take a moment to once again thank the owners of Water’s Edge, the Datillo family, Managing Director Peter Bonell, Director of Sales Keith Lindelow, Corporate Sales Manager Karen Robidoux and the entire staff for their effort to make this event a success. I also thank them on behalf of the chamber for their longtime and strong support of our organization. Thursday morning featured our August Member Breakfast Meeting which was sponsored by People’s United Bank. People’s Northern Connecticut President Mike Casparino, a longtime chamber friend and supporter, did a great job introducing our guest speaker for the morning, UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall. Coach Edsall gave outstanding remarks about this year’s team, the path that returned him to UConn, and his thoughts on leadership and coaching in the modern era. I appreciate his presence at the event, and wish him and the Huskies the best for the upcoming season. Finally, our Legislative Committee and Affordable Housing Committee held productive meetings on Thursday and Friday respectively. Once again, the chamber team did a great job for me as we navigated yet another busy week.

This week also features some important events including our first Middletown Innovation Meet Up and two business grand openings. I am proud to introduce as part of this week’s column, The MEWS+, which is an exciting concept that will serve as a key component to the economic development initiatives currently underway in Middletown. The MEWS+ will 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. Our goal is to create a truly dynamic public/private partnership that will fuel local innovation. The MEWS+ will kick off this Tuesday evening, August 29, with an Innovation “Meet Up” in Downtown Middletown from 5-7:00 p.m. This event will feature networking with local entrepreneurs and high growth companies, an introduction to the chamber’s newly created Entrepreneur Council, an open discussion on the creation of a dynamic co-working initiative in Middletown, and brief remarks from Tim Laubacher, Founder of Launch EZ which is an entrepreneur resource database that contains hundreds of curated resources, including programs, service providers, networks, events, mentors & more. I want to thank Trevor Davis and Trevor Davis Commercial Real Estate for sponsoring the event and for hosting at The Central, 134 Broad Street (Rear of 363 Main Street/Webster Bank - Russell Library public Parking lot). With your support, we will help get Middletown and Middlesex County CONNected at the MEWS+.  For the time being, the MEWS+ will be headquartered at the chamber office. More on this exciting initiative to come!

I also look forward to attending two exciting grand opening celebrations that are scheduled in Middletown this week. Wednesday afternoon features an event at McDonald’s on South Main Street. This event, which is actually a grand reopening, will celebrate the completion of a major remodel for the facility. The finished product looks terrific, and I look forward joining Mike Ghadimian and his team, and Councilman Tom Serra and other local dignitaries for the celebration. This coming Friday, September 1, will feature a Grand Opening celebration for B&B Wings & Things on Main Street in Middletown. B&B has an outstanding menu and is off to a fast start, and we wish Marc & Rita Barham, and their entire team, nothing but the best as they embark on this exciting journey right here in Middletown. I look forward to joining them, and Mayor Dan Drew, for the grand opening celebration.

This coming Saturday, Sept. 2, I look forward to visiting Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort to support the unveiling of its new 365 Synthetic Snow Park. Local skiers will no longer have to wait until winter to hit the slopes now that Sean Hayes and his team have installed a 500-foot run that will be expanded to over 2,800 feet by next summer. Powder Ridge, along with its sister property Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park in Portland, continues to be a major economic driver in our region. I congratulate Sean Hayes on his continued success and thank him for his support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. We will continue to strongly support this initiative, and the entire tourism industry in our region and throughout our state.

Chamber members should save the date of Sept. 13 for our next Business After Work networking reception aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique.” Members can board the boat at 5 p.m. and network while docked until 6 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Mystique will take a trip down river and will return at the close of the Business After Work at 7:00 p.m. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a terrific spread of food, drink and of course, the best networking around. I will have more on the September Business After Work in next week’s column.

September in Middlesex County is synonymous with the outstanding Durham Agricultural Fair. The 98th version of this Connecticut institution will be held from September 21-24 on the famous fairgrounds in the heart of Durham. Durham Agricultural Fair Association President Dan Miramant and his team of committed volunteers have been hard at work preparing for the week, and we certainly appreciate their year round efforts. The Durham 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. The Durham Fair continues to provide four terrific days of good clean wholesome fun. From entertainment headliners like Brothers Osborne, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, and the first ever USO Show Troupe, to livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, to the educational Discovery Tent, to arts and crafts and a number of shopping options, the Durham Fair has it all. The Fair will also once again feature an array of food options, a number of games, and outstanding events and activities. The Marketing Director for the event, Debbie Huscher, did a great job providing a fair update at our Member Breakfast Meeting with Coach Edsall last Thursday. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale agricultural event in Middlesex County.  The Durham Fair is the largest fair in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers, and it is truly a unique event. For more information, please visit www.durhamfair.com. We will see you on the Fairgrounds!

September is upon us, the Durham Fair is fast approaching, and the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.

UConn coach Edsall special guest at member breakfast

August 21, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

The summer is moving right along in Middlesex County, and the chamber calendar continues to be packed with events and activities.

Last week featured a very successful KeyBank Workshop Series session on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, and important meetings of our Cromwell Division, Tourism Steering Committee and Board of Directors. The board meeting, led by chamber Chairman Rick Morin and held at Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, featured reports from chamber members and key staff and an update from Estuary Transit District Executive Director Joe Comerford on some of the transportation related changes that are planned for our region. I would like to thank Joe for taking the time to visit with our board, and our friends at Essex Steam Train and Riverboat for hosting and sponsoring the meeting. President and CEO Kevin Dodd offered remarks that focused on the importance of tourism to the economy and to our lifestyle. We are very fortunate to have Essex Steam Train and Riverboat as a vital part of our region, and as an active member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

This week also features a number of important chamber meetings, events and activities.

I look forward to attending the grand opening celebration for Fujiya Ramen on 425 Main Street which is scheduled for today at 4:00 p.m. We have happy to welcome Owner Andy Liu, Chefs Takayuki Ishida and Taichiro Ogane and Head Server Akiko Ambiru as the ramen shop formally opens. We would like to wish them nothing but success as they embark on this exciting venture right here in Middletown.

On Tuesday morning, our Westfield Division will hold a special meeting at 8:00 a.m. at the Centerpoint Connecticut offices. As part of the effort to keep our members in the Westfield section fully informed on the progress of the FedEx project, the meeting on Centerpoint Drive will focus on the 525,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art distribution hub which is currently under construction in Westfield. Representatives from FedEx Ground and Barton Malow will attend the meeting to provide an update on the project, and to address questions from our members. The meeting will also feature remarks from Mayor Dan Drew and other key city officials on issues that have an impact on Westfield businesses. We look forward to a productive meeting.

On Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to meeting with my fellow executives from Connecticut’s eight metro chambers of commerce. The eight metro chambers, spread out throughout the state, collectively represent thousands of Connecticut business. These important meetings always feature productive discussions about collaboration and joint advocacy for the business community. This chamber, and chambers around the state, will continue to fight for the business community every day.

A busy Tuesday continues in the evening as our friends at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa host our August Business After Work networking reception at their beautiful Westbrook facility. Overlooking the peaceful Long Island Sound, this historic gem combines charm, sandy beaches, beautiful resort accommodations, expansive meeting space, and much more. This annual event on the shoreline has become very popular with our membership over the years. The Water’s Edge team puts out a delicious spread of food and drink which always includes a little extra shoreline flavor, and the views of the beach and water are remarkable. Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is a strong and active member of our chamber and we appreciate their willingness to continue hosting this event. I would like to once again thank the Datillo family, and the entire staff at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa for their outstanding support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

Looking ahead to later in the week, excitement continues to build for our August Member Breakfast Meeting which is scheduled for Thursday morning at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This Member Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by our friends at People’s United Bank, will feature UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall as keynote speaker. Coach Edsall will provide an update on the upcoming season of Husky football which begins Thursday, August 31 vs. Holy Cross. Coach Edsall has returned to UConn football with the goal of injecting new life and enthusiasm into the program. During his first stint at UConn from 1999- 2010, he led the Huskies from Division I-AA into Division I-A making UConn the first school to ever move from the FCS to the Bowl Championship Series as a member of the Big East. Edsall has the most wins for a head football coach in Connecticut history as well as the most games coached. Before returning to UConn, he was most recently the head coach at the University of Maryland from 2011 to 2015 and was director of football research-special projects for the Detroit Lions in 2016. We would like to thank Coach Edsall for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with our members. We look forward to hearing from him as we get closer and closer to the opening of another exciting season of UConn football on August 31 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. I also want to thank People’s United Bank for sponsoring this Member Breakfast Meeting. I know that Northern Connecticut President Mike Casparino looks forward to introducing the coach at the event, and we appreciate the strong and longtime support of him and his team.

It is hard to believe, but the 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program is now in the books. We are so proud that during a period without an official state budget, when programs across the state were shut down, we were still able to place 40 youth employees into constructive employment environments at over 30 host worksites from a variety of different industry sectors. This six week program provides a solid foundation and a great glimpse into what life in the workforce is like. During the six weeks, our young people not only learned 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. This important program would of course not be possible without the support of our host worksites. These local, community minded businesses and organizations have stepped up to the plate this year to provide the work experience and supervision necessary to make this program work. I thank all of them on behalf of the chamber for their support. Our 2017 host worksites are as follows: Allstate Insurance, Amazing Grace Food Pantry, The Buttonwood Tree, Cavanaugh & Co. LLC, Change Inc., Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Finesse Cuts, LLC, Futures Inc., Godfrey Memorial Library, Goodwill Industries/ Easter Seals, Habitat for Humanity (ReStore), ID Mail Systems, Inn at Middletown, Liberty Bank, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Middlesex YMCA, Middletown United Fathers Community Garden, North End Action Team, Oddfellows Playhouse, One MacDonough Place, Pamela Roose Specialty Hand Knits, Pegasus Manufacturing Inc., Russell Library, Seasons Federal Credit Union, Shiloh Youth Intergenerational Program, Strike-A-Pose Hair & Body Salon, Suburban Stationers, Tschudin Chocolates, William Raveis Real Estate, Camp Ingersol (YMCA), and Tonia’s Tailoring.

Even more so than our terrific host sites, the program’s success this year is due to the leadership of the City of Middletown and an outstanding team of private and community funders. I would also like to take a moment to once again thank our 2017 team of funding partners for their great contributions to this program. Without them, this program would simply not be possible. Our 2017 team of funding partners is as follows: The City of Middletown, under the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, Peach Pit Foundation, Community Foundation of Middlesex County (Sams Family Fund, Coles Family Fund, Herb and Ellen Patterson Memorial Fund, MiddleOak Unrestricted Fund, Chuck and Rachel Wiltsie Fund), Liberty Bank Foundation, Jarvis Products Corporation, MiddleOak, Pegasus Manufacturing, Greenwald Industries, Stone Investment Properties, Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, Larry & Patty McHugh, and Middlesex United Way. We will also not forget that the original and primary funder of this program for many years is Workforce Alliance. Despite the fact that funding is not coming through the workforce board this year due to the state’s budget issues, President and CEO Bill Villano and his team have done a great job of processing applications, keeping the towns in their service area in the loop, and advocating for funding for youth employment in Connecticut. I thank Bill and his team, and all of our program supporters, for their continued dedication to this important initiative.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will continue to serve as a bridge between job seekers and employers, and the sun will continue to shine on Middlesex County.

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