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.

UConn Coach Hurley guest at next breakfast

October 15, 2018

 

By: Larry McHugh

 

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

 

This week is highlighted by two major events, a Membership Open House at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex on Tuesday evening, and a Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Hurley at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell on Thursday morning.

 

The Membership Open House and Networking Reception will be held along the banks of the Connecticut River, outside the museum under a large tent, courtesy of Connecticut Rental, and the Connecticut River Museum. The event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and food and drinks will be served, thanks to the sponsorship of Essex Savings Bank. The kickoff speaker at the open house is Essex native Brad Galiette who serves as Product Manager at Google NYC where he helps drive the roadmap and execution for Google's Display and Video Ad products. Growing up in the region, Brad is passionate about Middlesex County and is proud to speak about his experiences as a young professional who is succeeding in business. We have invited existing members and prospective members to what is sure to be a wonderful evening in Essex. The Connecticut River Museum strives to lead in the study, preservation, and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley. I thank the museum for hosting, Tom Byrne and Connecticut Rental for their support of the event, and Brad for his willingness to visit with our group. Finally, I want to thank Greg Shook and the entire team at Essex Savings Bank for sponsoring the event. Greg is a past chairman of our chamber and a longtime friend and supporter. We appreciate it very much. I know all of us look forward to a great event.

 

On the business development front, I look forward to joining chamber Chairman Jay Polke and Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza at the Grand Opening celebration for Super Hair & Nail Salon on Shunpike Road in Cromwell on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. I wish Peter Nguyen nothing but the best as he works to grow this new local business.

 

Thursday morning’s Member Breakfast Meeting with Coach Hurley, sponsored by our friends at ConnectiCare, will be a sold out chamber event. We look forward to welcoming the coach who comes to UConn from the University of Rhode Island (URI) where he enjoyed a very successful six year run as head coach. He will offer a preview of this year’s Husky team for the hoops fans in the audience, and will provide us with some insight on his leadership and management style. We look forward a great event on Thursday morning.

 

A busy and productive Thursday continues with a meeting of the chamber’s Board of Directors at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. As I have noted many times, Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort is a key economic generator in our region along with its sister property in Portland, Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park. I congratulate Sean Hayes on his continued success in our region, and thank him for hosting an important meeting of our board.

 

The week closes with a meeting of the Connecticut Tourism Coalition on Friday at the Saybrook Point Inn. As I have noted many times, tourism is a critical economic generator in our state, and I look forward to attending this important meeting along with chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who also serves as Executive Director of the Central Regional Tourism District.

 

Speaking of major events, Middlesex County’s Premier Business Expo, Connecticut Connections 2018, is scheduled for next Wednesday, October 24 at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. This full day of events and activities will include the main expo hall with over 105 exhibitors from a wide variety of industry sectors, a career fair with over 50 employers who are hiring, our annual Small Business Awards Celebration Luncheon which will honor a number of our small business champions, and other content ranging from tourism, to economic resilience, to entrepreneurship, to substance abuse prevention and more.

 

The morning will kick off with a session hosted by the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) titled, The Honest Truth: Opioid Addiction-Resources for the Workplace and for Families. This workshop will feature a panel discussion covering access to treatment, recovering in the workplace, and the role of insurance in treatment. It is free and open to all, and is a particularly important discussion for employers, professionals, and families. I would like to thank MCSAAC President Tony Salvatore and the Advisory Committee for their continued support of MCSAAC through challenging times.

 

The general public is invited to visit with over 105 exhibitors, from a number of different industries, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Connecticut Connections is a great opportunity to display and showcase your products and services face-to-face with potential new customers in your target market.

 

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 Small Business Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Comcast Business, will feature remarks from DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith and CNBC Senior Analyst & Commentator Ron Insana. I am proud to announce that the 2018 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards recipients are: Business of the Year (1-30 employees)-Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, LLC, Middletown, Business of the Year (31+ employees)-Essex Savings Bank, Essex, Business Growth & Expansion-Reality Interactive, Middletown, Manufacturer of the Year-Ripley Tools, LLC, Cromwell, Minority Owned Business of the Year- Change, Inc., Middletown, Outstanding New Business Under 5 Years-Mizzi Cosmetics, Portland, Retail Business of the Year-Torrison Stone and Garden, Durham, Tourism/Hospitality Business of the Year-The Griswold Inn, Essex, Family Owned Business of the Year-A&A Office Systems, Inc., Middletown. We are very proud of our 2018 Small Business Award winners who were all nominated by other members of the chamber. They come from many different industry sectors, but they all share a commitment to Middlesex County and they are all great representatives of our business community. We look forward to celebrating their success on October 24.

 

The Business After Work Executive Evening Event for Members only, to be held from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., will feature a great spread of complimentary food, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks, over 105 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 the Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County.

 

More information on Connecticut Connections, a full day of events and activities, will be shared in next week’s column, and you can always visit www.middlesexchamber.com for more information.

 

After the Connecticut Connections Expo event wraps up, attention turns to the 17th Annual Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting which is scheduled for Monday, November 5, 2018. Retired United States Army Colonel Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, will serve as Keynote Speaker at this major event which is sponsored by Middlesex Hospital. As I noted last week, a key part of this event every year is the presentation of the William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award. This prestigious award, presented annually at our Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting, honors a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces for distinguished service to the citizens of Connecticut, and selfless commitment to public service. This year’s recipient is Morton “Morty” Pear of Middletown who has a fantastic record of veteran and community service. I will have much more as we get closer, but please save the date.

 

The sun always shines in Middlesex County


Fall events abound

October 8, 2018

 

By: Larry McHugh

 

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

 

It is hard to believe, but the 2018 Election is now only four short weeks away. The chamber’s county based divisions host candidate forums every October so that our members have the opportunity to meet and greet the candidates for public office in our region. This year, we are welcoming candidates for all House and Senate seats in Middlesex County. Our Portland and East Hampton Division kicked off these forums last Wednesday in East Hampton, and the Chester, Deep River, and Essex Division met last Friday in Chester. We had a great turnout from candidates and chamber members at both of these meetings. The Durham and Middlefield Division meeting will take place this Wednesday at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield, and the Cromwell Division meeting will take place on Thursday at the Red Lion Hotel. We look forward to fostering more productive dialogue between our candidates and our members as October moves along.

 

Speaking of the election, I look forward to attending a tourism focused Governor Candidate Forum at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford on Wednesday morning. This event, organized by the Connecticut Lodging Association, will feature remarks from Democratic Candidate, Ned Lamont, and Independent Candidate, Oz Griebel, on the health and future of tourism in Connecticut. This will be a great opportunity for stakeholders in the arts, tourism, and hospitality industries to hear first-hand how each candidate plans to incorporate tourism into their plans for a stronger Connecticut. Chamber Vice President Johanna Bond, who also serves as Executive Director of the Central Regional Tourism District, will join me for what is sure to be an interesting discussion on Wednesday. We will continue to stress that tourism is a key economic driver in our region and throughout Connecticut.

 

On the business development front, I look forward to joining Mayor Dan Drew and other city dignitaries at the Grand Opening of Perkatory Coffee Roasters on Main Street in the North End of Middletown. Perkatory Coffee Roasters specializes in providing beans for the freshest and best tasting cup of coffee. I would like to congratulate Joey and Johanna Perazella on a great job remodeling the space, and we wish them great success with this exciting new business. While Perkatory’s story is just getting started, Cromwell Martial Arts on Newfield Street in Middletown is celebrating 25 years in business with a celebration on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. I congratulate Frank Shekosky and his entire team on 25 terrific years of providing self-defense skills, improved fitness, self-confidence, self-discipline and increased awareness. Here’s to 25 more!

 

Looking ahead to next week, our Fall Membership Meet Up will be held on Tuesday, October 16 from 5-7:00 p.m. at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. This event was developed with existing members and potential members in mind. We look forward to a great evening of networking, and ask that all interested parties come and learn about the benefits of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. We also look forward to welcoming our kickoff speaker, Middlesex County native, Brad Galliette, who serves as Product Manager at Google NYC. For more information or to register online, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

 

Excitement also continues to build for our October Member Breakfast Meeting featuring UConn Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Hurley which is right around the corner. Scheduled for next Thursday, October 18, and sponsored by ConnectiCare, the Member Breakfast Meeting will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Cromwell, 100 Berlin Road, Cromwell. Coach Hurley comes to UConn from the University of Rhode Island (URI) where he enjoyed a very successful six year run as head coach. We look forward to welcoming the coach who will offer a preview of this year’s Husky team, and will provide us with some insight on his leadership and management style. I know our members are very excited about what will be a sold out event with Coach Hurley, and I will continue to provide updates on his visit as we get closer.

 

I also ask, once again, that chamber members and other interested parties save the date of Wednesday, October 24 for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County's Premier Business EXPO. This full day of events and activities will include the main expo hall with over 110 exhibitors from a wide variety of industry sectors, a career fair with over 50 employers who are hiring, our annual Small Business Awards Celebration Luncheon which will honor a number of our small business champions, and other content ranging from tourism, to economic resilience, to entrepreneurship, to substance abuse prevention and more. The morning will kick off with a session hosted by the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) titled, The Honest Truth: Opioid Addiction-Resources for the Workplace and for Families. This workshop will feature a panel discussion covering access to treatment, recovering in the workplace, and the role of insurance in treatment. It is free and open to all, and is a particularly important discussion for employers, professionals, and families. I would like to thank MCSAAC President Tony Salvatore and the Advisory Committee for their continued support of MCSAAC through challenging times. Connecticut Connections is a great opportunity to display and showcase your products and services face-to-face with potential new customers in your target market. The Small Business Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Comcast Business, will feature remarks from DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith and CNBC Senior Analyst & Commentator Ron Insana. I am proud to announce that the 2018 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards recipients are: Business of the Year (1-30 employees)-Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, LLC, Middletown, Business of the Year (31+ employees)-Essex Savings Bank, Essex, Business Growth & Expansion-Reality Interactive, Middletown, Manufacturer of the Year-Ripley Tools, LLC, Cromwell, Minority Owned Business of the Year- Change, Inc., Middletown, Outstanding New Business Under 5 Years-Mizzi Cosmetics, Portland, Retail Business of the Year-Torrison Stone and Garden, Durham, Tourism/Hospitality Business of the Year-The Griswold Inn, Essex, Family Owned Business of the Year-A&A Office Systems, Inc., Middletown. We are very proud of our 2018 Small Business Award winners who were all nominated by other members of the chamber. They come from many different industry sectors, but they all share a commitment to Middlesex County and they are all great representatives of our business community. We look forward to celebrating their success on October 24.

 

More information on Connecticut Connections, a full day of events and activities, will be shared as we get closer, and you can always visit www.middlesexchamber.com for more information.

 

I want to close this week’s column by announcing the recipient of the chamber’s 2018 William J. Pomfret Veteran Community Service Award. This prestigious award, presented annually at our Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Member Breakfast Meeting, honors a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces for distinguished service to the citizens of Connecticut, and selfless commitment to public service. This year’s recipient is Morton “Morty” Pear of Middletown. Morty Pear is a proud veteran who served our country with distinction. He has also a remarkable record of community service and is a deserving recipient of this prestigious award. We look forward to honoring him at the event on Nov. 5. More to come on this front as well.  

 

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!

 


Liberty Bank to open corporate office on 23-acre campus in Middletown

October 1, 2018

 

By: Larry McHugh

 

Amazingly, the month of October has arrived in Middlesex County, and the Middlesex Chamber continues to be on the move.

 

A busy chamber month kicks off on Monday with a meeting of our Executive Committee at the chamber office. I continue to appreciate the support of our top governing body which is currently under the leadership of our Chairman, Jay Polke. We look forward to another productive meeting which will cover a variety of topics.

 

The chamber’s divisions will host legislative candidate forums throughout the month of October across Middlesex County. This week, candidates for the State Senate and State House seats that represent the towns of Portland and East Hampton will have the chance to address our members at Angelico's Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton on Wednesday, and those running to represent Chester, Deep River and Essex will appear at our Down County Division meeting on Friday morning at Aaron Manor in Chester. We look forward to productive discussions at these meetings, and I thank all of the candidates for visiting with our members and for their willingness to serve in public office.

 

Switching gears, two exciting grand opening celebrations are scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Chamber VP Johanna Bond will attend a grand opening for the Edward Jones office in Colchester on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. We appreciate the continued support of chamber member Kevin Harris and his team, and we wish them great success at their new location. On Thursday afternoon, a grand opening celebration for Perk on Main will be held at its new Main Street Market location in downtown Middletown. I congratulate Katie Hughes and her team on a well-executed relocation, and look forward to working with them as we move forward.

 

Later on Thursday, I look forward to attending the Annual Meeting of the Middlesex Health System Corporators at Middlesex Hospital. As I noted last week, Middlesex Hospital offers a comprehensive spectrum of locally-based hospital services in a wide range of specialties. It is not only a world class healthcare operation in Middlesex County, it is a major employer and a strong supporter of the Middlesex Community. I thank CEO Vin Capece and his team for their continued good work on so many fronts, and look forward to seeing my fellow corporators on Thursday night.

 

On Friday morning, a major Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held at Liberty Bank’s New Corporate Headquarters beginning at 8:30am. While maintaining its commitment to the downtown area and all of the city’s communities, Liberty Bank will be transitioning its nearly 300 employees to its new home set on a stunning 23 acres at 245 Long Hill Road. In addition to three stories of light filled workspace, state of the art training facilities, adjustable height work stations, and many conference rooms, Liberty’s new home will have a fitness center, cafeteria with two outdoor patios, walking trails, a light harvesting system, energy saving and efficiency features, high-end security, and much, much more. Having the majority of Liberty Bank’s support team in one location will afford new opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and efficiency that simply doesn’t exist when spread over multiple buildings. However, don’t think for one minute that Liberty is abandoning its forever home on Main Street. Their Main Office Branch team will remain in place, and once this process is completed, more than 100 members of the Commercial Lending group and most of their Investment Services team will occupy 315 Main Street and the nearby Annex.  Back in April, Liberty Bank sponsored the chamber’s annual Business and Education Partnership & Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast. During his remarks, Liberty’s President and CEO, Chandler Howard, did a great job rolling out the plans for the Bank’s transition to its new headquarters, and the renderings that were displayed in the ballroom looked outstanding. As always, Liberty Bank will continue to be a critical player in the regional economy, a major employer in our city, and one of the best corporate citizens anywhere. We look forward to celebrating with their entire team on Friday morning.

 

Excitement also continues to build for our October Member Breakfast featuring UConn Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Hurley which is right around the corner. Scheduled for Thursday, October 18, and sponsored by ConnectiCare, the Member Breakfast Meeting will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Cromwell, 100 Berlin Road, Cromwell. Coach Hurley comes to UConn from the University of Rhode Island (URI) where he enjoyed a very successful six year run as head coach. I know our members are very excited about what will be a sold out event with Coach Hurley, and I will continue to provide updates on his visit as we get closer.

 

I also ask, once again, that chamber members and other interested parties save the date of Wednesday, October 24 for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County's Premier Business EXPO. This full day of events and activities will include the main expo hall with over 110 exhibitors from a wide variety of industry sectors, a career fair with over 50 employers who are hiring, our annual Small Business Awards Celebration Luncheon which will honor a number of our small business champions, and other content ranging from tourism, to economic resilience, to entrepreneurship, to substance abuse prevention and more. The morning will kick off with a session hosted by the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) titled, The Honest Truth: Opioid Addiction-Resources for the Workplace and for Families. This workshop will feature a panel discussion covering access to treatment, recovering in the workplace, and the role of insurance in treatment. It is free and open to all, and is a particularly important discussion for employers, professionals and families. I would like to thank MCSAAC President Tony Salvatore and the Advisory Committee for their continued support of MCSAAC through challenging times. Connecticut Connections is a great opportunity to display and showcase your products and services face-to-face with potential new customers in your target market. More information on this full day of events and activities will be shared as we get closer, and you can always visit www.middlesexchamber.com for more information.

 

Before closing, I want to acknowledge that October is Manufacturing Month in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is keenly aware of the importance of manufacturing in our region and throughout the state. Chamber Vice President Jeff Pugliese plans to visit each of our member manufacturers in the coming months and the chamber will continue to work to support this vital industry sector in any way that we can. Jeff has already had very productive meetings with Roto North America, Ripley Company, and Pegasus Manufacturing, and has visits scheduled this week with Greenwald Industries, AeroCision, and Pratt and Whitney. Stay tuned as much more is coming on this important topic.

 

Finally, you may recall that I closed last week’s column by honoring the passing of Susan (Brown) DeRing. However, when mentioning that she co-founded Young Horizons Day Care Center in Higganum, I did not properly identify her business partner, Dianna Peterson. Sue and Dianna founded Young Horizons in 1982, and the center has provided excellent day care services ever since. I am grateful to both of these terrific businesswomen for their support of our chamber over the years.

 

As you can see, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to be on the move.


Durham Fair Week

September 24, 2018

 

By: Larry McHugh

 

Welcome to Durham Fair week in Middlesex County!

 

The 99th Annual Durham Fair will be held on the famous Durham Fairgrounds beginning this Thursday, September 27. 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 Thursday with an antique farm equipment demo, Cheese Making, 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 Melissa Etheridge, Scotty McCreery, a USO Show Troupe Show, monster truck rallies, livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, the educational discovery tent, arts and crafts, rides and games on the midway, the CT Craft Beer & Cider Tasting, 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 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 Association President Dan Miramant, Marketing Coordinator Debbie Huscher who spoke about the fair at last week’s chamber Member Breakfast, and the entire committed team of volunteers who have been hard at work preparing for this year’s fair. Gearing up for its 100th edition next year, the fair 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 U.S. military personnel and veterans will receive free admission to the fair. 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 2018 Durham Fair, please visit www.durhamfair.com. See you on the Fairgrounds!

 

In addition to the many activities on the fairgrounds, this week also features a number of other important meetings and events.

 

September’s Business After Work networking reception, rescheduled from September 12, will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique” this evening, September 24, on the Connecticut River. “Mystique” 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. The visit to the “Mystique” is for key employees of chamber members only. On behalf of the chamber, I want to once again thank the 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 the state.

 

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 Estuary Transit District Executive Director Joe Comerford as well as 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 Joe to this meeting as well, as he will provide our groups with an update on the new public transit options available through the Nine Town Transit System. 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. I look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow Connecticut chamber executives who all work hard every day in support of the business community.

 

A MEWS+ hosted Innovation Meet-Up is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the chamber office in Middletown. The chamber recently converted the second floor of its Main Street facility into a co-working space for use by our region's entrepreneurial community. As a co-working initiative, it provides not only a place to work, but also a collaborative working environment. This initiative is designed to be a resource for freelancers, start-up businesses and small businesses, and the Wesleyan University community. The Meet-Up event on Wednesday will feature a presentation of the Launch EZ platform which is working to connect Connecticut’s startup and entrepreneurial community. We also look forward to networking with local entrepreneurs and high growth companies, a business card raffle, food and drinks, and more. Wednesday’s Meet-Up will begin at 5:00 p.m. For more information on MEWS+ options, rates and content, please contact Jeff Pugliese in the chamber office.

 

Also on Wednesday evening, a busy night for downtown, Kidcity Children’s Museum will host a 20th Anniversary Celebration at its Washington Street location. I look forward to attending the event and am honored to have been asked to say a few words. Kidcity is a homegrown non-profit organization that started in 1994 with Jen Alexander’s plan to open a children’s museum in Middletown. It has been providing educational, fun opportunities for children and parents ever since it opened in 1998. I congratulate Jen, and her team, on 20 terrific years, and many more to come!

 

On Thursday evening, I have the honor of attending and speaking at the Middlesex County NAACP Branch 33rd Freedom Fund Dinner at the Elks Lodge in 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 Middlesex Hospital. Middlesex Hospital offers a comprehensive spectrum of locally-based hospital services in a wide range of specialties. It is not only a world class healthcare operation in Middlesex County, it is a major employer and a strong supporter of the Middlesex Community. I thank CEO Vin Capece and his team for their continued good work on so many fronts, and look forward to celebrating with them on Thursday night.

 

Before closing this week’s column, I want to congratulate my friend Marty Knight who recently had a specially installed park bench named for him on the South Green in Middletown. The official dedication of the bench will be held this Thursday morning at 11:00 a.m. This is in honor of Marty’s longtime and dedicated service to the Middletown Lions Club and the Middletown community. Marty Knight, who is blind, is an inspiration to everyone, not just those with disabilities. He has dedicated himself to community service for many years, and has always maintained a positive attitude and warm personality along the way. I thank Marty for his friendship and his support of our community. He really is one of the best.

 

I am afraid I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of Susan (Brown) DeRing at the age of 74. Sue was a longtime resident of the Town of Portland and co-founded Young Horizon's Day Care Center in Higganum in 1982 along with Dianna Peterson. She was a caring person and supported a number of community initiatives along the way including the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Sue’s family has also supported the chamber in a variety of ways over the years, and we appreciate it very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them at this difficult time. Susan DeRing will be missed by many.


Tourism key economic driver in Middlesex County

September 17, 2018

 

By: Larry McHugh

 

The summer officially comes to an end this week in Middlesex County, but the chamber calendar continues to be hot with events and activities.

 

The second installment of our ServSafe Manager Certification course kicks off on Monday at our Main Street facility. The ServSafe Manager Certification verifies that the manager or senior person at an establishment has sufficient food safety knowledge to protect the public from foodborne illness. The ServSafe Manager Certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) under the Conference for Food Protection Standards. Every foodservice establishment is required by the State of Connecticut to employ a minimum of two Qualified Food Protection Managers whose responsibilities not only include food safety, but staff training as well. Upon completion of this class, participants will meet the legal requirements along with learning best food safety practices. Registration for this course is sold out, but the chamber is running another class on Monday, January 28, 2019. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. I would like to thank Tyrell Sampson, who will lead the training, and Middletown Public Health Manager Sal Nesci and Lan Chi's Vietnamese Restaurant Owner Chu Ngo for their help and support in getting this effort launched. We look forward to providing this important training for our members.

 

Switching gears to tourism, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Connecticut Culture and Tourism Advisory Committee at the DECD offices in Hartford on Monday afternoon. As I have noted many times, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will always recognize that tourism is a key economic driver in our region and throughout our state. I look forward to meeting with my fellow committee members as we continue to work to make Connecticut a key tourism hub in the northeast United States.

 

While tourism is of course a key pillar of our regional economy, we continue to encourage and support business development in all sectors and at all levels. I look forward to joining Mayor Dan Drew and other local officials at a Grand Opening Celebration for Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers on Main Street Extension in Middletown at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. I wish nothing but success for Michael Antunes and his entire team as they work to grow this new and important business. We look forward to supporting them along the way.

 

On the chamber committee front, our Automotive Council will hold a meeting at Cantina Café Ristorante on Tuesday night with Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Michael Bzdyra and Deputy Commissioner Judeen Wrinn. I thank both of these officials for attending the meeting and for their service in state government. We look forward to a productive discussion between Mike and Judeen, and our member dealerships, auto repair shops, and other interested parties.

 

Another key area of focus for our organization is of course, workforce development. I look forward to attending a meeting of the Workforce Alliance Executive Committee on Thursday morning where we will continue our discussions on developing a prepared, productive workforce in our state. Workforce Alliance is committed to delivering employment solutions that connect people with jobs or training, and employers with skilled workers in South Central CT. The chamber is proud of its relationship with Workforce Alliance, and we will continue to work to connect job seekers to employers in our region.

 

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

 

A very busy week closes on Friday morning with a Member Breakfast Meeting and Small Business Lending Forum in Cromwell. The breakfast meeting will feature as keynote speaker, FedEx Ground President & CEO Henry Maier. This event is sponsored by the City of Middletown. We are looking forward to the visit from Mr. Maier who assumed his role in June 2013 and is responsible for the strategic direction and performance of the company. He also serves on the FedEx Corp. Strategic Management Committee. His visit coincides with the opening of the 525,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art distribution hub in the Westfield section of Middletown. FedEx Ground has more than 90,000 employees, an average daily volume of 8 million packages, and annual revenue of $18 billion (FY2017). The Member Breakfast Meeting will be immediately followed by a Lenders Forum which will feature a panel discussion and mini expo with representatives of bank, non-bank, and community lending sources. Attendees will learn how to access the money they may need either now or in the future. The event will also feature information on SBA & DECD loan programs and other important topics about financing the small business community. Finally, the morning will conclude with the official Grand Opening Celebration for the new FedEx Ground distribution hub which will take place from 11am-1pm. I would like to thank Henry Maier for taking the time to speak to our membership, and thank FedEx Ground for choosing Middletown. We look forward to working with them now and into the future.

 

As if all that is not enough, next week will be another busy one in Middlesex County.

 

Our September Business After Work networking reception, rescheduled from September 12, will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique” on Monday evening, September 24. “Mystique” 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. The visit to the “Mystique” is for key employees of chamber members only. All members who are interested in attending must register in advance of the event by visiting www.middlesexchamber.com or by contacting the chamber office. On behalf of the chamber, I want to thank the 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.

 

Next week is also one of our favorite weeks of the year in Middlesex County, Durham Fair week. The 99th edition of this New England treasure will be held on the famous Durham Fairgrounds from September 27-30. 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. In fact, the Durham Fair remains the largest fair in the state of Connecticut, an impressive distinction. 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 Miramant and his team as they steamroll through their first 100 years. I will have much more on the Durham Fair in next week’s column, but please visit www.durhamfair.com for more information.

I will close this week’s chamber column by once again asking chamber members and community members alike to save the date of Wednesday, October 24 for Connecticut Connections, Middlesex County's Premier Business Showcase. This full day of events and activities will be held at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. From over 110 exhibitors from a wide variety of industry sectors, a career fair with over 50 employers who are hiring, our annual Small Business Awards Celebration which will honor a number of our small business champions, and other content ranging from politics to substance abuse prevention and more, Connecticut Connections has it all. I will have much, much more as the event gets closer, but please be sure to save the date.

The sun always shines in Middlesex County!


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