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Side Street to Main Street Graduation is Tuesday

The program helps minority small business owners without formal business training to develop qualities necessary for successful business ownership.


One fact that many agree on is that small business is what will drive our economy forward. With this in mind, the is proud to operate the Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program every year. 

In 1996, there were very few minority-owned businesses in Middlesex County.  At the urging of the NAACP, the chamber created the program and sought the financial support of Aetna Inc., who has generously funded and supported the program ever since.

The program’s rigorous curriculum is designed to assist minority small business owners in the community that have not had formal business training, to develop the attitudes, skills and qualities necessary for effective business ownership success, and to reduce the risk of failure in both the business and personal aspects of their lives.

The 15th class of this program will graduate tomorrow, March 20, in a ceremony here at the chamber. A total of 16 individuals will graduate the program, which began on Oct. 4, 2011; these 16 people bring the total number of graduates to 186.

Again, thanks to Aetna Inc. for its ongoing commitment to this program. The great leaders here had the vision to see that this program is a benefit to the community at large as it has directly and indirectly increased the quality of life here in the county. 

I would be remiss if I did not thank Jim Jackson, who facilitates the program.  Jim, who is president and CEO of The Essex Group, brings his decades of business experience to the table to assist our students through the course curriculum.

Classes for the fall 2012 / winter 2013 Side Street to Main Street Business & Leadership Development Program will begin next fall and a mandatory program orientation for those who are interested will be announced late summer.

Last week, the chamber was excited to welcome UConn Women’s Head Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma to our monthly breakfast meeting on Monday. The event was sold out and I would like to thank Coach Auriemma for engaging our crowd with an outstanding talk and question-and answer-session. 

The following day, we had a great event at the Inn at Middletown with Speaker of the House Chris Donovan. Speaker Donovan spoke to our legislative committee and board of directors—a visit that he makes every year—and fielded questions from our group. It is important to have elected leaders who are accessible and Speaker Donovan in one such individual. While some disagree with the opposing side of the aisle, it is important to maintain a dialogue and this is something that the speaker understands and practices.

The chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council also continues to be active as it met last week at BL Companies in Meriden for the purpose of planning the upcoming high school career expo event in April. 

On March 14, the group met at BL Companies in Meriden. BL Companies, a strong supporter of the schools/business partnership program, provided a tour of their employee-owned firm, and showcased their architecture, engineering, environmental services, and substantial experience designing K-12 schools.

BL Companies also assists schools with job shadowing/mentoring resources for high school students.

Tom Serra, the committee’s chairman, does an outstanding job to lead the group as it develops and encourages partnerships between member businesses and educational leaders.

Thanks must also go to Fred Bonito, owner of Technical Manufacturing Corporation in Durham, for taking Jeff Pugliese, Matt Fraulino and me on a great tour of his building on Wednesday. This business is a true gem of the county as it manufactures circuit boards, wires and cables by the thousands for clients all over the country.  Fred continues to lead this business through some difficult economic times and finds a way to make it succeed. 

Based on the great demand for what he and his staff manufacture, there is a possible upcoming expansion of the facility. This need for more space is very encouraging and a sign that a business can succeed no matter what the economic climate may be.

Finally, I was saddened to attend the funeral of Ray Jacobs, who was a lifelong Middletown resident and supervisor with the city’s park and recreation department. I coached Ray as a young man at Xavier and am going to miss him; he was a terrific family man of great integrity and inner toughness.

For information on the Side Street program, contact Jennifer at 860-347-6924 or jennifer@middlesexchamber.com. For information, contact Matt Fraulino at matthew@middlesexchamber.com.

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