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Chamber Corner with Larry McHugh

Chamber President Larry McHugh looks ahead to Holiday on Main street and the Middlesex County Business to Business Expo.

Column- November 19, 2012

I would like to begin this week’s column by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is a special holiday to me, one that inspires reflection and a true appreciation for the things in my life for which I am most grateful.  I have a wonderful family and a terrific group of friends; it doesn’t get much better than that.  It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as President of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, a dynamic business organization with over 2,400 members that employ over 50,000 people.  Most people associate Chambers of Commerce with business, and they are correct, but the Middlesex Chamber is really about people, and this organization is made up of some of the best people around.  I want to publicly thank our membership for their unbelievable support.  Most importantly, I want to thank our Board of Directors, who under the leadership of our Chairman, Liberty Bank President Chandler Howard, make this community a great place to live and work.  I encourage everyone to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their families and friends.  As you enjoy your turkey dinner with all the trimmings, please keep in mind those who are less fortunate, and never forget the brave men and women of our Armed Forces serving at home and around the globe.  Happy Thanksgiving Middlesex County!

The Thanksgiving holiday also means that it is Holiday on Main Street time in Middletown.  The 27th Annual Holiday on Main Street Celebration will begin this Friday, November 23rd.  There are four tree lightings downtown on Friday and the day’s festivities will run from 4:00 PM until 8:15 PM.  Friday is also Middletown Lions Club Day.  This Saturday, November 24th, is Civitan Club of Middletown Day and the festivities will run from 10:30 AM until 2:30 PM.  I want to publicly thank all of our major sponsors for their outstanding support of the 27th Annual Holiday on Main Street Celebration: City of Middletown, Pratt & Whitney, Downtown Business District, Apple Rehab Middletown, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Greco Design, Liberty Bank, Malloves Jewelers, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Middlesex YMCA, Russell Library, St. Vincent DePaul Middletown, and Webster Bank.  For more information on events and activities, please visit our website at www.middlesexchamber.com.  I look forward to seeing everyone downtown for Holiday on Main Street. 

The Holiday on Main event will also kick off the Chamber’s 2012 Food Drive.  We are collecting non-perishable food items, with the most important items being: tuna, peanut butter, beans (canned or dry), canned fruits, canned soups, and cereal.  We will have a box at the Chamber office and will be collecting until our December 11th Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Governor Dannel P. Malloy at the Crowne Plaza Cromwell, including that morning at the event.   

The 2012 Middlesex County Business to Business Expo will be held next Monday, November 26, 2012.  This event was originally scheduled for Tuesday, October 30th, but Hurricane Sandy forced us to postpone.  With over 110 exhibitors, and featuring a full day of events and activities, the Expo will be held at the Crowne Plaza Cromwell.  The event will be open to the general public from 10:30 A.M. until 3:00 P.M, and will re-open at 4:00 P.M. for a Middlesex Chamber Members Only Executive Evening Event.

Our Health Care Reform Breakfast Meeting, sponsored by Comcast Business Class, will begin at 7:45 A.M., and will end at 9:30 A.M.  The program will focus on where we are headed now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act.  A distinguished panel of experts will provide valuable information for businesses as they prepare for full implementation of the law. 

Our first ever Small Business of the Year Awards Luncheon, also sponsored by Comcast Business Class, will begin at 11:30 A.M., and will feature guest speaker, Commissioner Catherine Smith, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.  The Small Business of the Year Awards program is designed to recognize the dedication, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by Connecticut's small businesses. 

The Middlesex County Career Fair is another critical part of this year’s Expo.  The event, sponsored by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, the Connecticut Department of Labor, and Workforce Alliance, will run from 10:00 AM until 2:30 PM. The Career Fair will feature over 50 companies with positions available, which is great economic news for our region and very important considering the high number of people out of work. 

This year’s Expo will also include a Health and Wellness Fair which will run from 10:30 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. for the general public, and 4:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. for members of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.  The Health and Wellness Fair, sponsored by Middlesex Hospital and Aetna Inc., is a great way to promote better health in your life and in your company.  The fair will feature a flu vaccination clinic, blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings, bone density testing, and much more.  Important information will also be available on cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, sleep disorders, rehabilitation, diabetes, adult and pediatric asthma, weight management for children, chronic heart failure and smoking cessation. 

We are expecting over 1000 Chamber members at the Business After Work portion of the Expo, our annual Members Only Executive Evening Event, with over 110 businesses displaying their products and services, and of course, free beer, wine, soft drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and the best networking around. This year’s Executive Evening Event at the Crowne Plaza, Cromwell, will feature our annual Festival of Wreaths Silent Auction which benefits Holiday on Main Street and the Middletown Mentor Program. The artificial wreaths donated by Liberty Bank, and decorated by Chamber Member Businesses, are currently on public display at Liberty Bank, 315 Main Street, Middletown until November 23rd. We are looking forward to a great event!

The Expo is our Signature Event and I would like to thank all of our sponsors and exhibitors for their great support and for sticking with us through the postponement.  This year’s sponsors are: Title Sponsor: Comcast Business Class, Platinum Sponsors: Advanced Copy Technologies, Inc., Aetna Inc., Chamber Insurance Trust, Crowne Plaza Cromwell, Northeast Utilities, People’s United Bank, Tower Laboratories Ltd., Gold Sponsors: Ameriben Alliance, LLC, Associated Medical, Inc, Bank of America, Beacon Retiree Benefits Group, Community Renewal Team, TD Bank, The Mattabassett District, U.S. Small Business Administration, Silver Sponsors: A&A Office Systems, DATTCO, Inc, Pratt & Whitney, Bronze Sponsors: A Second Chance CPR & First Aid Training, Arborview Dental Care, Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park, Dutch Oil Company, Executive Offices, Harriet Amanda Chapman, Inc, Lyman Orchards, PrimePay LLC, Suburban Stationers, Inc., The Durham Manufacturing Company, and The Entrepreneur's Source. 

I want to thank our terrific Expo Committee, led by Co-Chairs Brian Armet and Pamela Luchka, and Expo Coordinator Johanna Bond along the rest of the Chamber staff for their hard work and dedication. 

Last Monday, the Chamber was honored to welcome legendary singer and actress Julie Andrews to Middlesex County for a Special Luncheon Event sponsored by AT&T.  This luncheon was a huge success that featured a crowd of over 500 people.  Julie could not have been more gracious, and she gave an outstanding talk from the podium.  I want to thank her for visiting with the Chamber membership; it was truly a unique event for us.  I also want to recognize Michael Price and Dan McMahon from the Goodspeed Opera House for without them, this event would not have been possible.  Finally, a special thank you goes out to AT&T Connecticut President Rodney Smith and the entire AT&T team for not only their support of this event, but  for their continuing support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. 

Last Thursday, I was honored to attend two terrific grand opening events in Middletown.  Ramani’s Menswear and Formal Wear and Lastrina Girls Bridal Salon, a combined store offering tuxedos and women’s bridal gowns, located at 308 Main Street.  I am happy to welcome my former player Scott Colavito, who manages Ramani’s Menswear and Formal Wear, and Krista Lastrina Matthers, Owner of Lastrina Girls Bridal Salon, to the downtown community.  Rag & Bone, a thrift store that sells antiques and other great collectibles has opened at 484 Main Street.  I want to officially welcome Dale Messinger and the entire Rag & Bone team to Middletown. 

I, unfortunately, must close this week’s column on a sad note.  Brian Chaffee, a great man and a fine Chamber member, passed away recently at the young age of 50.  Brian was the Owner and Creative Manager of E-Muscle, LLC in Middlefield, and was extremely passionate about the designing, building and restoration of Custom Classic Cars, Muscle Cars and Street Rods.  He was a terrific businessman, and an even better person, a great volunteer with the Chamber’s Business and Education Partnership Program, taking the time to attend our annual High School Career Fair Expo with his staff, and of course, one of his classic cars, to talk with the students about career exploration.   Our thoughts are with Brian’s family during this difficult time.

For more information on Chamber events and activities, please contact Jeff Pugliese at jpugliese@middlesexchamber.com.1

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