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Chamber Corner with Larry McHugh

On Monday of last week, the Chamber’s Executive Committee welcomed special guest Mun Y. Choi, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Connecticut. Mun visited with our group to discuss Next Generation Connecticut, an ambitious plan to increase enrollment at UCONN by over 6,500 students, or approximately 30 percent, and hire over 250 new faculty members with an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This growth of the university will take place over a 10 to 12 year period. Next Generation Connecticut, or NextGenCT, is designed to position UCONN and the State of Connecticut at the forefront of 21st Century research while spurring economic development throughout our great state. Major areas of focus within the Next Generation CT initiative are: advanced manufacturing, sustainable energy and environmental models, bioscience and biotechnology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, electrical and electronics equipment, and data intensive applications. The Executive Committee, which is our organization’s top governing body, voted unanimously to support NextGenCT and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner on this critically important initiative for the future. The Executive Committee also voted unanimously to support Governor Malloy’s $15 Million Statewide Tourism Marketing Fund Investment. The Chamber’s Legislative Committee voted to support this initiative at its March meeting on Friday, March 22, 2013. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has always been a strong supporter and promoter of tourism in Middlesex County and throughout the state of Connecticut. $11.5 billion in economic activity is annually derived from travel and tourism activities in the State of Connecticut. In addition, $1.15 billion of state and local tax revenue is generated by travel and tourism. Finally, 110,000 jobs, or 6.5% of Connecticut’s labor force is created by the tourism industry. These statistics are courtesy of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, the US Travel Association and the Connecticut Department of Labor. Tourism is a major economic generator in our state, and is in fact a revenue generator at the state and local level. This organization will continue to support strategic investments in tourism marketing. I had a terrific meeting on Tuesday morning with Tony Cacace and Steve Hayse of GKN Aerospace Services Structures in Cromwell. GKN is a great company and is a real leader in the field of aerospace manufacturing. High level manufacturing is critical to the future economic success of our region and our state. The 29th Annual Member Business After Work Auction and Taste of Downtown was held on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at the Italian Society Hall in Middletown. We had a record crowd at this year’s event of over 400 Chamber members. I would like to thank our Auction Committee, led by Al Santostefano and Rich Greco, along with Cathy Duncan from the Chamber staff, for their hard work and dedication to this major event. The following Middletown restaurants provided the Taste of Downtown, with samplings from their menus: Esca Restaurant & Wine Bar, First & Last Tavern, Iguanas Ranas, Jerry’s Pizza/Matty’s Next Door Sports Bar, Mezzo Grille, Mondo, NoRA Cupcake Company, Tavern at the Armory, La Boca Mexican Restaurant, Tuscany Grill, Us Restaurant & Lounge, Puerta Vallarta Restaurant, and Zen Roasters Coffee Company. Finally, I would also like to thank Don DeCesare for serving as Announcer and Bill Barrows for once again serving as our Auctioneer. Another terrific Business After Work Auction and Taste of Downtown is in the books, and we are already looking forward to the 30th Anniversary of this event next year. Tuesday evening also featured another great meeting of the Middletown Riverfront Development Committee, led by Councilman Gerry Daley. I look forward to continuing this important work with my fellow committee members that will move Middletown forward in a positive way. Wednesday morning brought us over to East Hampton for the April meeting of the Chamber’s Portland and East Hampton Division. Hosted by Kyle and Mary Ann Dostaler of MAD Communications, the meeting was held at the Higher Grounds Coffee House and Gallery on Main Street, a terrific business located in the center of town. Last Friday, the Chamber’s Prevention Committee, and the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC), hosted a Seminar on Medical Marijuana. This important event, was attended by over 60 people, and focused on the new law that authorizes the use of Medical Marijuana, and the effect it will have on the business community in Connecticut. The Seminar was held at Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road in Cromwell, and featured three terrific guest speakers: Stephen Lattanzio, J.D., Connecticut Department of Labor, Mark Soycher, J.D., Connecticut Business and Industry Association, and Matthew Lundquist, M.D., Middlesex Hospital Occupational & Environmental Medicine. I would like to thank our Prevention Committee Chairman, Harry Burr, and Betsey Chadwick and Lisa Mason from MCSAAC for their hard work and for making this a very successful event. On Friday afternoon, Jeff Pugliese from the Chamber staff attended a planning meeting for the 2013 American Legion Northeast Regional Baseball Tournament. The tournament will be held at Palmer Field in Middletown from August 7th to August 12th. I want to thank Phil Cacciola, Commander, American Legion Post 75, for leading the charge to get this terrific event back to our region. Looking ahead to our Member Breakfast Meeting on Tuesday, April 23rd, sponsored by TD Bank, at the Crowne Plaza Cromwell, we will welcome guest speaker Warde J. Manuel, Director of Athletics, University of Connecticut. Our members are looking forward to hearing from Warde during this very busy time in college athletics. Later that week, on Thursday, April 25th, the Chamber’s Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council, the Middlesex Consortium of Schools, and Wesleyan University will present the 2013 High School Career Fair Expo at Wesleyan University. Over 100 Business and Career Professionals will be in attendance at this annual event, to present, and share their career experiences with over 1200 Middlesex County High School Students. This interaction with Business and Career Professionals benefits our Students with an invaluable opportunity to explore potential careers, so that they may better plan their future educational goals. On Friday, April 26th, the Chamber’s Legislative Committee will host a Special Legislative Event with Senator Don Williams, President Pro Tem of the Connecticut State Senate, at the Courtyard By Marriott in Cromwell. Finally, our next Member Business After Work will be held at Billy Tee’s in Cromwell on Tuesday, April 30th from 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM. This event will feature free beer, wine and soft drinks, delicious Billy Tee’s pizza and other options from their menu, and of course, the best networking around. The weather is warming up, and the Chamber Calendar is full of events and activities. For more information on Chamber events and activities, please contact Jeff Pugliese at jpugliese@middlesexchamber.com.

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