Chamber Corner with Larry McHugh

Chamber President Larry McHugh reviews a busy week and looks ahead to a Member Breakfast Meeting and an important meeting on Wednesday night.


Monday, we are honored to welcome United States Senator Richard Blumenthal, Guest Speaker at our February Member Breakfast Meeting.  This event is sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, and will be held at the Crowne Plaza Cromwell.  We are looking forward to hearing from Senator Blumenthal on the many important issues that are being discussed in our nation’s capital.  I want to again thank Pratt & Whitney for sponsoring this important event, and for their strong and consistent support of our Chamber.

The event with Senator Blumenthal will be followed by an Energy Forum titled “Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Plan:  What Impact Will It Have On Your Business?” 

This event is hosted by our Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee and sponsored by Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C.  The Forum will feature a high level discussion on energy policy that will focus on how the State of Connecticut’s proposed Comprehensive Energy Plan will affect the business community.  It will identify the pros and cons of implementing the state’s energy plan and will assess the economic impacts of enacting it as proposed. 

The forum will also explore the feasibility of implementing alternative energy sources and will explain how the regulatory structure would work.  The entire program will be split into two panels:  The first will be a Regulatory and Administrative Discussion featuring state officials and a leading Connecticut economist, and the second panel will be an Industry and Technical Discussion featuring representatives from the energy industry. 

Each segment will have an extensive question and answer period, which promise to be interactive Forums that will educate and help our members make informed decisions about Connecticut’s energy future as it relates to business.  The first panel, which will engage in a regulatory and administrative discussion, will feature: Alex Kragie, Deputy Chief of Staff, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Michael Caron, Director, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), Peter Gioia, Economist, Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), and State Representative Lonnie Reed, House Energy & Technology Committee Chairwoman, 102nd District. 

The second panel, which will engage in an industry and technical discussion, will feature: Michael Collins, Manager of Sales, Yankee Gas, Michael Dirrane, Director of Northeast Marketing, Spectra Energy, David Foster, President, Wilcox Energy, Jonathan Gordon, Board of Directors, Renewable Energy and Efficiency Business Association, Inc. (REEBA), Tom Santa, CEO, Santa Energy Corporation, and Joe Colella, Vice President of Pipelines, Buckeye Partners, L.P.

We are looking forward to this very important Forum on energy policy.  I want to thank our friends at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. for sponsoring the event and Bill Corvo, President, William Corvo Consultants, Inc., for serving as our moderator. 

There is an important meeting of the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission this Wednesday evening at City Hall.  This meeting was originally scheduled for February 13th but was postponed due to the Blizzard of 2013.  Jeff Pugliese, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Chamber, will appear at the meeting to comment on two important issues on behalf of our organization.  This Chamber strongly supports the Zoning Code Text Amendment to the Mixed-Use Zone being brought forth by Bob Landino and Acquisition Holdings, LLC. 

The language of this amendment allows for mixed-use development of an appropriate scale and architecture and specifically allows retail, upper story professional office, restaurants and upper story residential inside of Mixed Use Zones in the city.  This text amendment is very reasonable and will allow for economic development while maintaining the aesthetically pleasing nature of Middletown.  Under this proposal, buildings must be at least two stories and they must be oriented to the street or intersection. 

The buildings must also utilize existing and surrounding building lines and materials to the fullest extent possible, while facing the front of the building, toward a state highway.  Encouraging highly effective mixed-use development with multiple stories within Mixed-Use Zones is in the best interest of the City of Middletown and its economic development future.   The Chamber’s Executive Committee voted to support this Zoning Code Text Amendment at its February meeting. 

The Executive Committee, the Chamber’s top governing body, also voted to oppose the proposed text amendment for the Institutional Development Zone.  This proposal would restrict planning decisions, negatively affect economic development in the city and negatively affect the value of property within the zone.  The Chamber looks forward to working with city officials and other key stakeholders on these critical issues. 

We are excited to welcome a good friend and longtime Chamber supporter back to Middlesex County this Thursday.  Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman will visit with the Chamber’s All Middletown Division at an 8:00 A.M. meeting which will be held at Village at South Farms.  Nancy has continued her tradition of meeting with the Chamber’s geographically based divisions, a tradition which goes back to the early days of her tenure as State Comptroller.  Nancy has been very good to our organization over the years and we continue to work well with her now that she is in the Lieutenant Governor’s office.  I want to publicly thank her for her leadership in our state and for her support of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. 

Last Tuesday evening, February 19th, the Chamber held our monthly members only Networking Event, Business After Work, hosted by the Hawthorne Inn Restaurant, Berlin.  This was a terrific event attended by over 250 Chamber members.  The newly renovated facility looks outstanding, and I want to publicly thank Hawthorne General Manager Michael Diennor for hosting us.  I also want to thank Director of Corporate Sales Alyssa Colbert for her great work. 

Wednesday afternoon brought us to Lan Chi’s, a new downtown restaurant featuring Vietnamese fare, for a terrific Grand Opening event.  Lan Chi’s, located in the new 505 Main Street building, hosted over 100 people at the Grand Opening including the Mayor and representatives from many different downtown business establishments.  I know that Chu Ngo and her team will do a great job at this new Middletown business. 

We are excited about another Grand Opening which will be held on Thursday here in Middletown.  Kids Artspace, located at 955 South Main Street in Middletown, will host Mayor Drew and me at 4:00 P.M. on Thursday afternoon.  I want to congratulate Tami Mendez and the whole Kids Artspace team on their new business. 

I would like to close this week’s column by announcing the departure of a longtime Chamber staff member.  Brian O’Connor, who has been with us for almost 15 years, is leaving to become Director of Policy for J. Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Brian has done a terrific job for us during his tenure and he will definitely be missed in our office.  This is however a great opportunity for him and I know he will do a fine job in his new role at the State Capitol.  Brian served as a State Representative for ten years representing the towns of Clinton, Killingworth and Westbrook. He is very aware of the people and the process at the General Assembly.  I would like to commend Speaker Sharkey on his selection of Brian as his new Policy Director.  The House of Representatives and our state as a whole will undoubtedly benefit from his presence, which is a good thing for us all.  I want to publicly thank Brian for all of his hard work over the years here at the Chamber.  We all wish him the best of luck as he embarks on this exciting new endeavor. 

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

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Biff Shaw February 25, 2013 at 02:55 PM
In the decades of the 60's and 70's the City worked diligently to save and protect the approach to Middletown's downtown. Itt was also encouraged to not compete with Main Street for its economic livelihood. Now the planners and the Chamber have decided that the offer of a particular and friendly developer has precedence over the viability of the Main thoroughfare. This is a sad and unfortunate change in direction. This was a city that prided itself on its suburban beauty with an urban main street. Look to some of the successful small towns, ones that also have colleges; for instance North Hampton, MA and Saratoga Springs, NY and you will find vibrant main streets w/o encroaching on the side streets and main entrances. And they do not impose on neighboring college/university sites. This is a bad idea that has merit only if the only concern is temporary tax benefits. These do not last forever, but mutilation of an attractive approach to the downtown will. Don't make that mistake. I am sorry that I no longer live in Middletown, where I chaired the Planning Commission for nearly a decade, because I would be there to object. Most vociferously. Biff Shaw
Marianne Bacon February 27, 2013 at 11:11 PM
I agree heartily, and am hoping that saner heads will rule.


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