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Chamber Corner with Larry McHugh

Chamber President Larry McHugh recaps the Chamber's very successful Youth @ Work Program.

The Chamber’s 2012 Summer Youth Employment Program came to an end on Friday, August 17th.  This six week program featured 80 youth participants, who were placed into jobs throughout 37 host worksites in Middletown, three in Durham, and two in Cromwell.  Six weeks might not seem like a long time, but the experience provides a solid foundation and offers a great glimpse into what life in the workforce is like. 

The Chamber has the capacity through our dynamic membership, to place these youngsters into subsidized employment, in a wide variety of professional fields, for 15-20 hours per week. Program applicants are put through a comprehensive pre-employment screening process which takes into account their hobbies, interests, work experience, future plans, comfort level on the computer and on the phone, and other important factors such as transportation and availability in the summer months.  Each applicant is then placed into the best possible employment situation for that individual.  Our host sites represent the government sector, the non-profit sector, and most notably, the private sector.  Each year, this program teaches our young people not only the fundamentals of employment, such as getting to work on time and ready to contribute, but also about the pride that comes with putting in a solid work week and receiving a paycheck that was earned through hard and honest work.

Workforce Alliance, the state’s south central Workforce Investment Board, stepped up again this summer to be the primary funder of our Youth @ Work program. However, due to the strong demand for youth employment opportunities in Middletown, the 2012 waiting list would have been more than double the size of the placement list. That is, until Mayor Dan Drew and members of the Middletown Common Council, the local foundation community, and the local business community, stepped up to the plate.  The City of Middletown committed $27,100 to summer youth employment, and donations from the private sector and local foundations matched that figure. Instead of 40 kids working through the program this summer, we had 80, and it was a smashing success.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank our funders for their outstanding support this summer. Without them, this whole program would not have been possible.  I want to especially thank Workforce Alliance Executive Director Bill Villano, Mayor Dan Drew and members of the Middletown Common Council, Liberty Bank President Chandler Howard, Liberty Bank Foundation Executive Director Sue Murphy and Associate Director Betty Weintraub, Middlesex United Way Executive Director Kevin Wilhelm, Seasons Federal Credit Union CEO Keith Weimert, VP for Staff Development Betsy Sommers, and Chief Marketing Officer Robyn Swanson, Citizens Bank Connecticut and Rhode Island President Ned Handy and Vice President/Director of Rhode Island and Connecticut Public Affairs Amie Kershaw, MiddleOak CEO Gary Vallo and Senior Vice President Tom Ford, Middlesex County Community Foundation President & CEO Cynthia Clegg and Director of Programs & Operations Thayer Talbott, Middlesex Coalition for Children Chairman Willard McRae and Director Betsy Morgan, Sharon Griffin of the Peach Pit Foundation, Main Street Market Owner Mike Stone, and Centerplan Companies President Bob Landino.  These community and business leaders truly made a difference this summer. 

It would not be possible to provide a real employment experience without strong support from our host worksites.  I would like to publicly thank all of our host worksites: Seasons Federal Credit Union, Howard and McMillan Counselors at Law, Universal BACH Transportation Services, Liberty Bank, Pegasus Manufacturing Inc., Stonegate Apartments, Inn at Middletown, NORA Cupcake Co., Trevor Davis Commercial Real Estate LLC, The New England Emporium Eatery and Marketplace, Middlesex County Community Foundation, Re/Max Marketplace, ReStore, Middlesex County Historical Society, Strike-A-Pose Hair & Body Salon, Cross Street AME Zion Church, Centerplan Companies, Wesleyan University, One MacDonough Place, Nxegen, Northern Middlesex YMCA, Luther Ridge at Middletown, Godfrey Memorial Library, Allstate Insurance, ABC Women’s Center, North End Action Team, Pamela Roose Specialty Hand Knits, Prudential Connecticut Realty, Downtown Business District, Mike's Barber Shop, Walgreens, ID Mail Systems, Ryan Woods Autism Foundation, Connecticut Valley Hospital, Charles Computer Services, Chef's Palate Catering, Oddfellows Playhouse, Middletown Goodwill Store & Donation Center, William Raveis Real Estate, Community Renewal Team, Russell Library, Futures Inc., Naples Farm, Durham Fitness, and Durham’s Kitchen.   

As I noted throughout the summer, this program is developing the workforce of tomorrow, and nothing is more important to the business community.

Last Thursday, it was our pleasure to welcome Paul Pasqualoni, UCONN Head Football Coach, as guest speaker at our August Member Breakfast Meeting. Coach Pasqualoni gave a preview of this year’s season, and spoke of the importance of teamwork, hard work, and dedication. We had a great crowd that included over 400 business people and over 50 local high school football players and coaches who are gearing up for their own seasons. I want to thank Coach Pasqualoni for speaking to our group and People’s United Bank for their sponsorship of the event. Mike Casparino, President, Northern Connecticut, and Bob D'Amore, Senior Executive Vice President, Retail and Business Banking, People’s United Bank, are true professionals and the Chamber values its relationship with this great company.

It was my pleasure to join Governor Malloy on part of his summer tour of our region’s tourism sites on Thursday.  I met the Governor at EMPOWER Leadership Sports and Adventure Center, a zip line course and team building facility in Middletown, in the morning, and at Lyman Orchards’ in Middlefield in the afternoon.   Brian O’Connor from the Chamber office visited with him at Essex Steam Train and Valley Railroad.  The Governor also visited Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park in Portland, The Blue Oar Restaurant in Haddam, Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, and The Gelston House and Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.  Tourism is critically important and I applaud the Governor for his commitment to the industry, and thank him for visiting Middlesex County. 

A year certainly goes by fast these days.  On Thursday night, I attended a memorial service that honored the life of Mary Hamrah, the former wife of Albert Hamrah.  The service officially marked a full year since her passing.  Father Greg Galvin gave wonderful remarks, and it was great to see so many of Mary’s and Albert’s family and friends at a little gathering that followed at Fiore II. 

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of visiting Little Honey’s Bakery, which is located in the Remington Rand building on Johnson Street in Middletown. I want to thank the Little Honey’s team for dropping off some delicious donuts at the Chamber office last week.

We are looking forward to an exciting Grand Opening event on Wednesday of this week as Papa John’s Pizza will soon be opening in Metro Square.  I would like to officially welcome Jay and Faith Hamilton, and the entire Papa John’s team to Middletown.

Finally, the Chamber’s award winning Side Street to Main Street Minority Business & Leadership Development Program is now accepting Applicants for the Fall 2012/Winter 2013 Session.  All Applicants are required to attend a Mandatory Program Orientation and Application Registration Meeting, on Thursday, September 6, 2012, 7:00 P.M. at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, 393 Main Street, Middletown.  To register for the Mandatory Program Orientation and Application Registration Meeting on Thursday, September 6th, please contact Program Coordinator Jennifer De Kine at jennifer@middlesexchamber.com or 860-347-6924.

 

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

 

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