By Larry McHugh

Published in The Middletown Patch, April 18, 2012

Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce head Larry McHugh says business owners are worried that workforce readiness in Connecticut is a huge problem.

Last week was another very busy week in Middlesex County. On Monday, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s  Executive Committee met with Ramani Ayer on the critical issue of education reform in Connecticut. Ramani is the former CEO and Chairman of The Hartford, and is now very active with the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

The focus of this meeting was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform agenda which was introduced legislatively through Senate Bill 24. The original language of this bill is very strong and would put Connecticut on the right path toward effective education reform.

There is serious concern within the business community that the readiness of our current and future workforce in Connecticut is simply inadequate. The governor’s proposal provides for strategic investments into early education, assures that motivated and properly prepared teachers and administrators are leading our public schools and makes it clear that failing or underperforming schools are no longer acceptable.

The global economy is growing more competitive every day and developing nations all over the world, many with vastly larger populations than the United States, are striving for educational excellence. Connecticut simply cannot afford to slide backward in the area of educational achievement as other states and other nations move forward.

This state must produce students that are ready for the coursework required at colleges and universities. In far too many cases, these students are forced to participate in remedial classes at the college level which sets them back as they strive for a degree. Connecticut students must come out of their post-secondary education ready to compete for jobs in a global arena that is growing more competitive every day.

I want to commend Malloy for his strong stance on education and for his bold reform package. I urge our elected leaders to embrace the original language of this bill and pass effective education reform this legislative session.

I was very excited to visit Cooper Atkins Corporation in Middlefield last Wednesday for the Chamber’s Durham/Middlefield Division meeting. The shop floor at Cooper Atkins was hopping and the employees were gracious hosts to Chamber members and staff. It was truly a pleasure to witness the busy and well-functioning operation at the company.

I want to thank Cooper’s President and CEO Carol Wallace for her great leadership and for being an outstanding corporate citizen in Middlesex County.  At this division meeting, our members received an update on the Powder Ridge situation which we believe is a win for everyone in the community. I want to thank Sean Hayes for his great vision and we look forward to working with him on the restoration of the ski area in Middlefield.

We also had two grand openings last week: in Centerbrook at Bloom Art School and in Portland at Portland Collision LLC.  I want to thank Linda Bronson of the Bloom Art School, and Grayson and Lisa Mountain of Portland Collision for hosting us, and welcome them to the Middlesex County community.

The Arrigoni Bridge project continues to move forward as we have reached another milestone in the process. The final phase of the project officially began last Thursday. Construction is now taking place on the northern side of the bridge and we are looking forward to the project being completed on time and within established parameters.

The next meeting of the Chamber’s Arrigoni Bridge committee is this Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Chamber, which will continue to work with local and state officials until this project is in the books.

For information, contact Jeff Pugliese at

 About this column: Larry McHugh is the president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.