SOUTHINGTON – The Southington Chamber of Commerce met in person Thursday for the first time since the start of the pandemic during their 83rd annual meeting at Manor Inn, with members hearing updates about their local chamber and from the state’s Economic and Community Development commissioner.
The meeting was attended by several local business owners, city leaders and representatives of non-profit organizations who took the opportunity to catch up over breakfast prior to the meeting.
Barbara Coleman-Hekeler, president of the Southington Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the guests.
“This moment has been long awaited, an opportunity to gather in person; it has been over a year,” Coleman-Hekeler asid. “We appreciate your support for that past year. The chamber has succeeded for over 80 years due to sound leadership and a strong partnership with the Southington business community, state and local officials and local organizations.”
Coleman-Hekeler encouraged attendees to continue to support local businesses and the community.
“Southington is an incredible community to live in and do business,” she said. “What other community has two golf courses, a drive-in and a farm where you can do yoga while cuddling with baby goats?”
Town Manager Mark Sciota praised the partnership between the chamber and the town government.
“The Southington Chamber of Commerce is such an important part of our economic development,” he said. “Our team is always getting input through the chamber, which helps us to stay strong. They tell us when we’re doing the right thing and, perhaps even more importantly, when we’re doing the wrong thing.”
Sciota spoke to how Gov. Ned Lamont asked towns to form a reopening committee and how Health Director Shane Lockwood and Coleman-Hekeler were among the first selected for it. Through this committee, the town streamlined the permitting process for outdoor dining and waived fees.
Sciota said Coleman-Hekeler spoke with him multiple times a week throughout the pandemic as the governor shifted health and safety requirements.
“It is so important that the town’s relationship with the Southington Chamber of Commerce stays close and I look forward to many years of working closely together going forward,” he said.
Charles Cocuzza, past board chairman of the Southington Chamber of Commerce, looked back on how the chamber weathered the pandemic and re-organized to continue to provide value for members.
“When covid hit it killed just about everything we wanted to do, but on a positive side, it also give us a chance to breathe and look at the core of our chamber and become more financially stable,” he said. “It allowed us to focus on the most pressing needs of the business community.”
Cocuzza said the chamber provided more than 40 webinars with information about state guidelines and public and private grants.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.