It’s Time to Speak Out
Next week’s the big day: 2018 Tourism Advocacy Day. This is our chance to meet with lawmakers, leaders, and members of the press to share the benefits of tourism to our economy and find solutions to the challenges we face. I hope you can join us on Wednesday, April 11th at 10 AM at the Legislative Office Building for a panel discussion, Q&A session, and one-on-one breakout meetings with lawmakers.
These meetings our more important than ever. With the 2018 election fast approaching, we need to make sure incumbents and candidates alike understand that tourism is a smart investment with a 3:1 rate of return.
To that end, the Coalition has already begun meeting with lawmakers in Hartford, including Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff. We’ve also started meeting with gubernatorial candidates and others seeking statewide office. Our members had the chance to hear from some we’ve met with so far—Sean Connolly, Luke Bronin, Oz Griebel, Tim Herbst, and David Walker—at our board meeting last month. Additionally, we’ve met with Mark Boughton, and we’ll continue to set up interviews with candidates in the coming weeks.
Going forward, we’ll be profiling candidates who respond to our questionnaire and let us know where they stand on tourism. The first of these profiles can be found in this month’s newsletter.
Thank you for all you’ve done to take a stand for our industry. I hope to see you on Wednesday so we can continue the fight for the good jobs and great opportunities tourism can bring.
Member Spotlight: The Copper Beech Inn
The historic Copper Beech Inn dates back to 1889, when Archibald Welsh Comstock built a grand manor on 53 acres in the portion of Essex known as Ivoryton. The son of the renowned Samuel Comstock—a prominent importer of ivory and manufacturer of piano keys—Archibald inherited he family business and expanded its product line to include billiard balls, domino tiles, and combs.
When Archibald passed away in 1940, his wife Harriet inherited his estate. It was one of the highest valued properties in Essex, and sold in 1958 where it was transformed into the Johnny Cake Inn.
Unfortunately, the inn faced hard times and was eventually forced into foreclosure in 1966. It would be another 6 years before it was purchased again, this time by Wethersfield natives Robert and Jo McKenzie in 1972.
Drawing inspiration from the majestic Copper Beech tree rooted alongside the entrance to the property, the McKenzie’s renamed it the Copper Beech Inn. The McKenzies set about recapturing the former glory of the historic inn’s past.
The Copper Beech Inn flourished under their stewardship. It is now renowned for its superb cuisine, gracious atmosphere, and historic charm. For the past 40 years, the Copper Beech Inn has welcomed guests from near and far. It is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway, first-class meal, honeymoon, or special event.
Now owned by Coalition Board Member Frank Perotti, the Copper Beech Inn continues to shine. With access to nearby Mystic, the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, local shops and attractions, outdoor activities, and more, there is something for everyone at the Copper Beech Inn.
Decision 2018: SEAN CONNOLLY
A decorated Iraq War veteran and current Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Sean Connolly brings military, business, and public service experience to his candidacy for Governor. He worked his way up the ranks of Pratt & Whitney and most recently served as Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Veterans Affairs.
The son of a working-class Irish immigrant, Sean grew up in East Hartford and learned the value of hard work from an early age. His father owned and operated a small landscaping business, and his grandparents worked in maintenance and at the Pratt & Whitney factory. Sean got his first job at 15, washing dishes at Beefsteak Charlie’s to help his family pay the bills and help pay for college.
After serving seven years on active duty in the U.S. Army—during which time he earned the Bronze Star, four Meritorious Service Medals, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal—Sean worked in Washington as a Homeland Security and Government Contracts attorney for an international law firm. But his heart remained in Connecticut, and in 2010, he returned to his home state after taking a job at Pratt & Whitney.
Sean rose to the rank of Global Ethics and Compliance Officer at the same company where his grandfather was once the groundskeeper. Like his grandparents and parents, Sean and his wife chose Connecticut as the place they would stay and raise their family.
Connecticut took note of Sean’s track record for success, and he was appointed to run the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs. There, Sean modernized transitional housing and veterans services. He created partnerships with sister state agencies and nonprofits to give our veterans more services and higher quality care. He won additional funding from the federal government through competitive grants to update decaying infrastructure—all while operating under a shrinking budget from the state.
Sean values service above politics. He is a member of American Legion Post 95 in Hebron, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8776 in Hebron, the 101st Airborne Division Association, the Association of the United States Army, and the Army Aviation Association of America. He also served as an elected member of the National Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association and is a past President of the Pentagon Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
A graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Bryant University, and the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, Sean has the experience and drive to lead Connecticut from the front.
As a candidate, Sean has pledged to dedicate 3% of total taxable lodging revenue to tourism funding. He supports the creation of a Tourism Advisory Committee that reports directly to the Governor, and is committed to re-opening our Visitors Centers.
Time for Action!
The legislative session in Hartford just began, and already our industry is facing some big challenges. Right out of the gate, the General Assembly proposed a 2% increase in the occupancy tax—taking it to 17% for hotels and 13% for bed-and-breakfasts. This isn’t the way to fund tourism. Our hotel tax is already one the highest in the nation. Ratcheting up the costs even more could discourage visitors from coming to Connecticut and cripple not just hotels but our entire industry.
Members of the Connecticut Tourism Coalition joined our friends at the Connecticut Lodging Association in submitting testimony to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee in opposition of this tax hike. We need a responsible, sustainable source of funding. We need to attract more visitors to our state, not throw up an additional barrier to their stay. We need action.
There will be more opportunities to speak out about the state of our industry in the days to come. The first is at our March Board Meeting at Foxwoods Casino. There we’ll hear from lawmakers, industry leaders, and some of the candidates running for statewide office. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and share your thoughts about the importance of tourism to the health of our state.
Tourism Advocacy Day is also coming up. On April 11th at the Legislative Office Building, we’ll be meeting with our senators and representatives, speaking with the press, and calling attention to the challenges facing our industry.
We need to speak up. We need to stand together. It is the only way we can put a stop to harmful proposals that would wreak havoc not just on the tourism industry, but our entire state.
I hope you can join us.
Member Spotlight: Saybrook Hardware Co.
For 90 years, the Saybrook Hardware Co. has been the community’s go-to source for tools, advice, and supplies. Owned and operated by the Plant Family since 1985, Saybrook Hardware Co. keeps thousands of products on hand in its 6,000 square foot shop—and has more than 65,000 additional items available through its affiliation with ACE Hardware.
Saybrook Hardware Co. prides itself not just on its customer service and expertise, but on its commitment to giving back to the community. Over the years they have sponsored and supported organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Middlesex Family Center, and countless schools, chambers of commerce, senior centers, and more.
At Saybrook Hardware Co., customers are immediately made to feel welcome. Employees go above and beyond not just to locate exactly the tool or part customers need, but assemble and deliver items like furniture or grills, and make sure the entire experience is positive and smooth.
It’s this commitment to quality—as well as the personal touch only a family business can provide—that makes the Saybrook Hardware Co. such a treasured part of the community and an iconic part of Old Saybrook’s charming Main Street.
Champion of Tourism: REPRESENTATIVE MIKE FRANCE
Currently in his second term, Rep. Mike France serves the 42nd Assembly District, which includes Ledyard, Montville, and Preston. France sits on the Appropriations, Planning & Development, and General Administration and Elections committees—and he has been a member of the Tourism Caucus since 2016.
When he joined the Caucus, Rep. France expressed in interest in improving resources for family farms and wineries along the Connecticut Wine Trail. He has worked with the Department of Transportation to increase signage along state highways, drawing more attention to these unique destinations—including Maugle Sierra Vineyards in Ledyard and Preston Ridge Vineyard and Dalice Elizabeth Winery in Preston.
France’s district is home to other great attractions, including Coalition members Nature’s Art Village and NASKART.
Prior to running for office, France served in the United States Navy from 1981 to 2005. His more than twenty years on active duty included deployments to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Southern Watch. He also attended the Naval Postgraduate School in California, where he earned two degrees in electrical engineering.
France lives in Gales Ferry with his wife, Heather.
In these tough economic times, it’s more important than ever for our industry to band together. For one thing, we’ve heard from our legislators and other leaders that our message is more powerful when we all speak as one. It makes sense. A chorus of voices is always going to be louder than a single shout. And we’ll have the chance to show just how united we are at the upcoming Tourism Advocacy Day on April 11th at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
But beyond our advocacy and outreach, we are also stronger when we work with one another. That’s why all our members have received a directory with the names and contact information of everyone in the Coalition. I strongly encourage you to look through the contacts and think about how we might be able to help one another. After all, if we bring more visitors to our state, it benefits us all.
Consider something as simple as adding the logo or a link to your fellow members’ websites. Not only does this help promote other Coalition businesses and attractions, but it also shows visitors that Connecticut is teeming with great things to do, food to eat, and attractions to enjoy. Please also continue to refer new members to our Coalition.
I also hope you’ll consider linking to the Coalition on your website so that more people will have the chance to learn about the work we’re doing.
You should also have received a reminder about our next Board Meeting on March 16th. It will take place at Foxwoods Resort Casino from 10 AM to 1 PM. We’ve got some great speakers lined up, so I hope you’ll be able to join us.
Thanks for all your hard work.
Member Spotlight: Guilford Art Center
For more than 50 years, the Guilford Art Center has inspired our community and encouraged participation in the visual arts through educational initiatives, exhibitions, and outreach. Founded in 1967 as the Guilford Handcraft Center, the Center quickly became a treasured resource for Connecticut’s entire shoreline.
Every year, more than 2,000 students ranging from pre-schoolers to senior citizens enroll in the Guilford Art Center’s school. With over 400 classes spread across four semesters, there is something to interest everyone. Students can receive instruction in ceramics, jewelry making, metalworking, stone carving, drawing, painting, glassworks, weaving, and even blacksmithing. The Center even offers tuition assistance to make sure their courses are available to students of all financial means.
Every year in July, the Center holds its annual Craft Expo on the Guilford Green, featuring works from nearly 200 of our country’s top artisans. This celebration of the arts is a mainstay in Guilford and has been recognized as one of the top craft shows in New England. The expo draws more than 7,000 people to our community over its three-day run, making it an important contributor to tourism in our region.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Maureen Belden, the Guilford Art Center has become one of the top arts and culture attractions in Connecticut. Her work ensures visitors and locals alike have the opportunity to experience our rich artistic heritage. Through classes, workshops, exhibits, and more, the Guilford Art Center is sure to inspire and engage.
Champion of Tourism: REPRESENTATIVE LONNIE REED
Currently in her fifth term in the Connecticut General Assembly, Rep. Lonnie Reed serves the 102nd Assembly District, which encompasses the town of Branford. In addition to sitting on the Tourism Caucus, she is the House Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Life Sciences Caucus and Long Island Sound Caucus, and sits on the Manufacturers Caucus and Shoreline Preservation Task Form.
Recognizing the importance of our shoreline to both our environment and the tourism industry, Rep. Reed had been a passionate advocate for cleaning up the Long Island Sound. She has also been a leader for clean energy development, and helped create our nation’s first Green Bank: a public/private partnership to fast-track energy efficiency and renewables.
Rep. Reed’s district is home to numerous attractions. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy boat cruises to the Thimble Islands or cool off with unique craft beers at Stony Creek Brewery or the Thimble Islands Brewing Company. The Aura Day Spa offers relaxing massages, facials, and more, while sightseers can enjoy a scenic drive up Route 146.
Prior to serving in the CGA, Rep. Reed worked as an award-winning journalist in Seattle, Florida, Connecticut, and New York. She has been a contributing correspondent to CBS News, a White House reporter, and documentarian. Her work has received four Emmy Awards as well as several film festival prizes.
Message from Our President
Like many of you, I started the New Year with a list of resolutions. After all, a new year means new opportunities for our Coalition, and I’m excited to get to work. So here for your consideration are our goals for the coming year:
1. Grow Our Membership. Our tourism industry continues to grow, so it’s important our Coalition grows too. We have the best chance of securing a permanent source of funding for tourism if we all stand together and speak as one. That’s why I hope our Coalition will have at least 200 members within the next 6 months. To reach that goal, we need your help. If you know a business, nonprofit, or attraction that benefits from tourism, tell them about the Coalition and ask them to join our cause. Referrals are crucial to helping us expand our efforts.
2. Reach More Legislators. As we’ve spoken with Senator Paul Formica, Senator Cathy Osten, and other representatives, we’ve heard time and again that it’s important to keep up the drumbeat for our industry and our goals. Let them know how important reliable funding for statewide marketing efforts is to your business and community. The more legislators we reach, the more effective our campaign will be—so call or email your representative today!
3. Continue to Meet with Leaders across the State. We’ve held numerous meetings with elected officials throughout Connecticut, and the elections of 2018 give us additional opportunities to meet with incumbents and candidates alike. Our hope is to meet with all leaders in the General Assembly as well as every viable gubernatorial hopeful between now and the state conventions to impress on them the importance of tourism to our state’s future.
4. Endorse a Candidate Who Supports Our Goals. If the budget battles of the last few years taught us one thing, it’s that we need leaders in Connecticut who recognize how tourism can help create jobs and opportunities across our region. That’s why we’ll be submitting questionnaires to gubernatorial candidates to gain their views and ask whether they support using 3% of total taxable lodging revenue to provide a sustainable source of tourism funding. We’ll circulate their responses when we have them, and hope to support a candidate who recognizes how valuable our industry is to the overall health of the state.
I know these are big goals, but I’m fully committed to getting them done. And I appreciate all of your hard work and support as we move into the New Year. This year’s election gives us a powerful opportunity to get our message across and elect leaders who recognize the power of tourism to boost opportunities across all sectors.
Member Spotlight: Mar Floral & Botanicals
Located on Connecticut’s shoreline, Mar Floral & Botanicals is affectionately referred to as Old Saybrook’s Flower Shop. Owner Marlee Santoro grew up in the backroom of her parents’ store, the Madison Flower Shop and Garden Center. There she learned the ins-and-outs of running a successful floral business.
Santoro furthered her budding career at Rittner’s School of Floral Design at Suffolk University in Boston. There she studied the elements of design and gained additional hands-on experience at local flower shops across the city. Upon her graduation and certification as a floral designer, Santoro returned to college and formally took the reins of her parents’ second shop in Old Saybrook.
Rechristened Mar Floral & Botanticals, this local treasure is a vital part of our tourism industry. When warm weather draws weddings and revelers to our coast and countryside, many visitors and locals alike turn to Santoro for the freshest arrangements and designs.
Santoro specializes on unique, hand-crafted arrangements—each one made-to-order. She displays loose stems in her store’s cooler as well as on the floor and throughout the shop, allowing customers to envision how the bouquets could look in their own homes or at their events.
When she’s not at the shop, Santoro can also be found at the Old Saybrook Farmer’s Market, showcasing floral design and arrangements and giving demonstrations to tourists and residents.
Champion of Tourism: SENATOR ROB KANE
A longtime resident of Watertown and proud member of the Tourism Caucus, Sen. Rob Kane is the Deputy Minority Leader Pro Tempore and Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee, Ranking Member of the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee, and serves on the Public Health Committee. First elected to the 32nd Senatorial District in a special election in 2008, Kane represents the communities of Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Middlebury, Oxford, Roxbury, Seymour, Southbury, Washington, Watertown, and Woodbury.
Kane’s district is teeming with sights and parks important to our tourism industry. From the trails and beach of Black Rock State Park to the local vintages of the Hawk Ridge Winery, the 32nd District is an important part of our tourism community. Other prominent attractions include the Mattatuck State Forest, the Bellamy-Ferriday House, the Mayflower Spa, and more.
As a member of the Republican Leadership, Kane is a strong advocate for business development and expanding opportunities throughout Connecticut—especially tourism. He helped create the Connecticut Antiques Trail with the primary goal of boosting tourism by helping antiques and collectables businesses connect with one another for promotion and marketing purposes.
Kane also led the fight to create the Waterbury-Oxford Airport Development Zone. The tax incentives created in the zone are powerful tools to attract new businesses and bring good jobs into the region.
Prior to serving in the General Assembly, Kane served as chair of the Watertown Town Council and was founding chair of its Business Development Subcommittee. He is a past president of the Professional Network Organization and a former board member of both the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce and United Way.
A Message from Our President
With the holidays upon us, I wanted to take a moment to offer my warmest wishes to all of our members at the Connecticut Tourism Coalition. It was great to see so many of you in person at our most recent board meeting this November, where we had much to discuss. I was honored to once again be nominated and approved to serve as the President of the Coalition. It’s a responsibility I take seriously, and one I will gladly undertake in the weeks ahead.
The end of the year is often a time for reflection. I know I’ve given a lot of thought about what we’ve accomplished so far—and the work that still lies ahead of us.
We heard from Senator Paul Formica and Representative Holly Cheeseman at our board meeting about the importance of standing together as we make the case for a dedicated source of funding for state tourism. It’s more important than ever.
Not only did the state budget deliver less for tourism than we’d hoped, we’ve now learned that funding could be clawed back by the legislature in a new round of talks after the holidays. We can’t let that happen. I’m asking everyone to call their state representatives and senators. Urge them to protect funding for our industry. It’s vital for job creation and economic growth—not just for tourism, but for our entire state.
I’ve been talking not just to my representatives, but for candidates in the governor’s race. We have to keep this drumbeat going all year long. To that end, we’ve already started planning for our 2018 Tourism Advocacy Day at the Legislative Office Building is already underway. Stay tuned for more details about how you can get involved!
Our work is far from over, and we’re going to have a busy year ahead.
But in the meantime, I want to wish all of our members a very happy holiday season. I hope you all have the chance to spend time with your loved ones, perhaps appreciating some of the food, festivals, or simple charm of Connecticut in the wintertime.
Thank you for all of your hard work and support over the last year.
Member Spotlight: SYSCO
Just three days after graduating from the University of Maryland, Alan Rosenblatt opened a deli and bagel shop with his father. Neither had experience in the food industry before becoming restauranteurs—Alan graduated with a business degree while his father worked in car sales—but both were dedicated to their customers and quick to learn the keys to success. It was that firsthand experience that gave Alan the tools and insights he uses every day as President of SYSCO Connecticut to help restaurants in our community secure wholesome ingredients and build great menus.
Since 1970, SYSCO has been an icon in Rocky Hill. A major employer in the region, SYSCO focuses on hiring locals from the surrounding community who know the markets, seasonality, and trends across our region. Dedicated to helping food service operators produce quality meals for their customers, SYSCO provides food, serving ware, and other products to restaurants, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, hotels and inns, and other foodservice operations throughout Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.
Many of the products SYSCO provides come from right here in Connecticut. Their partnerships with Farmer’s Cow, Liuzzi Cheese, and other local growers and farmers ensure that Connecticut produce and products are on the menu at some of our region’s best establishments.
SYSCO is also dedicated to giving back to the community. They regularly partner with Foodshare to provide more than 200,000 pounds of food annually—enough to make over 170,000 meals. Every year, a large team from SYSCO participates in the Walk Against Hunger, and they were principal sponsors of this year’s Food Industry Convoy of Caring.
Thanks to SYSCO’s passion for bringing quality, local products to hotels and restaurants across Connecticut, they are a vital part of our tourism industry. And as one of the founding members of our Coalition, we are grateful for their support as we make the push for a brighter future not just for tourism, but our entire state.
Champion of Tourism: REPRESENTATIVE DIANA URBAN
Currently in her ninth term in the General Assembly, Representative Diana Urban serves the people of North Stonington and Stonington. She has been a champion for families as the Chair of the Committee on Children, and a passionate advocate for our industry as the Co-Chair of the Tourism Caucus. She also serves on the Legislative Regulations Review and Banking Committees.
For years, Rep. Urban has made growing Connecticut’s economy one of her biggest priorities. She established the Small Business Advisory Task Force to better address the challenges faced by our local employers and entrepreneurs. Recently, she partnered with the Community Economic Development Fund to deliver approximately $4 million in public/private loans for Southeastern Connecticut micro-enterprises and small businesses.
Before serving in the legislature, Rep. Urban taught economics and political science at the university level. Most recently, she taught micro- and macroeconomics and environmental studies at Three Rivers College. She also taught conservation at the University of Connecticut.
Today, Rep. Urban works diligently to help young women pursue careers in fields that were previously considered non-traditional. She serves as a mentor to middle and high school girls interested in working in environmental studies or economics. She also served as Faculty in Residence at Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Politics.
In addition to her mentorship, Rep. Urban makes time to give back to her community through volunteerism. She is a parent advisor for AmeriCorps’s “City Year” program, and has previously volunteered to coach basketball for middle school boys.
Rep. Urban has been a consistent ally to our industry throughout her time in the legislature. She has spoken passionately about the role of tourism as a driver of economic growth, and voiced her support for statewide marketing of all that Connecticut has to offer its visitors.
A Message from Our President
Connecticut finally has a budget. It was a long and rocky road, and at times, funding for our state’s tourism industry seemed completely up in the air. At the end of the day, though, Governor Malloy signed a budget that includes $6.4 million for the coming fiscal year; unfortunately much less money for the second year. This outcome is a mixed blessing for Connecticut’s tourism industry.
Our meetings with lawmakers, the Governor, and other key officials have made it clear that tourism is crucial to job creation and the health of our economy. But we clearly have a lot of work left to do. Connecticut’s funding for tourism is down to less than half of what it was five years ago. Yet states surrounding Connecticut have increased their spending significantly this past year. New York is up to $70M and Rhode Island, with a budget of $5M, will surpass Connecticut’s support for tourism in the next fiscal year. Massachusetts will nearly triple our marketing fund in 2019.
Now more than ever, we need a cohesive, concentrated effort to attract visitors to our state as a whole. The Connecticut Tourism Coalition remains firm in its advocacy of a sustainable source of funding for the ongoing marketing of state tourism. Specifically, we continue to ask our legislature to set aside 3% of all taxable lodging revenue for tourism promotion. The logic for this is simple: With a proven 3 to 1 return on investment in tourism spending, the fund for tourism promotion will be replenished with tax revenues every year. Additionally, there will be twice as much new tax revenue for critical human service needs here in Connecticut for years to come!
To that end, we’re already beginning to meet with lawmakers and candidates for the 2018 election, calling on them to stand with us and support our mission to create jobs, boost the economy, and bring more visitors into our state. Just this month, we met with Mark Boughton, Mayor of Danbury and possible candidate for Governor. We’re asking all candidates to join our cause.
Thank you for your continued support. We are now 150 Members strong, standing together and speaking as one voice. Our work continues, but I know we have every chance to secure a sustainable source of tourism funding as long as we continue to speak out.
Member Spotlight: Sardilli Produce
For three generations, the Sardilli family has been at the heart of Connecticut’s produce market. In 1955, Guido Sardilli opened a fruit stand on Queen Street in Southington. For 25 years, he provided the surrounding town with the freshest produce, flowers, and even Christmas trees. But fruit stands are seasonal, and with Guido’s family growing, he couldn’t afford to close the business all through the winter. So in 1975, Guido started selling produce wholesale out behind the stand, and Sardilli Fruit and Produce was born.
The business has grown steadily ever since. In 1980, Sardilli Fruit and Produce moved from Southington to the Hartford Regional Market. After just nine years, they made the leap into the 30,000 square foot facility they continue to operate today. Under the direction of
Guido’s son, Don, Sardilli Fruit and Produce has evolved into Connecticut’s premiere food safe distribution center.
Nowadays, Don runs the business with sons Jason and Devin, who handle operations and sales respectively. Together, they’ve formed close relationships with local farmers across the region—including many who once did business with their grandfather, Guido.
The Sardilli family believes firmly in promoting Connecticut produce, and they purchase as many local products as possible. If green squash is in season in both Florida and Connecticut, they buy the native squash—no matter the difference in price. That commitment to quality and community has made Sardilli Fruit and Produce renowned for delivering the freshest ingredients around.
Sardilli Fruit and Produce also does its part to reduce food waste and give back to our region. Their processed food waste is recycled into mulch and topsoil, while excess inventory is donated to area food banks. Last year, Sardilli’s donations resulted in more than 140,000 meals for the homeless.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Don, Jason, Devin, and the entire team, Sardilli Fruit and Produce remains a thriving, successful family business and an important part of our local economy.
Champion of Tourism:
State Senator TIM LARSON
Born and raised in East Hartford, Connecticut, Tim Larson grew up the youngest of eight children. His father, Raymond, worked for Pratt & Whitney, while his mother, Lois, served on the East Hartford Board of Education and Town Council. Through his parents, Tim became interested both in economic development and public service.
A graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University, Tim knows what it’s like to run a successful business and tackle the challenges employers face each day. He served as President of the Larson and Lysik Insurance Agency and is currently the Executive Director of the Tweed New Haven Regional Airport Authority.
Tim also served for eight years as the mayor of his hometown, East Hartford. During his tenure, he focused on repairing the town’s infrastructure, developing Rentschler Field Stadium into a first rate sports and entertainment facility, and consolidating the public safety facilities under one roof to maximize efficiency. He supported numerous redevelopment projects on Main Street, ensuring East Hartford continued to attract new businesses and visitors.
After serving as mayor, Tim won a seat in Connecticut’s General Assembly as the Representive for the 11th District. He served three terms before running for the State Senate in 2014. Now serving his second term representing the 3rd Senatorial District—including East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, and South Windsor—Tim chairs the Insurance & Real Estate and Public Safety & Security Committees. He is also the Vice Chair of the Commerce and General Law Committees and is a member of the Transportation Committee and the Tourism Caucus.
During his time on the legislature, Tim championed the bipartisan gaming legislation to allow Mohegan and Foxwoods to join forces and open an additional casino. He is a strong proponent for job creation and economic development across a number of sectors, creating the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund to help employers expand their facilities and develop new products.
Tim still lives in East Hartford with his wife, Nancy, who serves as the principal of Timothy Edwards Middle School in East Hartford. He is the Vice President of the Hartford Marathon Foundation and a board member of the Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau.
A Message from Our President
Wow. It’s been just over a year since we formed the Connecticut Tourism Coalition, and I’m amazed by the enthusiasm of our members and the progress we’ve made so far. Even in challenging times, our members continue to demonstrate our need for stable, reliable funding to support the 118,000+ jobs tourism supports—and create thousands more.
Since establishing the Coalition, it’s been a privilege to work with our Members to secure meetings with Governor Dan Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, and other top elected officials. We’ve impressed upon our leaders the importance of investing in tourism—from the $14 billion travelers spend across Connecticut each year to the significant investments our neighbors in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are making to draw those travelers away.
Our message is sinking in.
In our conversations with Members of the Connecticut General Assembly—including Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, Senator Paul Formica, Senator Cathy Osten, Senator Art Linares, and many others—it’s clear we all want to create jobs and grow opportunities for our community.
In a discussion with Rep. Courtney, for instance, the Congressman spoke about a recent trip he took to Ireland and the United Kingdom to promote Connecticut as a destination for international travelers. We know our state offers world-class entertainment, accommodations, dining, and attractions. We just need to make sure that message reaches potential visitors.
To that end, our Coalition has already begun meeting with potential gubernatorial candidates. We’ve had productive conversations with Mayor Dan Drew of Middletown and Mayor Mark Boughton of Danbury, and we’ll continue to do our part to show how crucial support for our industry is to Connecticut’s economy.
We’ve taken every opportunity to meet with the Metro Chambers and to provide public testimony in support of a dedicated source of annual funding for tourism. Hundreds of thousands of hardworking men and women depend on our industry to put food on their tables and provide for their families. That’s why we’ve already started planning for Tourism Advocacy Day 2018 at the Legislative Office Building.
Through it all, your support has been crucial to getting our message across. We continue to add new Members every week, and it’s your enthusiasm and our Coalition’s continued growth that ensures our voices are heard.
I hope that you can join us for our next board meeting on November 10 from 9 AM to 12 PM at the Waters Edge Resort. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas, and planning another year of successful advocacy.
Member Spotlight: Olde Mistick Village
The picturesque charm of colonial New England comes alive in the shops and eateries of Olde Mistick Village.
Founded in 1963 by visionary siblings Joyce Olson Resnikoff and Jerry Olson, Olde Mistick Village boasts more than 60 storefronts in a unique, distinctive setting. It is still a family-run operation under the thoughtful leadership of Joyce and her son, Chris Regan, and it is a beloved destination for both locals and visitors: the perfect place to take an afternoon stroll, enjoy some of our region’s finest cuisine, or pick up a one-of-a-kind gift.
Olde Mistick Village first opened with 45 tenants, many of which—like R.A. Georgetti & Co. and Steak Loft—remain to this day. Jerry oversaw the construction and development while Joyce secured tenants and coordinated the financing and marketing.
Over the years, Joyce led the charge in making Olde Mistick Village a premiere tourist destination. She was the driving force behind the battle to repeal so-called “blue laws,” which prevented some retail businesses from operating on Sundays. Recognizing that many families could only travel and spend time together on the weekends, Joyce fought hard to make sure Olde Mistick Village and other attractions had the opportunity to attract visitors on both Saturdays and Sundays.
Thanks in large part to Joyce’s efforts, the laws fell, and Olde Mistick Village continued to grow. In addition to unique shops and fine restaurants, the Village is also home to beloved events and attractions like the recent Garlic Festival and the upcoming Halloween Trick or Treat.
In addition to overseeing the Village, Joyce continues to be a powerful voice for tourism in Connecticut. Her passion, enthusiasm, and dedication have encouraged everything from the revitalization of the Garde Arts Theatre in New London to rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She is an inspiration to countless members of the community, and a vital leader in our industry.
One of the founding members of Mystic Coast & Country Travel and Leisure Association back in 1992, Joyce has long been an advocate for tourism in our community. She is the former Chair of the Eastern Connecticut Tourism District, and one of the founders of the Summer Music Festival at Harkness Park.
Recently, Joyce was nominated for a prestigious Athena Award, which recognizes outstanding local businesswomen who excel in their professions, give back to their communities, and help raise up other leaders—especially women. Joyce’s leadership and generosity make her an ideal candidate for this honor.
Today, Joyce and Chris are hard at work making sure Olde Mistick Village remains a thriving, iconic destination in southern Connecticut.
Champion of Tourism: Jesse MacLachlan
A Westbrook native currently serving his second term, State Representative Jesse MacLachlan is dedicated to ensuring Connecticut is an affordable, attractive place to live. Representing the 35th General Assembly District—which includes his hometown of Westbrook as well as Clinton and Killingworth—Rep. MacLachlan serves on the legislature’s committees on Transportation, Energy, Technology, Higher Education, and Employment Advancement.
Since 2015, Rep. MacLachlan has worked in the energy sector as an asset manager for Greenskies. There he oversees the company’s relationships with its partners and provides support to the legal department on financial matters. Rep. MacLachlan has also worked for his family’s business—Biblio Tech, Inc.—which specializes in the preservation and relocation of corporate, academic, and institutional libraries.
Rep. MacLachlan’s business acumen and personal experiences have shown him the challenges other small business owners face. He also regularly keeps in contact with his constituents, whether it’s discussing Connecticut’s budget with constituents at a town hall or touring the new sugarhouse at Maple Breeze Farm to see how local businesses help grow our economy.
In the legislature, Rep. MacLachlan has championed bills that would keep jobs in our state and create more opportunities for small businesses to grow.
Rep. MacLachlan is an avid volunteer and believes firmly in giving back to his community. He mentors young people at the Valley Shore Assembly of God, and donates his time to various municipal, state, and regional service organizations.
THE TIME IS NOW!
In light of today’s challenging economic climate, the need for tourism is now, and we can’t afford to lose any more ground to our competition.
The Connecticut Tourism Coalition (CTC), an alliance of advocates from all sectors of the Connecticut tourism industry, is encouraging our elected officials to embrace tourism as solution for their fiscal challenges.
Neighboring states like New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are spending considerably more to lure tax revenue away from our state. It’s likely that New York is going to steal revenue from Fairfield County with its $69 million budget, while Rhode Island is going to poach our visitors to Mystic Country with its $5 million in tourism spending.
While this current administration has done a fine job at increasing the tourism funding in the current proposed budget from $6.5 million to $8.3 million, more needs to be done in order to better tap the potential economic impact of tourism in Connecticut.
Here’s the solution: The state needs to pass legislation that uses 3% of the taxable lodging revenue in Connecticut to establish a dedicated source of reliable funding for tourism. This will enable the industry to better assist our government leaders in boosting our state’s economy, increasing jobs, and expanding revenues.
In 2010, when the Occupancy Tax went from 12% to 15%, that 3% increase went directly into a dedicated source of funding for tourism. That worked for the first year, but then that revenue went into the general fund. Now, we’re asking for our State Legislature to fulfill its 2010 pledge and give the tourism industry back what it promised.
The Governor and General Assembly recognized it then, and it still has merit today — the value of tourism is powerful in Connecticut when it comes to generating tax revenue and reducing unemployment. As they may remember that investment yielded positive results.
Member Spotlight: Joshua’s Limousine
For the past decade, private clients and business travelers have come to rely on Joshua’s Limousine Service for dependable and elegant ground transportation. Joshua’s Limousine Service is centrally located between the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino. The company has become known throughout Connecticut, New York, and beyond, as a first class provider of quality ground transportation services.
Joshua’s is committed to exceptional customer care and promises to meet and exceed transportation expectations with clean vehicles, professional drivers, and on-time service, combined with a genuine personable style and human connection not often found in today’s business world. The company has built an exemplary team of transportation professionals who are eager to serve.
In 1995, Gary McKeon was exhausted with the lack of attention to detail with other transportation services. Gary’s wife Belinda stated, “If you think you can do better, let’s do it!” Gary took Belinda’s advice and started Joshua’s Limousine Service with just six vehicles.
Currently, the McKeons now operate two transportation services which they own. The Headquarter located in Gales Ferry, Connecticut and an operation out of Clinton, Connecticut offers vehicles ranging from sedans to 57 passenger motor coaches. In total, the McKeons operate with a magnificent fleet of 40+ vehicles combined.
The business is built around first-class customer service. Regardless of the time of day, clients will never be greeted with an answering service. The business is staffed twenty-four seven (24/7), with highly trained Joshua’s Limousine team members. Joshua’s Limousine consistently provides in-house training for improved customer service.
In fact, they have partnered with Mystic Marriot Service of Excellence Training to provide additional training. In order to ensure safety to its passengers, chauffeurs are trained upon hire, quarterly and every team member is drug tested upon hire/random pool and checked via background.
Joshua’s Limousine Service is the top limousine provider to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, the two largest casinos in the Northern Hemisphere. The company has also worked with the Hilton Hotel Group, top-ranked boxing organizations: the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Lion Fight and many other world class organizations. In addition, Joshua’s prides itself on providing premier services specializing in weddings, promos, corporate runs, leisure tours and so much more.
Joshua’s Limosine continues to grow because of an amazing staff of Chauffeurs and Customer Service Representatives. Service strives to “Provide more than just a great ride.”
Champion of Tourism: State Representative CHRIS SOTO
A first-term legislator proudly serving the New London community, State Representative Chris Soto is guided by the core values of integrity, respect, and service. He is committed to serving his constituents and the State of Connecticut with the highest standards.
Chris arrived in New London to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Operations Research. Following graduation, he served five years on active duty as a Coast Guard Officer with tours in Miami and New York, primarily in Law Enforcement roles. He left service, remaining in the reserves, to pursue a graduate degree at Brown University earning a Master’s in Public Affairs (MPA). He left the reserves at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Outside of the legislature, Chris serves as the Founder and Director of Higher Edge, a college completion organization that guides Eastern CT’s low-income & first-generation college-bound students on the path to a college degree and beyond.
In New London, Representative Soto serves on the Democratic Town Committee, the Hispanic Alliance Scholarship Committee, the Three Rivers College Foundation Board, and the Southeastern CT Cultural Coalition Board.
Prior to joining the legislature, Chris was appointed to represent Southeastern Connecticut on the former Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, now the Commission on Equity and Opportunity. He is fiercely passionate about access and opportunity, as evidenced by his community experience, which he proudly carries into the legislature.
Metro Chambers Bolster Support For Connecticut Tourism
The Connecticut Metro Chambers of Commerce, which includes the eight largest Chambers of Commerce in the state, have joined the Connecticut Tourism Coalition in urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that creates a sustainable funding source for tourism marketing and promotion in the state.
In a recent letter to Senators Paul Formica and Catherine Osten, the CEOs of the Metro Chambers expressed their ongoing support and optimism for the industry, and asked that the State Legislature continue to provide full funding for this important segment of the state’s economy.
The Connecticut Tourism Coalition applauds this effort by the Metro Chambers. Now is the time to act. Connecticut’s under-funded tourism sector needs immediate attention before the state is left behind in economic growth and vitality. While this current administration and legislative body has done a fine job at proposing increases to tourism funding, it’s still not enough.
The State Legislature should pass legislation that commits 3% of the taxable lodging revenue collected in Connecticut to be used for funding the promotion of Connecticut tourism. This will help bring travelers and traveler-spending to the state.
By harnessing the power of tourism, we’re going to change the tide in favor of Connecticut’s future, but we need the help of our State Legislature. The Connecticut Tourism Coalition and Metro Chambers implore them to act quickly and commit to tourism in the state.
Member Spotlight: WATER’S EDGE RESORT & SPA
Welcoming families and friends for more than 30 years, Water’s Edge Resort & Spa is a full-fledged leader among waterfront Connecticut hotels and destination resorts, valued and treasured by those who visit often and fall in love with its spirit.
Perfectly landscaped gardens and acres of grounds overlooking the picturesque Long Island Sound, along with an exclusive private white sand beach has kept this historic Westbrook destination a top New England beachfront resort for vacations and getaways. It’s where family memories are made, romantic escapes are treasured, and where Connecticut goes to find the shore.
Water’s Edge Resort & Spa was recently awarded the coveted Preferred Hotel & Resort and the Historical Hotels of America designation, thus becoming the only facility in all of Connecticut with both distinctions.
Charming and contemporary waterfront accommodations are perfectly balanced, offering luxury comforts with a variety of spaces to meet needs of travelers. The beach resort boasts nearly 100 guest rooms and suites in the main hotel, 68 seaside villas and both a 4- and 5-bedroom beachfront cottage. Among the newest additions—20 luxury 2-bedroom villas are located on the water – elegantly finished with high-end touches, gorgeous views and convenient beach access.
When it’s time to dine, guests will enjoy the ambiance of Water’s Edge fine selection of restaurants that boast more than just the view. Venues such as Seaview Bistro, Sunset Bar & Grill and Dattilo Fine Italian offer fresh, creative and bold, presenting flavors that are reminiscent of old world Italy. In addition to a rich, authentic menu, the wine list is abundant and the service is seamless and attentive.
Located on the pristine shores of Long Island Sound, the Spa at Water’s Edge offers guests an exceptional experience in a luxurious atmosphere. Highly skilled Massage Therapists and Estheticians perform a wide variety of decadent treatments including massages, facials, body treatments, and nail services. Guests have the option to indulge for an hour or a day, and enjoy an unparalleled spa experience tailored specifically for them.
There’s also no shortage of fun when visiting Water’s Edge Resort & Spa. From weekly live entertainment to ballroom events like Playhouse on the Shore and buffet dinners during tribute band performances, the property is always happening.
Water’s Edge Resort & Spa has created a series of special packages, each thoughtfully designed with the guest in mind. Overnight packages, day spa packages and special spa treatments that feature the flavors of the season are available online at www.watersedgeresortandspa.com
Champion of Tourism: State Representative Holly Cheeseman
Serving the 37th district of East Lyme and Salem, State Representative Holly Cheeseman works on the Finance, Revenue & Bonding, Energy & Technology, and Higher Education & Employment Advancement General Assembly Committees.
A native of New London and champion of tourism in Connecticut, Representative Cheeseman currently works as the Executive Director for the Southeastern Connecticut Children’s Museum. Previously, she was employed as a publishing executive in the United Kingdom. There, she was involved in the launch and publication of nine magazines relating to the computer industry, in both the general consumer and trade and technical markets.
In the community, Representative Cheeseman has served on the East Lyme Board of Selectmen since 2011. She is the current President of the East Lyme Library Board, and is the Vice Chair and past Chair of the East Lyme Republican Town Committee. In the past, she has also served as President and Vice President of the Creative Preschool, President of the Mount Holyoke Club of Southeastern Connecticut, member of the Curriculum Council of the East Lyme School system and member of the Board of Trustees of the East Lyme Public Library.
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