NEWINGTON - Thereâ€™s a new chamber in town.
The Newington Chamber of Commerce remains the beacon of the business community, but thereâ€™s a brighter light radiating from its lamp.
At the start of its fiscal year in June, Executive Director Peter Forcellina welcomed several new people to the Board of Directors and Executive Board.
Overall, chamber membership has grown by 28 percent over the last eight months, since Forcellina took the helm.
The motto â€śWe mean businessâ€ť is also his mantra, and it has evolved the way this organization operates.
â€śWeâ€™re on a very positive track,â€ť Forcellina said. â€śThereâ€™s a lot of newness going on.â€ť
It begins with the fresh board, which includes four new members: CT Web Geek founder Ray Michno, GFWC Newington/Wethersfield Womanâ€™s Club Past President Pat Mahoney, Judson Chiropracticâ€™s Sarah Nordbeck, and Del Soul Spa owner Katie Dâ€™Onofrio. On the executive side, President Kathy Braga, of B&M Tree Service; Executive Vice President Deanna Reney, owner of Karmaâ€™s Closet; and Vice President Pam Guijarro, of American Eagle Federal Credit Union, are joined by Treasurer Michelle Royer, from the Lucy Robbins Welles Library; and Secretary Jim Wiltshire, pastor of The Chapel.
â€śThey are all really strong contributors,â€ť Forcellina pointed out. â€śItâ€™s important to me to surround myself with engaging, supportive people. We have a great team.â€ť
There are over 1,000 businesses in Newington. Thereâ€™s no reason why all of them canâ€™t be chamber members.
â€śIt comes down to two things,â€ť Forcellina said. â€śValue and visibility.â€ť
That means bringing value to members, helping their businesses grow, advocating for and empowering them. It also means getting out in the community.
Forcellina started attending meetings of the townâ€™s Economic Development Commission. Beginning this fall, there will likely be a board member at meetings of the Town Council and Town Plan & Zoning Commission as well.
The former chamber office at 1076 Main St. closed at the end of June. The team moved its headquarters to 171 Market Square. Having a storefront is no longer a necessity. The new office has the same square footage, with a more open meeting space. Rent was cut in half.
Outsourcing accounting functions has also led to serious savings. The chamber is a small business, after all.
At the end of the day, Forcellina credits all of this to generous volunteers working tirelessly behind the scenes.
â€śTheyâ€™re managing businesses and families, yet they still find time to give to us,â€ť he pointed out. â€śItâ€™s amazing.â€ť
The chamberâ€™s annual Silent Auction is still set to take place this fall. The yearly gala is a gathering of members, town officials and local residents. It is also the main fundraiser for two chamber scholarships awarded each year.
Newington High School 2019 graduates Maggie Callahan and Shihao Zhai received $1,000 awards last week. Both are pursuing studies in business - Callahan at Temple University and Zhai at the University of Connecticut.
The community can expect a second annual Comedy Night, after the inaugural event in March was so successful.
The majority of activities are regularly occurring Business after Hours, ribbon-cuttings, and the popular 7 a.m. Network events. Seminars on various topics of interest to businesspeople are continuing into the future. Expect to hear about several new initiatives coming soon, including a Newington Young Professionals group and a leadership program.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some upcoming Chamber events:
July 16 at 5 p.m. - Turnpike Motors Multi-Chamber Vendor Appreciation Night 2550 Berlin Tpke., Newington
July 18 at 6 p.m. â€“ Saz Restaurant Business After Hours 2095 Berlin Tpke., Newington
July 25 at 5:30 p.m. â€“ Dillyâ€™s CafĂ© Ribbon-cutting and Business After Hours, 39-43 Market Sq., Newington
July 30 at 6 p.m. â€“ Wood-n-Tap Business After Hours, 3375 Berlin Tpke., Newington
Aug. 4 at 1:30 p.m. â€“ Newington Day at the New Britain Bees, 230 John Karbonic Way, New Britain
Aug. 8 at 8:30 a.m. â€“ South End CafĂ© and Pastry Shop Ribbon-Cutting, 262 Brockett St. Newington