By Frank DiCristina
It was one year ago that our world changed, restaurants and shops closed, and our communities went into isolation. As an organization that exists to foster networking and making connections in the community between businesses and clients, it appeared to be the worst of times ahead for the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce.
Yet a year later, that is not the case. Under Garrett Sheehan’s leadership and the tireless efforts of past Executive Director Dee Prior-Nesti, Gary Ciarleglio, and Maribel Mendez Carrion, the Quinnipiac Chamber has persevered.
Through its partnership with the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce (GNHCC), the Quinnipiac Chamber has been able to deliver over sixty webinars in the past year, ranging from how to navigate complex government programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, to a recent meeting with Wallingford Town Health Department Director Stephen Civitelli. In this recent call, twenty-five manufacturers joined to discuss how to facilitate vaccine distribution to thousands of essential workers critical to the supply chain and regional economy.
GNHCC has even arranged virtual meetings for its members with the governor, our US senators, and other high-ranking state officials entrenched in the pandemic response. Virtually all of these have been at no cost to the membership.
The Chamber has also been able to successfully sustain many of its traditional events, such as the annual golf tournament at The Farms, the Women’s Achievement Awards, and the State of the Town addresses for Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and First Selectman Mike Freda. Despite some of these events being relegated to virtual, attendance has sustained at a comparable level to past in-person versions.
And now as we appear to be emerging from the pandemic, and at a point where returning business to normal is as critical as ever for the survival of many small business, the Quinnipiac Chamber has positioned itself to serve the community with strength. The recent announcement of Ray Andrewsen as the new executive director is a strong sign of the Chamber’s commitment to staying hyperlocal. Ray, a North Haven native and resident, brings a wealth of experience in community engagement after operating WQUN, Quinnipiac University’s radio station, for almost two decades. Gary Ciarleglio shifting to the role of regional director of Sales and Relationship Management for both the GNHCC and Quinnipiac Chamber will further allow the Chamber to leverage the benefits of that partnership and the vast outreach of the GNHCC.
Through all this, Garrett Sheehan has had a vision and resolve to ensure businesses and organizations in the region, whether in New Haven, North Haven, or Wallingford, have access to the resources they need in a time where the needs have never been greater. The Quinnipiac Chamber has been a voice and vehicle for small and large businesses alike to survive the challenges and emerge with success. The future of the Quinnipiac Chamber and its members is secure as a result of these great efforts.
Frank DiCristina is Allnex site manager and board chairman of the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce.