By Tony Sheridan, President & CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT
The Chamber works with businesses, organizations and government on all levels as part of our mission to help ensure the economic vitality of eastern Connecticut. This collaborative spirit takes many forms. It requires an awareness of community needs and an understanding and acceptance of your partner’s mission and lots of dedicated hard work.
The region is fortunate to have many dedicated organizations that contribute to the quality of life we enjoy. Many of them do not get the credit they deserve for their contribution to our community. One such organization is Neff Productions.
Barbara Neff, the driving force behind the company that bears her name, has brought her high-energy approach to making things happen in New London for 16 years. Prior to that, she ran Parade News, a New London-centered family business downtown and at the New London Mall.
In fact, it was a desire to draw customers to the New London Mall during the usually slow summer months that got her into event productions. “We started doing car shows to bring more people to the Mall,” she says. “I guess you could say it all started from there.”
At the time that she and a colleague, Tom Crosby, approached the city about taking over the annual Sailfest extravaganza, it had gone from a three-day event down to just one.
“The city sent us to the Downtown New London Association and they agreed to us doing it,” she says. Since she has taken over the organizing of Sailfest, the weekend event has broadened its offerings and brought more people into the process. ‘When we started, there was a small committee of seven people, but today there is a committee of 45 people who work hard to put on this great event.”
Sailfest is the major event, which recently celebrated its 35th year, that the DNLA, a non-profit collaborative of 60 merchants, presents. All money raised during Sailfest is directly donated back into the city by supporting other local organizations.
While Sailfest is probably its best known festival, Neff Productions has a number of interesting and creative events that bring thousands of visitors to New London and generates a lot of attention for the city.
For a number of years now the Chamber has partnered with Neff Productions to put on a widely popular road race as part of an annual weekend of excitement that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city.
The Chamber’s involvement in the race is but one partnership arrangement that helps us fulfill our mission to work collaboratively in the greater interest of promoting our region. These kinds of activities and many with less of a high profile are all part of an effort to keep our business community strong and with it, our region as a whole.