Chamber prez leaving

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
President and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce Michael Nicastro will be vacating his post at the end of the month.
After spending five years with the chamber, Nicastro has decided to take a position at Connecticut Online Computer Center, Inc. (COCC) to lead the company’s sales and marketing activities in Southington.
The balance the company strives for, Nicastro said, “made all the sense in the world (for him to accept the position).” He said the offer was a surprise, as he was having a meeting with the company to continue an already established relationship. The financial services technology firm is moving 350 employees from its headquarters currently based in Avon, to Southington on West Street.
Over the last five years, Nicastro and his team at the chamber have continued to persevere and grow during, what he said, was the “worst economy for chambers.” Many chambers across the state, and the country, have lost membership and have been closing their doors because of the difficult times. However, he said, the Central Connecticut Chamber, which includes Bloomfield, Bristol, Burlington, Farmington, Plymouth/Terryville, and Wolcott, has continued with its success.
“We’ve been able to diversify revenue streams (and add non-chamber companies),” Nicastro said. But he is most proud of his team of co-workers and their efforts and dedication.
“I’m so proud of them and the way they’ve performed and grown our regional footprint,” he said.
The chamber also has been able to play a large role in the region’s economic development, has worked with the city’s downtown developer Renaissance Downtowns to focus on growth in the center of the city, and its surrounding neighborhoods, and the chamber also has been active in stopping the new busway.
“I believe we changed the idea that the chamber isn’t just one person,” Nicastro said. “It’s an organization full of people and businesses whose job is to focus on three principals:” economic development, member advocacy, and membership development.
Nicastro said even though he is leaving the chamber, he will still remain involved in the community, as it is his home.
“I live here. I pay taxes here. I buy my groceries here. It’s home,” Nicastro said, adding also he plans to stay involved in the business community in Bristol, especially since he will be working for a company just over the Bristol border, that will be able to utilize Bristol businesses like the new Hilton DoubleTree.
Nicastro is no stranger to the financial services and technology world, as he has held positions at NCR Corporations, Citicorp, Bristol Savings Bank, and before his current position he was senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Open Solutions, Inc
Richard A. Leone, COCC’s president and CEO, said in part in a press release, “With his deep industry experience and knowledge of our advanced technology, Mike is ideally-suited to take our company to the next level of success.”
Nicastro said he is looking forward to getting involved in the informational technology sector again, on a regular basis. One practice he has always utilized was being able to distribute the work –load, which he said as a leader is important.
“I take pride in giving out responsibility,” he said, adding that as a leader “you have to know how to distribute the work load and trust people to do the job.”
For the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, Nicastro said he hopes that the next CEO can continue the elements that have been added, such as the Angel Investments, CT Innovations, the addition of the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, and more. He also wants to see the City of Bristol “understand that it is a high-tech town” with the way ESPN and the manufacturers operate. He said he also wants to see the schools continue to teach skills needed for the manufacturing workforce, like the sciences and math.
The state of Connecticut, Nicastro said, has had difficulty being a business-friendly state, especially with attracting businesses from out of state, and then keeping businesses in state. The Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, he said, has “done very well with keeping businesses around,” and also attracting them, and working with the Bristol Development Authority. Nicastro said the chamber is currently close to bringing a company into the Southeast Business Park.
“Those collaborative efforts pay such dividends,” and create jobs and economic growth, Nicastro added.
The chamber’s executive committee has an active search and review underway and plans to fill the position as soon as it is practical to do so, a press release said. Nicastro will be with the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce until Sept. 30.