By LISA CAPOBIANCO
A slideshow of chamber events and ribbon cuttings appeared in the background as people from different sectors of the community said farewell to Jim Albert last Thursday.
Last Friday marked Albert’s last day as president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, where be began his role in January 2014. Last December, Albert announced his decision to step down from his position to devote more time to family caregiving.
But Albert said his decision to resign does not mark the end of his involvement.
Calling himself a “chronic volunteer,” Albert plans to lend a hand in any way he can for the Bristol community while spending quality time with his parents.
From the Board of Directors for local non-profits to the Zoning Commission to his parish council at St. Ann Church, Albert wears a variety of hats in the community. Born and raised in Bristol, Albert also is president of the Rotary Club. He also just became a member of the chamber.
Looking back on his role at the chamber, Albert said he enjoyed the community side of the job. The chamber takes a lead in two major areas: economic development (i.e. jobs, business, legislative activities, etc.) and community development, which involves activities to raise the quality of life for the community. The Chamber organizes 100 events a year.
“It’s the movie nights, the farmer’s markets, the children’s parade, the tree lightings,” said Albert, who previously served on the Memorial Boulevard Task Force.
As the chamber continued to immerse itself in community events, said Albert, more people and businesses became interested in coming to Bristol.
“It has worked beyond my wildest expectations,” said Albert. “As we grew the visibility and the profile of the town and made it a positive experience again with…all of the different events…now we’re getting routine communications.”
During Albert’s farewell party last week, chamber staff and partners, along with members of the business and school community, and city officials expressed appreciation for his service.
“Jim was a very forward figure and worked well with people, which is a key perquisite for the chamber,” said Bill Stortz, former mayor of Bristol.
State Senator Henri Martin honored Albert with a citation from the state of Connecticut.
Martin, who grew up with Albert, expressed his appreciation for what the former chamber president accomplished for Bristol, the chamber, and the community at large.
“We all know how much he has done for the city…for the Bristol chamber, and the excitement he’s brought to the community with his energy and his ideas,” said Martin.
Mayor Ken Cockayne said under Albert’s leadership, the chamber and the city worked hand-in-hand, especially when marketing Bristol. Nearly two years ago, the city of Bristol and the chamber reached an agreement for marketing and branding services. The chamber then hired Mark Walerysiak Jr. as brand manager to help coordinate the marketing, image and economic development on behalf of the city and chamber. The final product was a new web portal called bristolallheart.com, which offers a one-stop shop of everything in Bristol, including a community calendar with details about dozens of events and activities, maps, contact information, a promotional video on the city, spotlights of local businesses and events, and more.
With the launch of Bristol’s All-Heart logo also came the formation of the “All-Heart Art Squad,” a group of local artists who displayed their work in vacant storefront windows in Bristol last spring. This year, in collaboration with the city and the Bristol chamber, the Art Squad will finish a project called Operation Traffic Box Art, which involves transforming 21 city-owned traffic control boxes at select intersections into works of art to promote Bristol’s cultural assets.
“Jim and the mayor’s office had a great relationship,” said Cockayne. “He’s going to be missed.”
Walerysiak said it was a pleasure to work with Albert, adding how the former president’s passion and “vigorous energy” was something that attracted him to the Chamber.
“He was open to all generations and ideas,” said Walerysiak. “We saw things very similarly.”
Susan Sadecki, president and CEO of Main Street Community Foundation, said Albert did a great job of promoting the “Central Connecticut” theme of the Chamber. Consisting of over 1,600 member businesses across the region, the Chamber serves Bristol, Plainville, Burlington, Wolcott, Plymouth, Farmington, and Bloomfield. The chamber also represents and supports the New England Spring and Metalstamping Association, Connecticut Tooling and Machining Association and the Connecticut Association of Healthcare Executives.
Under Albert’s leadership, the chamber worked with education and employers to build new work development programs for the next generation. The chamber, in collaboration with Main Street Community Foundation and the Bristol Board of Education formed the Bristol Technical Advisory Council, which brought a group of stakeholders together, including high schools and technical schools and more. What began as speaking engagements at the high schools grew into monthly meetings to provide communication and a planning platform between educators and the business leaders. Those meetings have openly welcomed local manufacturers.
“I enjoyed Jim’s passion and wanting to introduce new ideas to the chamber members and the community at large,” said Sadecki.
Listening to new ideas serves as something that Ray Gagnon said has admired about Albert. Gagnon, who served as vice president of the chamber seven years ago, came back on board when Albert became president to help grow membership. Since then, Gagnon worked alongside Albert, increasing membership, especially in the Bristol chamber.
“He would listen to your suggestions,” said Gagnon, adding Albert brought back the chamber’s identity. “I’m really going to miss Jim.”
Meanwhile, the search for a new chamber president continues, as the search committee is still conducting the interview process. Sadecki, who serves as chairperson of the committee, said the search process is going well, as over 50 applications were submitted for the chamber president position.
“There are some really strong candidates,” said Sadecki.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO