By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – Bobbing sailboats, kids splashing in the water and a distant lighthouse on the horizon. That was the backdrop of a casual gathering that brought together businessmen and women from a three-town circuit for a spot of networking.
The Jacky Durrell Pavilion at Penfield Beach was the site early Thursday evening of a “Beach Bash” jointly coordinated and attended by members of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, Westport/Weston Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Bridgeport Business Council (GBRBC). It was the first time the three groups had collaborated for an event. Response was very enthusiastic, with all 125 Bash tickets sold out.
“It’s extremely important to collaborate to give businesses the opportunity to network, especially in tough economic times,” said Heather Cavanagh, Special Projects Manager for the Westport Chamber. “Many businesses based out of Trumbull, Bridgeport and other affiliates are not usually given an opportunity to mingle and network with potential new clients, especially in a beautiful environment like this,” she added, referring to the picturesque Fairfield beach setting.
Enjoying the view on the pavilion’s sundeck, GBRBC President Paul Timpanelli commented, “We’ve been collaborating for a while with the Fairfield Chamber, providing our members with added opportunities to network. It’s really mutual added value for each chamber, without our members having to pay dual fees. Having members from all three chambers unite can only add even more value.”
Discussing finance with Fairfield CPA Grace Keniston, former Fairfield Chamber president Michael Gness, a financial advisor at Edward Jones Investments, said he was pleased with the direction current chamber leadership was pursuing.
“Each president brings their own priorities and goals,” Gness said. “And each new leader makes the chamber stronger. The chamber has evolved from serving the community to serving more small businesses. Now there are more opportunities for business leaders to network. The big event a decade ago was the town clambake. It was a nice event but a bear to coordinate. Now there are more smaller events and gatherings focused solely on business.”
Fairfielder Tom Brennan, huddling with a group that included an attorney, NFL agent and hospital representative, said about the event, “It’s a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with people you interact with on the phone all the time. Paul Timpanelli, an almost lifelong friend and former Trumbull First Selectman, is the right man in the right job. It’s a smart move for Bridgeport to align with the Fairfield and Westport/Weston chambers.”
Philip Kuchma, president of Kuchma Corporation, was happy for any opportunity to speak with fellow business leaders. The real estate mogul, who owns eight properties known as Bijou Square in Bridgeport, said, “It’s always great to network, and this atmosphere is conducive to conversation. This is nice and laid back. We have to think of business in a regional sense instead of as separate towns, to be competitive nationally. People that live and/or work in Fairfield can’t get all their needs met in Fairfield. There needs to be a reliance on neighboring areas.”
One of the more junior attendees, Sarah Bruhl, onsite representing Fairfield Fencing Academy, which will open up in Fairfield’s Sportsplex complex in early August, said, “We’re all really excited about the opening. We’re running a camp right now, using Fairfield Warde High School as our site. The new space is amazing and there are 3,500 kids visiting the complex daily. This is a good local business story.”