Peaches, pumpboats, pipelines, and parades — My week in eastern Connecticut
It was another busy week crisscrossing eastern Connecticut. My visits and meetings while I am back in the district are an important way for me to remain aware of the broad range of issues and developments in our region. I would like to share with you some of what I saw this week.
On Sunday afternoon between the light rains, I had the pleasure of marching in the annual Enfield Memorial Day Parade. Though we owe our fallen heroes and all of our military veterans a debt of gratitude and should remember them every day, Memorial Day is a special opportunity to reflect on the significance of their sacrifice. It was a wonderful sight to see so many people, young and old, turn out in appreciation of the service and sacrifice that our military members have made for this country.
On Tuesday, I was pleased to take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in Norwich. The new station, which is a part of the Norwich Clean Cities initiative, will be a huge benefit for local municipal and business fleets that operate on CNG, as well as a growing number of privately owned CNG vehicles. The Easter Seals of Eastern Connecticut also operate a fleet of vehicles serving disabled residents which run on CNG and will now have another location to fill their tanks. It’s encouraging to see alternative fuels working each day for our communities. Thanks to Norwich Public Utilities for helping to make this station a reality with the help of a $1.3 million dollar grant from the Federal Highway Administration.
The next day on Wednesday, I visited the Brewer’s Pilot Point Marina in Westbrook to tour a new solar-powered pumpout boat which is intended to make it easier for boaters to dispose of sewage contained on watercrafts. It has long been illegal to dump sewage from vessels into Long Island Sound, but without easy access to pumpout stations and vessels, it was hard to prevent boaters from doing this. WTNH recently featured Brewer’s Pilot Point Marina and their efforts to keep the waters clean while boating. I am pleased that the three pumpout boats operated in Westbrook were partially funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Clean Vessel Act.
After starting the winter off with relatively mild weather, heavy winter storms and an extremely severe freeze in mid-February destroyed much of our state’s fragile peach crop. Additionally, a myriad of weather events on top of a generally low yield season has cut apple production by nearly two-thirds in parts of the state. On Thursday, I visited Buell’s Orchard in Eastford to view the damage the unpredictable weather inflicted on local farmers. Luckily for Buell’s, they did enroll in the Federal Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) prior to this winter which will provide some compensation for the peach revenue lost. Unfortunately, many other Connecticut orchards did not sign up for similar coverage in time. With the information I received during my visit, I plan to work with the FSA and fellow lawmakers in Washington to find relief for all of our state’s orchards.
Friday morning, I joined a roundtable discussion with local and state leaders to show continuing support for the ‘manufacturing pipeline’ workforce training program. The pipeline was created in an effort to increase the number of high-skilled manufacturing workers in eastern Connecticut in order to meet the growing need in the advanced manufacturing sector.
It’s hard to believe that this whole initiative began almost exactly one year ago when I helped arrange for Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to come to Connecticut to tour Electric Boat and our advanced manufacturing schools. During the visit, he learned about the expanding workforce needs at EB and across the network of nearly 500 parts suppliers and small firms that support work at the shipyard. Not long after Secretary Perez’s visit, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (EWIB) received a $6 million dollar grant to train new skilled manufacturing workers. This led to the creation of the pipeline which is now training workers for advanced manufacturing careers at Electric Boat and other high-tech manufacturing firms across the state.
After the roundtable discussion concluded, I was happy to take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new welding shop at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School which will further support the pipeline training program. The welding shop will provide even better hands-on training for students which will prepare them for the workforce demands in the region.
If you would like to learn more about career training opportunities visit the manufacturing pipeline website.