Rounding out the year on a high note, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s final Breakfast Club event of 2021 welcomed just over 100 people—including the state’s highest-ranking cultural official—to a poinsettia-decorated Washburn Hall inside downtown Worcester’s historic Mechanics Hall.

The December edition of The Breakfast Club gave attendees the chance to network with other professionals, celebrate six member businesses and organizations for their milestones, and hear from a dignified keynote speaker, all while enjoying their morning coffee and breakfast.

Michael J. Bobbitt, new executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Mr. Bobbitt assumed this leadership position February 1, 2021, when the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions still posed serious threats to the arts and culture sector.

From dedicating his entire professional career to arts leadership—operating in roles as a director, playwright, choreographer, and associate professor—Mr. Bobbitt understands and appreciates the important roles that arts, culture, and humanities play in the community and the economy. Amidst the pandemic, he said we “witnessed a cultural sector suffering, losing resources and revenue, but dedicated to getting arts and culture to residents of the Worcester region and beyond.”

But even in these last couple of difficult years, Worcester’s arts and culture scene has been a significant contributor to the local economy. According to Mr. Bobbitt, the industry was responsible for more than $125 million spent by cultural organizations and audiences, 4,000-plus jobs, $10 million in state and local taxes, and millions in secondary spending (dinner before a show, drinks after a show, parking, public transportation, etc.) 

Throughout his address, Mr. Bobbitt repeatedly called the audience to action, asking them to invest in and support the arts and culture industry. Leaving no room for doubt, he said, “We need to invest in the further development of the creative sector, because wherever creativity goes—and by extension, wherever talent goes—innovation and economic growth are sure to follow.”

Chamber members mingle and network during December Breakfast Club at Mechanics Hall. Photo by Matt Wright, Wright Photo Studios.

Aside from its economic value and its function as entertainment, he said that art in all forms not only allows humanity to stay connected to the past, it enables society to imagine the future. “Art is inherently a social justice tool. It gives voice to the voiceless. What a responsibility artists have […] What a gift artists are to the world.” 

He continued, “The world’s problems—Worcester’s problems—can be solved through creativity. And Worcester has an embarrassment of riches of creatives,” speaking of the city’s abundance of artists and the like.

Presented by sponsor Bay State Savings Bank, along with supporting sponsor Western New England University School of Law, as well as coffee sponsors UniBank and UniCare, December’s Breakfast Club saluted six Chamber members for new leadership and key anniversaries.

Karl Storz Endoscopy celebrated their 75th anniversary, Bay State Savings Bank was honored for their 125 years in business, and Rollstone Bank & Trust recognized for a whopping 175 years in operation. Moreover, the Chamber was thrilled to salute three women who had all taken on new leadership positions at their member companies and organizations: Caitlyn Correia, new president of BlueHive Group and BlueHive Exhibits; Connie Askin, new CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass and Metrowest—the first woman to ever hold the position at this nonprofit branch; and Rachel Lopez, new president and CEO of Resource Management, Inc. (RMI). 

During the breakfast, Ché Anderson, assistant vice chancellor for city and community relations at UMass Chan Medical School, served as chief greeter. Mr. Anderson, who was elected to the Chamber’s board of directors just the week prior, pointed out that this first opportunity to emcee The Breakfast Club felt full-circle—years ago, his first involvement with the Chamber was by serving on The Breakfast Club planning committee. Moreover, Mr. Anderson formerly served as the City of Worcester’s Deputy Cultural Development Officer and currently serves on the Mass Cultural Council’s board, making him a natural fit for the event. 

Held four times each year, The Breakfast Club typically draws about 200 professionals for a networking breakfast in which local member businesses and executives are recognized followed by a keynote speaking program. The next Breakfast Club will be held at College of the Holy Cross’ Hogan Campus Center on March 3. Click here to register. 


Dominique Goyette-Connerty is the Director of Communications at the Worcester Chamber. She can be reached by email here.

This story was originally published in the February 2022 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.