ROCKY HILL, Conn. (WTNH) — You won’t hear Christmas carols, but the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce annual breakfast has been a holiday tradition for the past 34 years. This year it sold out the ballroom at the Sheraton in Rocky Hill.

“We’ve had it every year with the sitting governor since 1988,” Chamber President Larry McHugh said. He said the area is doing well coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of apartments going into the Middlesex County area. Manufacturers are doing very, very well,” McHugh said.

For instance, a company called Birdon America is doing a complete retrofit of 65 boats for the Coast Guard at a Portland Marina it recently took over. Why did they come to Connecticut?

“First and foremost, it’s access to a really great workforce that’s highly skilled, well trained,” Rob Scott, the president of Birdon America, explained.

“To me, it’s less about a lifeline now and more about a ladder. Giving everybody that opportunity,” Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) said, indicating the economy is shifting from helping people out of the pandemic to assisting them in dealing with rising prices.

“We’re going through tough times when it comes to inflation,” the governor said. “We’re going through tough times when it comes to the cost of living, and electricity is a big part of that.”

This holiday season marks the ramp-up to the beginning of a second term for Lamont, but for the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, it is the end of an era. McHugh is retiring after nearly four decades.

“I’ll be stepping down from the Chamber this year at the end of this month, after 39 years,” McHugh said.

Lamont gave the longtime Xavier football coach a personalized license plate with “COACH 1.”

“I will still be there and just remember: The sun always shines on Middlesex County,” McHugh said, repeating his most famous line as the area’s best-known cheerleader for years.