Though he officially retired from his job as president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce Dec. 31, Tony Rescigno hasn’t slowed down too much. He recently began working at Southern Connecticut State University as its first-ever business executive in residence, a part-time position in which he connects SCSU’s business school with the business community, helping college students gain real-world job experience as they embark upon their careers. And he continued to serve as the chamber’s leader until late January, when a new president was named.
Rescigno led the chamber for 17 years, having previously been North Haven’s first selectman for 11 years. He is credited with numerous accomplishments during his time as chamber president: revitalizing the New Haven Science Fair program, starting the PULSE young professionals group and establishing the successful Real Estate Forum, to name just a few. He also oversaw a merger of the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce in 2014; and last year the Greater New Haven chamber received a four-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, making it the only chamber in Connecticut that has earned that national recognition.
He recently spoke with Seasons of New Haven about what makes this city a great place to work, live and play.
Q: What’s your favorite local thing to do with family and friends?
There are so many. It depends on the season. If it’s summer, we definitely want to take advantage of the (Connecticut Open) tennis tournament and, if it’s earlier in the summer, we definitely want to go to the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. But on a typical day, we go to the Peabody Museum, we probably grab lunch, we might go over to the Eli Whitney Museum. It’s more taking in the culture of the city. If there happens to be a big event going on, we love that. We love the concerts on the green. (Rescigno often spends his free time with his five grandchildren, who range in age from 6 months to 10 years old).
Q: What’s one aspect of the city you wish more people knew?
One of the things that always astounds me is whenever I take people to, say, the tennis tournament or the (Arts & Ideas) festival, I’m always blown away that they’ve never been there. A lot of people have just never partaken in these unique and great things that not many places have. We need to do more to get the word out about these things.
Q: If you were to “food travel” through New Haven for a day – breakfast at one place, lunch at another, dinner at another – where would you go?
I’ve got so many favorites, it’s incredible. One place you can go for breakfast, people may not know, is the Graduate Club, and you don’t have to be a member. It’s a terrific spot. At lunch time, if I’m looking for something really lighthearted, I’ll go over to Temple Grill. If I want Italian, there are so many great places: Tre Scalini, Adriana’s, Goodfellas. Nighttime, there’s no substitute for Union League Café.
There are just so many. We truly are, or can be, a destination just for food. It’s so great.
Q: What’s your favorite time of year in New Haven?
The summertime is really neat because you’ve got so many things going on. You start off with the arts festival and then you’ve got the concerts on the green and the tennis tournament. If I had to pick a (favorite) time, summer’s the best.
Q: What attributes help draw businesses to New Haven?
There’s no question about it: the universities. We’ve got Yale University, Southern, Quinnipiac University, Albertus Magnus College, University of New Haven, Gateway Community College. Within a 15-to-20-minute drive you can get to any one of these schools.
Also, businesses want to be in a hotspot. People come to New Haven because things are happening and it’s hot, and it has been for a long time. Developers are coming in from literally all over the country. The other thing I find, with smaller companies – like lawyers, accountants and real estate firms – is they like the fact that you can walk the city and bump into people. Not just to say hello, but you can actually make connections and do some networking. It’s a unique place.
Q: Now that you’re retired, what interests or hobbies do you hope to give more time?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve worked since I was literally 8 years old and I’ve never made time to play golf, as an example, which maybe I would like to do. I like to exercise, I exercise every single day. My wife and I love to take long walks and we hike. I’m hoping to spend some time boating. I also love classic cars and I want to do some more classic car shopping around, and maybe I can make that into a little business. The jury’s out.