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Building relationships

Some of the state’s top economic development officials will be riding the train

Some of the state’s economic development heavy hitters say they plan to be on the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s 83rd annual Walk to Washington.

The list includes Newark Alliance President and Chief Executive Officer Aisha Glover, one of the main backers behind efforts to attract Amazon’s second North America headquarters to Newark.

In December, Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Glover to the Economic Development Authority’s board of directors, in a push to usher in a new approach under his watch for how the state attracts business and investment.

Chris Paladino, president of the New Brunswick Development Corp. said he would likely attend at least the dinner and reception down at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in the nation’s capital.

Chris Paladino, president of New Brunswick Development Corp.

Paladino

“It’s a good opportunity to see a lot of people in town,” Paladino said.

EDA president and Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan, however, does not plan to attend this year, agency officials said.

The roughly 20-car, privately chartered Amtrak train departs Newark Penn Station on the morning of Feb. 27 for a five-hour journey to Washington, D.C.

The Chamber expects upward of 1,000 participants, who are encouraged to walk from one end of the train to the other before arriving in Washington.

At the evening reception, Murphy and the state’s most senior member of the Congressional delegation – U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th District – address the attendees. Networking carries over into the wee hours of the morning, and the next day the train carries attendees back to the Garden State.

Tom Bracken, CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

Bracken

“People enjoying it and networking and doing business and taking advantage of what I think arguably is the best networking event in the state,” said Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Bracken, describing the day-long extravaganza.

The Chamber’s annual event has attracted some unwanted attention after a December report by NJ Advance Media in which 20 women anonymously shared harrowing tales of sexual harassment, including on the Walk to Washington, and the after-parties at the yearly New Jersey League of Municipalities November conference in Atlantic City.

That prompted the creation of a committee – spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District – featuring 11 prominent women in state politics, from both the public and private sector, to gauge how to clean up the “toxic” culture of misogyny in New Jersey politics.

The Chamber Train leaves the station Feb. 27, and our coverage begins in the Feb. 24 issue with a preview of the trip. It continues on the train with the NJBIZ Podcast; if you’re riding, stop by car No. 2 to meet members of our staff.

“We have to start with the fact that we want this to be the same kind of enjoyable networking event that we’ve always had,” Bracken said. “We are very sensitive to the issues that were raised… It’s going to be a combination of doing some enhanced security for the first time, and also making sure that the guests get the value that they wanted out of the trip.”

Other changes for the annual affair include a ban on hard alcohol on the train, easier access for attendees to report sexual harassment, more intense training for Chamber staff, and an updated code of conduct explicitly stating the Chamber’s expectations of professional conduct, which has already been distributed to the organization’s members and registrants for the 2020 Walk.

Daniel J. Munoz
Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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