Phil Norcross, the younger sibling of south Jersey power broker and insurance executive George Norcross, partnered with Republican operative Jeff Michaels nearly a decade ago to form Optimus Partners LLC, with its chief goal being to advise private businesses looking to build or expand their presence in New Jersey. The lobbying firm’s prior clientele included the Casino Association of New Jersey. In May of 2018, marijuana company Acreage Holdings hired Optimus as it plans to boost its presence in New Jersey, following efforts by lawmakers to legalize adult-use marijuana. Norcross’ other brother is U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st District.
The RWJBarnabas Healthservice area covers nine counties with five million residents. As president and chief executive officer, Ostrowsky oversees a system that includes 11 acute care hospitals (five are teaching hospitals), three children’s hospitals, a pediatric rehabilitation hospital and its multiple outpatient facilities, ambulatory care centers, geriatric centers and a free-standing behavioral health center. It is also home to New Jersey’s largest statewide behavioral health network, a satellite emergency department, trauma centers, comprehensive home care and hospice programs, pharmacy services, multi-site imaging centers, two accountable care organizations, as well as medical groups with primary and specialty care physician practices. With a staff of 33,000, RWJBarnabas is largest private employer in New Jersey. It boasts 9,000 physicians (representing more than 40 percent of the state’s actively practicing physicians) and 1,000 residents and interns. The RWJBarnabas system and Rutgers University are forming New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive academic health system. The public-private partnership aligns RWJBH, the university, Rutgers Health and Rutgers’ education, research and clinical activities, including those at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey — the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.
As president of the New Brunswick Development Corp., Paladino has set the standard for what it means to be a developer in New Jersey. Under his leadership, DEVCO has initiated, developed and managed nearly 5.4 million square feet in residential, commercial, academic and institutional activity valued at over $2 billion by focusing on a unique brand of public-private joint venture partnerships. With Paladino at the helm, DEVCO is currently developing the new $172 million New Brunswick Performing Arts Center and residential tower, in partnership with Rutgers University, George Street Playhouse, Middlesex County, the American Repertory Ballet and Crossroads Theater. Paladino is also in the midst of completing the $220 million Atlantic City Gateway project, a major development initiative in Atlantic City in partnership with Stockton University and South Jersey Industries.
His freshman Democratic colleagues garner attention by being new to Washington, but Pallone earns it by being an experienced legislator on environmental issues – critically important to his oceanfront and bayshore district. He’s now in his 16th full term in Congress and for the foreseeable future, he’ll do his work from his perch as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – which has jurisdiction over environmental protection. The panel’s broad remit also includes healthcare, an issue that will place Pallone in the middle of House debates over whether to expand Medicare or bolster the Affordable Care Act. During an early March event in his district, Pallone suggested that Medicare for all – the rallying cry of newly elected progressives – likely would not attract sufficient support this term. Instead, Pallone pointed to bills his committee is considering that would boost enrollment in the ACA and cut costs. He will have to draw upon his 30-plus years of congressional experience to navigate those policy waters.
As the third president and chief executive officer of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ), Paranicas oversees the trade association for the research-based biopharmaceutical and medical technology industry. HINJ serves as a unified voice for New Jersey’s life sciences industry and seeks to build awareness of this industry’s impact on New Jersey’s quality of life and economic well-being. Before joining HINJ, Paranicas was vice president, corporate secretary and public policy for Becton Dickinson.
Eliana Pintor-Marin and Paul Sarlo
As heads of the budget committees in their respective chambers, Assemblywoman Pintor-Marin, D-29th District and Senator Sarlo, D-36th District, both have a hold on the state’s purse strings. They will each play a vital role in approving Gov. Phil Murphy’s spending priorities from the 2020 budget, and future budgets as long as they hold their positions. The spending plans, before they make it to the floors of the Assembly and Senate and ultimately to Murphy’s desk, must pass through these two committees. Members of the administration will have to make their first cases before these two lawmakers.
Despite Platkin’s name coming up in the Katie Brennan sexual assault scandal and his hours of testimony before a legislative panel in January, the governor’s chief counsel has remained relatively unscathed. Platkin wields considerable influence within Murphy’s circle, and he seems to enjoy a relatively easy rapport with the governor. Given the relationship between former-Gov. Chris Christie and then-chief counsel Jeff Chiesa – and the influence he amassed – that might not come as a surprise. Nowadays, not a single piece of legislation will be signed or vetoed without Platkin’s input, and that extends even to a variety of the governor’s nominations.
Reddy is senior vice president of Diversity, Inclusion & Impact at Prudential Financial and chair and President of The Prudential Foundation. In these roles, Reddy harnesses the power of capital markets to drive financial and social mobility. By combining diversity strategies, impact investments, philanthropy, corporate contributions and employee engagement with Prudential’s full business capabilities, she helps position the company to promote economic opportunity and sustainable growth. Under Reddy’s leadership, Prudential is building an impact investment portfolio with the goal of $1 billion in assets under management by 2020. Additionally, she oversees a yearly grantmaking budget of $40 million through The Prudential Foundation, and a $22 million corporate contributions budget. Reddy originally joined Prudential in 1997. She left in 2008 to launch a consulting practice and returned to the company in her current role in 2012. Before joining Prudential, she was a civil rights attorney with the U.S. Department of Education.
The Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey will see big changes at the top with the announced retirement of Debra DiLorenzo as president. Renna will take over on Jan. 1 2020 and will call upon the experience she gained during two stints with the chamber, most recently as senior vice president, and her time working in the Governor’s Office under Chris Christie. She serves on the advisory board of the Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Camden and on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton. South Jersey may not be as industrialized as the north, but it is home to some of the state’s most iconic corporate names and important industries. Renna will be their voice, which she exercised earlier this year in testimony against the mandatory severance bill. The measure would hit struggling businesses the hardest, she noted. “What’s going to happen then is that employers are going to move to bankruptcy court, and then the severance is going to be dissipated anyway,” Renna said. “So what incentive do employers have to give advanced notice?”
This year, Rodriguez celebrates his 20th anniversary at business services provider ADP. He’s led the company since and the Harvard MBA is a member of the Business Roundtable and Economic Club of New York. Many New Jerseyans might recognize Rodriguez from his frequent television appearances. Any they might know ADP as the company that prepares their paychecks. He also gained some notoriety last year with the admission that any benefits ADP received from the 2017 tax law would flow to its shareholders and that his employees’ own paychecks would likely not include the bonuses many companies were handing out. In a statement issued after his remarks became public, Rodriguez insisted that ADP follows a “pay for performance approach that directly links bonuses and merit increases to our performance, not one-time events.” Refreshing candor, at least.
Saker’s 31 grocery stores employ more than 9,000 people and feed many more. He’s a fourth generation grocer and second gen Wakefern Food Corp. member, along with the next generation of the New Jersey Food Council, a powerful lobbying organization for the retail food industry. Saker chairs the NYFC, which his father started half a century ago with other grocers who recognized the need for a unified voice in Trenton. Now, Saker’s ShopRite empire is worth $1.96 billion.
Dan Schwartz has been at the helm of Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi since 2016, and has been a player at the firm since 1983. Schwartz is the driving force behind CSG’s stockpiling of former federal prosecutors, with Danielle Corcione and Erik Sandstedt coming on since this time last year. Firm revenue and attorney count grew 3 percent and 5 percent respectively over the last year, and in the last year, he’s overseen the development of immigration, alternative capital, and qualified opportunity zone groups.
Sebastian became CEO of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, a corporation of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, after 15 years leading research at NJIT, during which time the R&D enterprise grew to over $110 million. That figure was good enough to place NJIT fifth among all polytechnic universities in the country and fourth among all universities in patent productivity. The NJII is providing government grant-funded research to local companies to help improve operations. As an example, it provided a detailed report from Fraunhofer MarketExplorer, a German provider of affordable applied research that small- and medium-sized firms could not otherwise afford. The NJII is assisting 140 New Jersey companies in this capacity.
As the CEO of New Jersey Business & Industry Association, Siekerka undoubtedly knew that the $15 minimum wage law would be a top concern for the group’s 20,000-strong membership, which is dominated by small businesses. And, in fact, Siekerka’s was a persistent – if unsuccessful – opponent of the bill. With the law enactment, the NJBIA’s attention turned to seeking changes and helping its members cope with the new requirements, as well as the paid leave law that is also now in effect. But the group also pays attention to the big picture, recently issuing a report on New Jersey’s approaching “financial cliff” showing that state expenditures have outstripped revenue for the past 10 years, exploding the state debt by 382 percent. “As the interest on state debt continues to grow, pressure builds on the state budget, forcing the governor and Legislature to consider tax increases to fund priorities such as education, transportation, infrastructure and other state services,” Siekerka said in a statement accompanying the report’s release. Studies like that, and daily news bulletins, keep the NJBIA at the forefront of the conversation about where the state’s economy is headed.
Nancy Erika Smith
Smith has spent the last 30 years fighting and winning employment law cases, including Gretchen Carlson’s grab-’em-by-the-headlines sexual harassment case against Fox News and Roger Ailes, which settled for $20 million. Her reach goes far beyond New Jersey. She’s currently representing Meredith Watson, who has accused Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, and has appeared on virtually every national news network discussing high-profile sexual harassment and assault cases. Back home in New Jersey, she keeps employers in line. As long as the #MeToo era continues, Smith’s power remains.
Sommer is the CEO of Awsom Associates and an adviser and confidante to anyone who matters in Democratic politics in this state. Among the luminaries in this contact list are South Jersey boss George Norcross, Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop and White House adviser Jared Kushner. He previously served as president of Rock Entertainment Group; president of Observer Media Group, oversaw business operations for such properties as The New York Observer and PolitickerNJ; and was a partner and executive vice president of national PR firm MWW. Sommer now runs his own communications, government relations and public affairs firm and lectures at the Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, where in 2011 he was awarded Alum of the Year.
As president and CEO of American Water, Susan Story helped direct the company to a new headquarters in Camden, bringing more than 600 jobs. American Water moved to the Camden Waterfront in December 2018, consolidating operations from four former properties in southern New Jersey. Story recognized Camden residents who worked on the construction of the building and who work for American Water, thanking stakeholders for helping make Camden a city on the rise. Story leads American Water’s 7,100 employees who provide service to more than 15 million customers in 46 states and Ontario, Canada. The company is also active in philanthropy. Since 2011 American Water has given a total of $5 million to Camden nonprofit organizations including St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, Cathedral Kitchen, LUCY Outreach, Hopeworks, UrbanPromise, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House and Boys & Girls Club of Camden County.
In 2011 Tardugno, who is president and CEO of Celsion Corp., relocated the biopharmaceutical company to Lawrenceville from Maryland. He was looking to develop and commercialize life-saving chemotherapy and immunotherapy agents where he could recruit the best talent. Earlier this year Celsion received $10.6 million via the State’s Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer Program from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the Department of Treasury’s Division of Taxation. Celsion is developing products targeting liver and ovarian cancer. With 40 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, Tardugno’s career has been devoted to healthcare. Before joining Celsion, he held senior executive positions with Mylan Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bausch & Lomb and Abbott Laboratories.
Bob Unanue and Peter Unanue
Bob and Peter Unanue have shown their commitment to New Jersey repeatedly over the years, including their decision to pick Jersey City over places in New York and Pennsylvania when they expanded Goya’s headquarters earlier this decade. Their generous sponsorships keep many New Jersey non-profits afloat, including the Girl and Boy Scouts of New Jersey, the NJ All Star Project, and NJPAC; Goya also donates 100,000 pounds of food each month to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. With $1.5 billion in sales, and 4,000 employees and 26 facilities worldwide, it’s the biggest Hispanic-owned food company in the country and one of the biggest private companies in New Jersey.
The executive director of Fair Share Housing Authority. Walsh and FSHA continue to play a large role in how residential development takes place in the state. Simply put, no affordable housing settlement is being undertaken without the FSHA having a say. In a broader sense, both FSHA and Walsh could play a role in the retention and growth of the state’s working economy. As such, Walsh and Fair Share Housing Authority hold significant sway in the future of New Jersey. Under Walsh’s direction the FSHA has 275 settlements with municipalities regarding their affordable housing obligations throughout the state. 65 towns to go. That’s record progress four years after the New Jersey Supreme Court’s March 2015 decision. This will result in tens of thousands of new homes throughout the state and especially close to transit, and will help New Jerseyans who struggle with high housing prices and help our state with economic competitiveness as employers look for places where their employees can afford to live.
Lowenstein Sandler saw impressive growth from 2017 to 2018, with profits per partner increasing 17.9 percent, as reported by the New Jersey Law Journal. Revenue jumped over 14 percent. Wingens has been a stalwart at the firm for more than three decades, and at the helm for a little more than one. Under Wingens, Lowenstein continues to attract big names, like former state attorneys general Chris Porrino and Anne Milgram.
Zangari is the go-to guy when it comes to advising clients on how to invest in Opportunity Zones. The member of Sills, Cummis & Gross, who chairs the firm’s real estate department along with its government relations and public policy and redevelopment law practices, is often interviewed for articles and tapped for speaking engagements on the subject. He steers a team on large-scale mixed use projects including land assemblage, redeveloper designations and agreements, tax increment financing and other public incentives, environmental remediation, commercial condominiumization and construction contracts.
The chairman of the Gateway Development Program Corp., Zaro has been making the case for federal funding of the estimated $20 billion bridge and tunnel infrastructure project. The project features the replacement of the 108-year-old Hudson River rail tunnels that connect New Jersey with Manhattan and the Portal Bridge. The bridges and tunnels carry nearly 200,000 commuters each day and are plagued by delays. A collapse of the system would jeopardize 20 percent of the nation’s economy. The project to create the new tunnels and bridges would produce 12,000 new jobs and generate $19 billion in economic activity, Zaro argues. But he has cautioned that the project is being held hostage, calling it “a national disaster happening in slow motion.” Part of Zaro’s job is to stop that disaster.
More from the 2019 NJBIZ Power 100:
- No. 1: Phil Murphy
- No. 2: Stephen Sweeney and Craig Coughlin
- No. 3: Brian Gragnolati
- No. 4: Cory Booker
- No. 5: George Norcross
- No. 6: Sheila Oliver
- No. 7: Kevin Conlin
- No. 8: Ras Baraka
- No. 9: Tim Sullivan
- No. 10: Andrew Kim, Tom Malinowski, Mikie Sherrill, Jeff Van Drew
- Power 100: A – F
- Power 100: G – M