Anderson is the president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority — the first and only African-American woman in the nation to lead an independent redevelopment financing agency, and thanks to her effectiveness she has been reappointed to this position by four consecutive governors. Since Anderson took over more than a decade ago, the authority has leveraged nearly $4 billion in new investments – including about $500 million in direct investments – in some of the state’s most economically distressed communities. That funding has been vital to redevelopment efforts around New Jersey, with the authority claiming credit for 15,000 new housing units and more than 10 million square feet of commercial and retail space. And the authority is now poised to play a significant role in the Opportunity Zone program. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NJRA created the Small Business Lease-Emergency Assistance Grant Program to provide commercial rent-relief grants of up to $10,000 to the small businesses that have been hardest hit by the health and economic crisis. The program, funded by the CARES Act, was fully subscribed in under 30 minutes. Not only were 90% of the applicants minority business owners, but nearly 70% had not received any other form of relief, including CARES Act funding
The mayor of Newark continues the work of turning the state’s largest city back into a showcase. Before the pandemic, all it took was a walk through the University Heights section to see that much of Baraka’s efforts are paying off. The street life was vibrant, even during the summer when most students from the big educational institutions were away. Over the years, the mayor has joined with corporate stakeholders and institutions, such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology, on efforts that will capitalize on the 26 miles of dark fiber running beneath the city’s main corridors. He managed the crisis over lead in the city’s water lines. And he has been out front as the face of the city’s response to the pandemic. “For a guy who was seen as a super-radical, the fact that Newark continues to grow” reflects well on his abilities, one longtime Newark-watcher said. But has the city’s relationship with its citizens improved? Perhaps. One measure came in a report finding that no city police officer fired his or her weapon last year. “The fact that Newark police didn’t fire a shot in 2020 … shows that Baraka is doing something right,” the observer said. “Especially when you consider the Black Lives Matter movement and the riots elsewhere, Newark stayed calm.”
It’s hard to name a greater champion of Newark’s comeback than Berson, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who seems to be in the contact list of every important Brick City community leader and politician. Berson’s company — Fidelco Group — developed, owns or manages many key properties in Newark and in the past year, has purchased the 130-unit residential Summit Court Complex in Union, broken ground on the FreezPak facility on the Elizabeth/Newark line, and begun renovations of 18-story former First Fidelity bank building at 550 Broad Street in Newark. But his commitment to Newark — he was born at Newark Beth Israel Hospital and earned a law degree at Rutgers — and influence extends beyond buildings. In the 1990s, Berson was among the visionaries who launched the city’s anchor cultural institution, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and he has been a member of its executive board from the beginning. He later teamed up with Rutgers to build its Business School. In addition, after a 19-year tenure as chair of the Newark Beth Israel Hospital board, Berson now chairs the board of its parent, RWJ Barnabas Health, one of the state’s largest health care systems. Berson was named 2020 New Jersey Hospital Association Trustee of the Year.
As president of a major anchor institution in the state’s largest city, Bloom has been head of New Jersey Institute of Technology, an institute that’s tried to empower unrepresented, first-generation lower-income, typically minority New Jerseyans – especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Bloom himself has been intimately involved in the STEM field for years. “Every company today is a technology company,” Bloom said last year. “You want a job that pays well. STEM is difficult and takes a lot of hard work.” For this reason, Bloom has made it his mission to bring tech knowhow to students and community members, particularly those in underrepresented and lower-income communities. The New Jersey Institute of Technology president is also on the newly revived New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology, which is reviewing grant applications to dole out $550,000 of direct financial assistance to life science and technology start-ups. Priority is also given to first-time applicants, women- and minority-owned businesses, and businesses based in one of the 715 neighborhoods that qualified as opportunity zones. His contract with the university is slated to end on June 30, where he continues to lead 11,000+ undergraduate and graduate students with all the budgetary issues that come with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 election did not end with New Jersey’s junior senator in the White House, but it did increase his importance. First, his campaign for the presidential nomination was, while unsuccessful, well-received. He drew large, enthusiastic crowds in early primary states and cemented his reputation as a gifted orator. Booker’s performance on the stump surely elevated his national profile — and reflected well on his home state and the city he once led as mayor. But what about the election? Booker didn’t win, but his party did. Joe Biden is president and Democrats control both houses of Congress. That meant newly powerful people needed talented staff members, and they often looked to Booker’s office in hiring. The senator’s former chief of staff joined the White House staff as director of legislative affairs, his former legislative director is her deputy. And the national press secretary for Booker’s campaign now serves on Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications team. That kind of record means Booker will be able to attract even more exceptional staffers. As one political insider put it: “Booker’s a guy you want to work for, not just because he’s a nice guy, but because he clearly has an ability to find talent.”
The president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce presides over the annual Walk to Washington, perhaps the state’s leading event for business leaders, politicians, economic development officials, lobbyists and journalists. Were it not for the current pandemic, you might be reading this edition from the privately chartered Amtrak train or the morning after at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in D.C. Amid the COVID-19 business closures and intense restrictions, figures like Bracken, a 40-year veteran of the banking and financial services industry, are key advocates for the needs of businesses now struggling to stay afloat. And he is a respected voice for business in the state, with years of experience navigating the Trenton labyrinth. His courtly manner should be an asset going forward. He’ll be an influential voice for business as the community navigates a post-COVID economy. Under a Biden administration, Bracken said in January, “the tone will be calmer” for businesses. And that means predictability and the kind of “normal atmosphere” that businesses need to thrive.
Blistan is head of the New Jersey Education Association, a union that represents 200,000 public school employees and a major donor to the campaigns of Gov. Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Not surprisingly, Murphy for years opposed Senate President Steve Sweeney’s proposed public worker retirement and health care cuts, which would affect the NJEA’s members. Of course 2020 changed everything. Last year Blistan, Sweeney, Murphy and Coughlin came together on major changes to the NJEA health care plans which they contend could save hundreds of millions of dollars for state and local governments, and for teachers themselves. Now as the COVID-19 vaccine efforts ramp up, Blistan has been a key voice for putting teachers at the front of the line for getting the shots. Blistan and teachers’ advocates across the nation argue that inoculations represent an important step toward reopening schools and taking the pressure off parents who have to balance staying at home with a full-time job or running a business while supervising remote-learning.
Manufacturing still happens in Newark and a lot of it goes on at Unionwear, a 170-employee company run by Cahn. Unionwear makes uniforms, hats and other promotional clothing. And during the pandemic, the company was one of many that pivoted to providing personal protective equipment when its regular suppliers and customers were disrupted. In better times, Unionwear’s Made in America pedigree means it is the go-to source for political candidates who cannot, under any circumstances, be caught wearing or hawking anything marked Made in Some Other Country. The company was also in position to benefit from global trade disputes as customers sought local sources for necessary apparel. And that means the business and insight of figures like Cahn will be key for helping to bolster the state’s economy coming out of the COVID-19 recession. “We’ve been getting a lot of interest, and a number of orders, from fashion companies that want to diversify their suppliers,” Cahn told NJBIZ last year. “Also, when prices on imported materials go up because of increased tariffs, the premium pricing for ‘Made in the USA’ is thinner. That makes it even more attractive for companies that want to use that angle in their marketing efforts.” In all, a strong recovery for a company that emerged from a pension related bankruptcy case two years ago.
The former state Assemblyman is the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination to try and unseat Murphy come the November election. That field was more crowded at the start of the year. But in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots, former GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt, an avid supporter of then-President Donald Trump, dropped out of the race. Steinhardt had been critical of Ciattarelli for either stepping out of line with Trump, and noted his anti-Trump sentiments in 2015 when his Republican presidential nomination was still far from certain. But Ciattarelli will still have to appeal to that base for the primary in June, at a time when Trump still wields considerable influence over the national Republican establishment. And by extension, Ciattarelli will have the chance to tap into the frustration that many New Jerseyans harbor toward Murphy’s business restrictions and other COVID-19 mandates meant to slow the spread of the virus.
Campbell Soup Co. completed its beefy divestiture plans in December 2019 with the close of its $2.2 billion Arnott’s biscuit business sale. Clouse took the reins at Campbell a year prior, months after the formulation of its strategic plan to focus on core U.S. business and the departure of former CEO Denise Morrison. With the divestitures out of the way and helping to pay off debt, the year ahead looked bright — and it was, in some ways. Like many large consumer packaged goods companies, Campbell posted a year-over-year increase in sales of nearly 8% from 2019 to 2020 as the pandemic kept most folks cooking at home. As a “thank you” to Campbell’s frontline workers, Clouse announced in March that more than 11,000 employees would receive increased pay. The program lasted for the 18 weeks leading up to the end of fiscal year 2020 and, according to a company spokesperson, was one of the longest in the food industry. Beyond the factories, Campbell has provided $8 million in food and financial support for communities around the country since the onset of the pandemic.
Never have supermarkets received more collective community respect than they did during the period after March 2020 and Wakefern CEO and Chairman Colalillo is about as big as they get in the grocery universe. Wakefern Food Corp. is the biggest family-owned co-op in the country, with around 350 locations controlled by more than 50 families, some of whom originally united in 1946. Colalillo has held his post for 16 years, and is the second generation of his family to be involved with the co-op. In 2020, third-generation family grocery Madison Food Corp. joined the organization in November, and overall, the health crisis fueled a nearly 10% year-over-year sales increase for the co-op’s fiscal year at $18.3 billion with consumers ordering groceries online and cooking from home. Along with a focus on keeping shelves stocked, the co-op spent the last year continuing the rollout of owned brands Bowl & Basket and Paperbird, expanding its “free from” and organic owned-brand Wholesome Pantry and launching its Fresh to Table meal solutions pilot program. Moving forward, Wakefern locations will have an important role in ending the pandemic as its ShopRite banner has begun vaccinating people with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Cole is leaving Montclair State University in July, but she’s also leaving her mark. During her 23 years at the helm of New Jersey’s second-largest university, Montclair State created four new schools and colleges, including the School of Communication and Media, the John J. Cali School of Music, University College, and the School of Nursing. She’s known for her focus on the affordability of New Jersey colleges and on science/technology/engineering/arts/mathematics education (STEAM), and she wants to see more equitable allocation of funding to New Jersey’s public universities—the fourth most expensive in the country, as recently as 2018—and a more rational system of distribution.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the state’s oldest and largest health insurer, with 5,600 employees and 3.8 million members. The company controls about half of the health insurance market in New Jersey and, for good or ill, can shape the health care industry in the state. Conlin serves as chairman of the board and has more than 35 years of executive management experience in health care, with a concentration in hospital systems, provider management, and managed-care business. He was the architect of the company’s value-based health care strategy that is focused on transforming health care in the state to improve quality and the patient experience, and lower costs. In 2019, the company was the sole recipient of a competitively bid State Health Benefits contract to administer the benefits for 600,000 public employees — a huge win. As Executive Chairman, Conlin continues to focus on key areas of strategic transformation, including Horizon BCBSNJ’s planned corporate form transition that will increase the company’s investment in New Jersey’s health care economy. Before being named executive chairman, he was the company’s chairman, president and CEO and several other executive positions, ensuring the implementation of company-wide strategy and driving operational excellence throughout the organization.
Kevin Corbett is President and CEO of NJ Transit, an agency plagued by declining ridership and revenue due to COVID-19. If the pandemic could be said to have produced a silver lining, it’s that the reduction in service and passengers allowed the agency to complete projects and repairs, and meet the Dec. 31, 2020 federal requirements for the installation of Positive Train Control — a complex project that involved some “come from behind” coordination and cooperation with numerous stakeholders to reach the finish line with time to spare. But now Corbett must improve service. The executive who manages to reduce cancellations, delays and overcrowding will be a genuine Garden State hero. The first steps: graduating new classes of engineers to remedy chronic staffing shortages.
The sometimes mild-mannered Assembly Speaker has often been seen as a negotiator between the governor and Senate President Steve Sweeney. Coughlin is one of the first Central Jersey-based power players in recent memory. “They’re now fully on board with each other,” said one insider, thanks to the pandemic, and their upcoming election campaigns. Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin have struck deals on teacher’s health care reform, a millionaire’s tax, $4 billion of borrowing to smooth over the pandemic’s impact on the state budget, and the controversial $14.5 billion tax incentive package. Still, Coughlin’s campaign has gotten financial backing from the New Jersey Education Association, whose members are affected by any changes to the school employee health and retirement plans. That hasn’t gone unnoticed. Coughlin was largely credited with helping to usher in a deal on the millionaire’s tax, and in prior years a $15 minimum wage. And soon, debates will start over the next state budget. “[T]hat’s a one-third, one-third, one-third kind of a deal, the speaker and the Senate president, when it comes to how the money gets spent, they’re pretty influential,” said one insider.
Megan Coyne and Pearl Gabel
The growth of the official New Jersey Twitter account might be one of the few enjoyable developments of 2020 — even though the viral “your mom” tweet was posted near the end of 2019. Coyne and Gabel have been widely recognized as the brains behind the account. What’s undeniable is the role of social media in today’s public discourse, and that’s been shown to be a much more effective way of communicating with the public at large than with press conferences and news coverage. The Twitter account now boasts a profile picture of Baby Yoda (another popular internet meme) holding an outline of New Jersey. And any viral craze finds its way onto the account, with a nod to Murphy’s policy priorities, or to promote public health practices meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Gabel is leaving her post at the governor’s office for a gig with the influential public relations firm Kivvit. But social media outreach has extended far beyond what comes out of the state’s Twitter account. Many New Jersey-based TikTok and Instagram influencers have posted photos, videos and other content in partnership with the non-profit Choose New Jersey, where they promote mask-usage, social distancing and encourage their viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Investors Bank, where Cummings is chairman and CEO reported total assets of $26.02 billion as of September 2020. Total net loans for the same time totaled $20.5 billion and total deposits were $19.53 billion. Cummings would say those impressive numbers were produced by his entire staff and he would endorse a statement by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” And that team continues to grow. Under Cummings’ leadership, Investors signed a definitive purchase agreement to acquire the eight New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania branches of Berkshire Bank, the wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc., with approximately $639 million of deposits and $308 million of consumer and commercial loans. The acquisition adds approximately 8,000 new retail and commercial customers and nearly doubles Investors’ market share in the Trenton Metropolitan Statistical Area. During the COVID-19 pandemic Investors arranged more $328 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses which helped save 35,000 jobs and secured $39 million in PPP loans for not-for-profit organizations.
DeCotiis is a co-managing partner of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, a politically connected firm whose roster includes Hunterdon County Democratic Committee Chair Arlene Quinones Perez and DeCotiis himself, a founding member of President Joe Biden’s New Jersey Lawyers for Joe, with the goal of promoting policy initiatives, along with vetting, corporate due diligence, and legal research. He’s got strong ties to state government as general counsel to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and to Bergen Community College. At the NJTA, he provides advice on the consolidation of the New Jersey Highway Authority with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the refinancing of more than $2 billion of debt; and provides counsel regarding ongoing roadway projects on the Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. He advises BCC on procurement and governance issues, as well as on disciplinary actions.
DeVeaux was elected president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association earlier this year, though he’s played a big role in the organization since it was just discussions around a coffee table with colleagues at public affairs outfit Burton Trent. Now, he gets to do something longtime president Scott Rudder couldn’t: represent members of a legal adult-use industry. “The new era [of NJCBA] is focused on the chamber of commerce identity,” DeVeaux told NJBIZ after taking his new post. “People still questioned if it would be legitimate business, and here we are – the voters of the state said this is a legitimate industry, now we no longer have to fight that fight. Now we get to say ‘we’re the cannabis chamber of commerce, we’re proud in having the forethought to have membership so broad, to actually represent the various natures of the industry.’”
Dunican continues to lead one of the state’s largest and most well-connected law firms along with overseeing the state’s number one lawyer-lobbying practice for the 12th year in a row, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. The lobbying practice itself reported year-over-year increases in revenue and client count; and in November, Gibbons was selected as a top-three law firm and a top-three lobbying firm in the state for the fourth year in a row in the NJBIZ Reader Rankings, the only firm in the state to achieve these dual distinctions every year the rankings have been published. While figuring out how to run his own firm under COVID parameters — which he did, thanks to comprehensive emergency planning he implemented long ago — Dunican also conceived the firm’s client alert series, “The Coronavirus Pandemic and Your Business: How We Can Help,” which has provided ongoing communications on evolving pandemic-related legal and business issues. At the height of the pandemic, that was up to four alerts a day.
As a 33-year veteran of FirstEnergy, Fakult has served in myriad roles at the company, ranging from operations to communications before making the leap to president of FirstEnergy’s Maryland subsidiary, a position he held for three years. After taking over as president and CEO of Jersey Central Power & Light – another FirstEnergy subsidiary – where he continues to serve today. Fakult knows how important the infrastructure of JCP&L’s lines is to keeping its 1.1 million customers with power. In the last 18 months, the JCP&L Reliability Plus Infrastructure Investment Program built on service reliability enhancements made by JCP&L in previous years through its annual base capital investments. Projects were completed between June 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020. “We have taken great care to ensure that JCP&L Reliability Plus focuses on the enhancements that have the most reliability benefit for our more than one million New Jersey customers,” Fakult said. “These projects will help to reduce the frequency of power outages, mitigate potential tree damage during severe weather events, and modernize our electric grid to provide more flexibility and resiliency for the electrical system in New Jersey.”
Florio has occupied a central place in New Jersey politics dating back to his early days as a novice Republican sitting on the Somerville Borough Council. As managing partner at the lobbying firm Princeton Public Affairs Group, Florio brings nearly 30 years of governmental affairs expertise to his clientele. The firm has consistently scored at least $9 million in receipts year after year, and has been the lobbyist of choice for such giants as AllState Insurance Co., Google, AT&T Solutions, BioNJ, BP America, Inc. and Ernst & Young LLP. One Trenton insider called him a “force to be reckoned with” and a “go-to lobbyist” in New Jersey politics. “There are so many things that are active that aren’t necessarily in the news, and he’s in the middle of [them].” Florio enjoys a rapport with GOP gubernatorial candidate former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Trenton insiders will watch the relationship between these two Somerset County Republicans as the race heats up to unseat Murphy.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier will retire and will be succeeded by Chief Financial Officer Robert Davis later this year. But Frazier, 66 will continue to serve on Merck’s board as executive chairman “for a transition period to be determined by the board,” the company said. He is one of the few Black corporate leaders in the United States, and his departure in June will leave only three Black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. Frazier has led the pharmaceuticals giant for 10 years and worked there for 30. He began his tenure with the company serving as general counsel and was key to its success in several big cases before being appointed CEO in 2011. While Merck announced it would end its development of two COVID-19 vaccines to focus on treatments, under Frazier’s leadership, it has become the top, go-to manufacturer of cancer immunotherapy drugs with its Keytruda surpassing Bristol Myers Squibb’s comparable drug. It is also known for its Gardasil vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) and Bridion, which reportedly reverses the effects of neuromuscular blocking drugs.
Jersey City has a lot going for it. A waterfront location with fast, one-seat access to Manhattan and, after years of decline, the city is now a hot residential destination, with residential towers along the Hudson drawing critical raves and throngs of residents. Those throngs brought acclaimed and trendy restaurants and other nightspots. So Fulop should be in a strong position as he runs for yet another term as mayor. And, indeed, he is a political force in Hudson County — a place known for its bare-knuckled competitiveness. “For someone who is not a team player when it comes to politics, he has built an unbeatable coalition,” one insider said. “He’s certainly learned how to play the game, so well that he might be running unopposed and sweep to his third term.”
Carley Graham Garcia
As the executive director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Montclair State University, Garcia succeeded Dennis Bone, the center’s founding director, who retired after serving in that role for six years until September 2019. Garcia spent 12 years at Google, most recently as head of external affairs, responsible for public policy, government relations and community engagement for the New York City region, including New Jersey. Garcia is prioritizing developing a new strategic plan, increasing investments in women’s entrepreneurship week, attracting businesses to Montclair State and creating an innovation hub. That work continued and even expanded during the pandemic — a time when entrepreneurs and small businesses needed all the help they could get.
Before the global pandemic put holds, and then caps, on anything and everything related to convening indoors, Ghermezian had high hopes for American Dream’s annual attendance—40 million people high. Not quite possible with international travel restrictions and standing capacity limits. At long last, however, the retail offerings at the megamall opened up a few months ago alongside attractions like a skating rink, two themed mini golf courses, and the DreamWorks Waterpark. A spokesperson for the Big SNOW indoor ski hill told NJBIZ that attendance has been stronger than expected, and at capacity during most of the winter; and a spokesperson for American Dream provided similar statistics for the facility’s other attractions. While a recent capacity boost from 25% to 35% is a small gain for many Main Street restaurants, attractions typically suited for thousands of people at once feel the boost more strongly. As before, Ghermezian is reportedly involved in every decision at American Dream and, bit by bit — more openings are expected in the coming weeks–his dream is becoming a dream realized.
Giantomasi serves as redevelopment counsel to many of the Newark-Elizabeth corridor’s most notable projects, including the Westinghouse and NJPAC redevelopments. So, too, are his fingerprints on an ever-growing list of large-scale projects outside of Essex County, including the MOTBY site in Bayonne, the North Jersey Developmental Center site in Totowa and much of the transit-oriented development taking place in Morristown. Giantomasi chairs the board of trustees at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, and drawing from his real estate practice at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi, he served as one of the minds behind Newark Beth’s $125M renovation project, which when finished will change the face of the medical center and the landscape on Lyons Avenue.
Col. Bridget Gigliotti
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst continues to be one of South Jersey’s “economic lodestars,” as one business leader in the region puts it. The other two — the cities of Camden and Atlantic City — are more politically controversial. And JBMDL is the only joint base in the country that houses three branches of the armed services, a function of its components: the installations formerly known as McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix and the Lakehurst Naval Air Station. A 1997 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Col. Gigliotti has took over as commander at MDL in July 2019. In that role, she oversees a facility that occupies more than 42,000 acres in the Pinelands. And with more than 40,000 workers, JBMDL is also the second-largest employer in New Jersey after the state government. At a time of record unemployment, the base is playing an even greater role in the region’s economy. And it was in line for a significant chunk of stimulus spending from the most recent bill coming out of Washington.
Glover joined Audible’s Global Center for Urban Development in October 2020 as vice president of urban innovation—leading a center devoted to expanding the company’s community and economic initiatives. She is one of the most respected economic impact executives and urban development leaders in the country. At Audible, she will help establish the strategic direction of the center and will lead a team dedicated to advancing equitable economic development solutions in cities worldwide. “Aisha Glover’s commitment to and success in improving the lives of the people of Newark makes her uniquely suited to help carry out the vision of our Global Center for Urban Development,” Audible founder and Executive Chairman Don Katz said. “Aisha’s experience bringing together public, private and community-based organizations to create and sustain equitable economic development will be critical as we double down on our efforts on behalf of the city we call home, and other communities in which Audible operates.
Goldberg is the founder and managing member of Canoe Brook Associates, a family-owned real estate consulting and development company in Roseland. The firm is comprised of the former founding partners of Roseland Property Co. Since the inception of Roseland, Goldberg has been responsible for securing the entitlements for the development of communities throughout the northeast with a special emphasis on urban waterfront development. He has directed Roseland’s production of more than 1,500 homes annually and oversaw the firm’s flagship endeavor, Port Imperial. Goldberg has a long history of political and industry-wide activism in New Jersey, with relationships with leaders throughout the state. He currently serves as chairman of the New Jersey Builders Association Political Action Committee and as co-chair of the Center for Real Estate Studies at Rutgers Business School. In the sharp-elbowed New Jersey real estate community Goldberg is recognized for his low-key approach — but his success suggests that he’s no pushover.
As president and CEO of Atlantic Health System and a recognized voice in the national health care conversation, Gragnolati is one of the most influential executives in the state. And he has used that influence to become one of the faces of New Jersey’s response to the pandemic, with regular media appearance during which he speaks calmly and authoritatively about the latest developments and what the future might hold. An interview with NJBIZ as the second wave took hold last fall was a good example of Gragnolati’s approach. “The increase has been particularly concerning … where we have seen in some instances between seven and 10% increases per day and those numbers are consistent with what you see in the state,” he said. At the same time “our modeling shows us that we’re not going to hit the levels that we hit back in April, in terms of hospitalizations and that’s because of, one, better access to testing that we have, and two, we’ve got kind of a different cohort of patients that we are seeing get the virus.” In fact, despite alarm over how the second wave would play out, Gragnolati saw the future clearly. As the second wave slows, his views seem prescient.
As attorney general, Grewal is the state’s chief law enforcement officer. In his role, Grewal oversees a department that boasts dozens of offices, boards and commissions regulating practically every industry and profession in the state, ranging from medicine and dentistry to pharmacy, gambling and accounting. The casino and sports-betting industry, bolstered by a shift to online gaming, answers to an arm of the attorney general’s office. Tens of thousands of businesses are kept in check by the Division of Consumer Affairs. Bars and restaurants that sell liquor answer to the strict liquor laws set out by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. With the public health restrictions on businesses and many employers willing to flout them, it’s Grewal’s sprawling department that names and shames them. Early in his tenure, he spoke out against many of the Trump administration’s executive actions, filing legal challenges against national policies he saw as unfair. Now, with a White House aligned with the policy priorities held by the Murphy administration, Grewal will have allies in Washington.
Marilou Halvorsen and Linda Doherty
What Halvorsen has been to restaurants, Doherty is to food retailers: a staunch advocate, a Trenton stalwart, a steady voice. Both women have been at the helm of their respective organizations—the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association and the New Jersey Food Council—for several years. Halvorsen is leaving the NJRHA for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, where she’ll be the Vice President of State Relations and Government Affairs. There, she’s the liaison between the national organization and all the states, advising local government affairs. She will, of course, keep her eyes on Jersey—after all, she’s a native, and knows it better than any others. Doherty, whose focus will stay solely on New Jersey at the New Jersey Food Council, will continue to do what she’s done for nearly three decades: keeping the state’s food retailers and businesses — some of whom are represented on this list — abreast of legislative changes that affect them and advocating on their behalf, including recently to remove grocery stores from a bill recently passed by the Senate Health Committee that prohibits the sale of tobacco and e-tobacco products in pharmacies and businesses with on-site pharmacies.
As founder and chairman of the Hampshire Cos., along with more than 60 years of real estate investment experience, Hanson is one of the most well-known developers in the state.
Hampshire is now one of the nation’s leading privately held, fully integrated real estate firms and real estate investment fund managers with over $2.4 billion in assets currently under management and a development pipeline throughout the East Coast across the multifamily, self-storage, industrial, and retail sectors exceeding $1.2 billion. Under the Bergen County native’s leadership, two of New Jersey’s largest developments, American Dream Mall and Atlantic City Gateway Redevelopment project came to fruition. And Hampshire is involved much more around the state. Hanson also oversaw the creation of the Atlantic City Development Co., which has brought significant non-gambling development projects to Atlantic City. Most notable of these is the $220 million Gateway project that expanded Stockton University and built a new headquarters for South Jersey Gas Co. Most recently, Hampshire has partnered with the Claremont Cos. and New Jersey City University on the University Place project in Jersey City. The ambitious project is reinventing the city’s West Side neighborhood through the development of over 1,000 residential units, 100,000 square feet of retail space, a state-of-the-art performing arts center, and a variety of community spaces.
Hart is the founding president and CEO of BioNJ, the 400-member trade association for research-based life sciences companies in New Jersey. Given the size of the industry it would be hard to overstate its importance to the state’s economy. And with the outbreak of COVID-19, BioNJ’s members were thrust to the forefront of the effort to contain a vast public health emergency. By most accounts, including Hart’s — perhaps not surprisingly — the companies have acquitted themselves well. “The industry has really stepped up to address a disease that we didn’t even know existed just a couple of months ago,” Hart told NJBIZ last summer. “They’ve done all they could to make a difference. And there’s more to come, but we’ve made lots of progress already.”
Helmy is the chief of staff Gov. Phil Murphy, overseeing the aides that take the governor’s policy agenda and put it into action. Those in the know in state politics say Helmy runs a tight ship. He took the job in early 2019, at a time when Murphy’s governorship was riven by politics and laboring with lackluster poll ratings. The governor was in the midst of the Katie Brennan sexual assault scandal, and frequently locked horns with some of the largest Trenton powerplayers: like Senate President Stephen Sweeney and South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross. But Helmy’s arrival from his prior post as state director for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s office has been largely credited as helping to smooth over many of those matters. Over the course of 2020, Murphy has struck deals on the millionaire’s tax, teacher and school employee health plan reforms, and a massive economic incentive package. And his response to the COVID-19 pandemic has made him a national figure. Trenton insiders credit Helmy for driving many of those key milestones, and for a much more amicable relationship with the likes of Sweeney and Norcross. “If you’re a regular participant in the process, you give Helmy a lot of credit for this,” one Trenton insider said.
As chairman and CEO of the Public Service Enterprise Group, Izzo heads the parent company of Public Service Electric & Gas, one of the country’s largest utilities. Since he took over the top job in 2007, he has staked out an unusual position among power executives as a leading advocate of clean energy and conservation. Izzo is a believer in the need for action on climate change, about which, he says, the science is clear about what is happening as well as why it is happening. Since the start of the pandemic Izzo has remained committed to the health, safety and well-being of PSE&G’s customers, employees and the communities it serves. The company immediately announced it would suspend customer shut-offs due to non-payment and said it would assist with payment plans. It also closed its customer service centers and postponed non-essential work in order to limit physical contact between customers and workers. Izzo also spearheaded the The PSEG Foundation’s commitment to providing $2.5 million, including $1 million to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, to support nonprofits that are helping those affected by COVID-19. The company also donated medical equipment, including N95 masks, and gloves to first responders in our service territories.
Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL). She has nearly 30 years of experience as a business strategist with expertise in financial analysis, marketing, and business development. Johnson is an advocate for community businesses and microenterprise, and is a leading authority in the area of minority inclusion in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Johnson is a speaker on topics including: community economic development, business plan development, entrepreneurship, minority and women small business growth, and access to capital. Her leadership will crucial as minority-owned businesses struggle to cope with the COVID-19 fallout.
Katz is the executive chairman of Audible, one of Newark’s most prominent corporate citizens. But Katz’s influence extends further. He is also the founder of Newark Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital firm based in Newark and backed by major New Jersey businesses, which has invested tens of millions of dollars into dozens of technology start-ups. “Everyone loves a comeback story and Newark has a great one, including Newark Venture Partners, which is an internationally acknowledged phenomenon that has exceeded all of my founder expectations,” Katz said in 2020. A revitalization of the state economy, including through the creation or expanding of the technology sector, will be a crucial facet of the state’s economic comeback.
With nearly 40 years of experience, Kemly has been an active and influential figure in banking. He has held several leadership positions including chairman and board member of the New Jersey Bankers Association, board member of the Bankers Cooperative Group, president of the Financial Managers Society for the New York and New Jersey Chapter, and was a member of the OCC Mutual Savings Association Advisory Committee. He now serves as president of Northern New Jersey Community Bankers, as immediate former chairman of the New Jersey Bankers board of directors, as board member of the New Jersey Bankers Charitable Foundation and as board member for the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.
MWWPR Group ranks among the largest Independent public relations firms in the nation and one of the largest independent firms in the world. Kempner has been leading the firm since he founded it in 1986 and continues to expand. But his real influence is a top Democratic fundraiser. His standing was demonstrated early in the Biden administration when he was reinstalled as a director on the corporate board of three federally funded broadcasters. Biden moved quickly to remove appointees at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. His status in the industry was reaffirmed last fall when he was named to the PRWeek Hall of Fame. Kempner is also the chairman of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Fulbright-Canada Scholarship Board and a board member of the New York Coalition for the Homeless.
Like his peers at other top drugmakers, Kendris was forced to battle the pandemic in two ways. First he had to keep his company — he is the CEO of Novartis Corp. in East Hanvoer — operating safely at a high level. Second, he had to make sure his staff continued the work of actually finding treatments for COVID-19. Novartis is a major producer of hydroxychloroquine, which early in the pandemic was thought to be effective in minimizing the symptoms. Novartis donated 130 million doses of the drug to a range of institutions. On his watch the company has also become activity in philanthropy,creating a $20 million global fund to support communities affected by the pandemic. In addition, the Novartis U.S. Foundation committed $25 million to develop partnerships and fund community organizations and programs in the United States that address health inequities, with a focus on diversity in clinical trials. “And we’ve made donations to hospitals in the state of New Jersey,” he told NJBIZ last year, at the height of the first wave. “We supplied the state of New Jersey PPEs—a thousand masks, 10,000 pairs of gloves, 10,000 caps, 1,200 gowns and coveralls. Our PPE is supplied by donations to New Jersey and to other states where requests have been made.”
Kennedy has been on the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since last January. The Fed has been keeping an eye on American households and businesses through the pandemic, confirming an expected surge in debt, with home loans jumping 5% and crossing the $10 trillion threshold for the first time. At Peapack-Gladstone Bank, where Kennedy is president and chief executive, he’s made it his mission to transform the institution and its wealth management division, Peapack Private, into a financial services powerhouse, able to compete at the highest level. The bank has been recognized by American Banker as a “Best Bank to Work For” since 2018, one of only two New Jersey banks on the list.
As the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, which helps manufacturing companies to improve their profitability and competitiveness. With the advent of the pandemic, though, Kennedy’s voice became even more important, as the outbreak revealed vulnerabilities in supply chains in New Jersey and around the country. Tightened restrictions on how many businesses can operate has made for a sluggish recovery. And getting the market back to a semblance of pre-pandemic levels could take years. Kennedy had been raising the alarm for years. Perhaps now more policymakers will start to listen.
If some high profile and not-so-great news about you is out or about to be, Kessler should be your first call. She and her team at Evergreen Partners have spent the last 25-plus years working with clients on reputation control, and making sure you don’t hear her—Kessler’s—name in the process. Evergreen is increasingly engaged by national and regional law firms on behalf of clients facing high-profile litigation or reputational issues, and though it’s in their DNA as a crisis firm to stay mum on most of their clients, they were publicly instrumental in the launch of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, including organizing and supporting the Jersey4Jersey Bruce Springsteen telethon. The firm has also seen an expansion of its international client footprint, from big corporations and to celebrities with 30 million-plus followers. Health systems represent another area of growth for Kessler’s firm, and the business has reportedly grown exponentially during the pandemic.
Because the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce represents such a tight geographic area, one might think its influence would be limited. But when its president, Kirkos, beats the drum for the area, he beats it loudly; and between American Dream, working with New Jersey’s two NFL teams (or, ahem, “New York’s”), and focusing energy on the former Izod Center he has some premier properties within his ambit. Kirkos is looking ahead and spearheading the Chamber’s new marketing campaign — its “Alive and Kicking”promotion, an ad campaign that targets markets within a four-hour drive of New Jersey. “Tourism spending and promotion in New Jersey should not be looked at like all other line items in the budget because there’s a direct positive net effect from that tourism investment,” Kirkos said in a June TownSquare interview. “Some line items in the budget are pure cost, but that’s not the case with tourism.”
Lalevee’s members may be among the first beneficiaries of a renewed focus on infrastructure — especially the long-delayed Gateway rail project — in Washington because they will be doing a lot of the work. Lalevee is both the business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 and vice president of the IUOE’s general executive board. And he is vice president of the New Jersey Building Trades and a member of the state’s Licensed Crane Operators Advisory Board. “He’s spent years training members at [the union’s] big training facility to build Gateway,” noted a person close to Lalevee. “And this year he might get his wish.” Lalevee also keeps close watch on the economy as a whole, with his membership sensitive to shifting winds as the pandemic begins to recede. “We see a little bit of a pullback and a sense of caution, but it also may be a sense of opportunity when we look at how we were building out here in the suburbs,” he told NJBIZ last fall. “We may just have to change what that is and make buildings that are more responsive to a telecommuting part-time and in the office part-time environment. So that may just be not necessarily a scrapping of projects, but a re-imagination of what they need to look like to serve the needs of the people in the businesses.” On more practical level, Lalevee’s membership will be a critical constituency as Gov. Phil Murphy runs for reelection, given its size and the importance the administration places on infrastructure.
Jeffrey Le Benger
Le Benger, chief executive officer of the rapidly expanding Summit CityMD, one of the nation’s premier physician-governed multispecialty medical groups. The first integrated delivery of care network of its kind, the combined organization has more than 1,600 providers, 6,400 employees and 200 locations in New Jersey and New York. Summit CityMD handles more than 4.6 million patient visits annually, with a vision to provide patients an exceptional, seamless experience across a full spectrum of high-quality primary, specialty, and urgent care. And he’s not slowing down. “We are going to create a health care delivery model in the New York metropolitan area that is nowhere else in the country,” LeBenger said in an interview last year. “We take care of almost 800,000 unique patients a year, we run between the entire company 6 million visits a year. We expect to put on major hubs in the New York metropolitan area. Long Island, as well as Westchester County. We’re going to continue to grow.”
Thai Lee runs Somerset-based IT services outfit SHI International Corp., which like many technology companies grew over 2020. Year over year growth in August was at 6.4% to $5.2bn, and numbers released last week show the company gained significantly over last February. SHI is also the largest women- and minority- owned enterprise nationwide, with more than 5,000 employees. Lee ranks No. 8 on Forbes Self-Made Women list, worth $3.2 billion.
As CEO of Prudential, Lowrey runs the company that is perhaps the most important corporate entity in Newark, its name emblazoned on the city’s skyline. In 2019, under Lowrey’s watch, Newark-based Prudential committed more than $180 million through 2025 to support young people ages 15 to 29 worldwide who lack access to school, training or regular jobs—a segment of the global population known as opportunity youth. Then in October, Lowrey and his counterparts at some of New Jersey’s largest companies — Merck, Verizon, RWJBarnabas Health, BD, PSEG, Campbell Soup and Johnson & Johnson – pledged to train or hire a combined 70,000 New Jerseyans by 2030 and spend an additional $500 million on local goods and services by 2025. Recognizing Lowrey’s contributions to the state economy, Gov. Murphy tapped him as one of the 21 public health and economic figures to sit on his COVID-19 Restart and Recovery Commission, a group advising the governor on how to bolster the economy.
Choose NJ and its President and CEO Lozano remain key figures in promoting New Jersey to businesses around the world, through the trade missions to India, Israel and Germany, international offices, or the $3 million marketing campaign to tout New Jersey as a place to do business. And in the post-pandemic economic recovery, the state has many perks that Choose NJ can promote. For one, it’s a cheaper and socially distanced alternative to the pricey and crowded New York City. The state is a hub of national commerce and international trade. And the state’s manufacturing sector is poised for expansion in the coming years. There’s a lot of cards Choose NJ can play, and the benefits could be enormous for the state.
Lynch is president and chief executive officer of American Water Works Inc. — the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility. He has more than 25 years experience in both the regulated and market-based water and wastewater industry. In his previous role as COO, Lynch was responsible for the company’s performance in 16 regulated states, serving approximately 12 million people in more than 1,600 communities. He also led operational excellence across the company’s footprint as well as system-wide engineering, health and safety and the company’s Military Services Group.
As the CEO of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, Maron bore the full brunt of the pandemic’s early, most frightening days. The hospital was at the center of the first serious outbreak in the state, and it seemed then as though the health care system could be overwhelmed. That perception only deepened when Maron himself contracted COVID-19. He recovered and Holy Name mustered a strong response to the virus. “I couldn’t be prouder of the staff, the commitment, the innovation that occurred here,” Maron said in a late summer interview with NJBIZ. “What no other organization in New Jersey did, or actually anywhere quite frankly, is we added 100 critical care beds in 14 days. That is an unprecedented feat,” he told NBIZ editor Jeff Kanige. “And these weren’t just regular beds. This wasn’t taking existing space and converting it, taking a regular med surge bed and converting it to critical care. This was going into our large auditorium and building from scratch.” And Maron apparently deserves a good deal of the credit for that response. “Both Maron and the hospital got through it and came out better and stronger with an enhanced effort for managing through a crisis,” said one person familiar with the efforts.
As CEO of NAIOP, McGuiness oversees the daily operations and programs of the commercial real estate development association. He frequently meets with and testifies before legislative committees, representatives of the governor’s office and regulatory agencies on matters of importance to the industry. Before joining NAIOP in 1997, McGuinness served as Acting Director for Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s Office of the Business Ombudsman in the Department of State. He currently serves as a member of the Council on Port Performance, administered by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, a founding member of the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition and as a trustee and environmental chair of the New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJ SEED). He also co-chairs the Economic Competitiveness Committee for the North Jersey Sustainable Communities Consortium, an affiliate of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. McGuinness was appointed in May to the state’s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council, where he is serving on the Facilities and Construction Subcommittee. “As a service organization focused on advocating for and educating the commercial real estate development industry, I know that NAIOP NJ will be a valuable resource to the governor in this new COVID-19 world,” he noted. The priorities, according to McGuinness, are “ensuring the safety of employees, tenants, customers, contractors and vendors, as well as mitigating the risks from contacting the virus at the workplace.”
McCabe is a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and head of public affairs at the influential Trenton consulting firm River Crossing Strategy Group. And he chairs the Middlesex County Democratic Party, where he holds considerable sway in Central Jersey politics. McCabe has connections with some of the key power players in the state Legislature, and he’s on good terms with the governor. As former New Jersey labor commissioner, and former president of the multi-state Carpenter Contract Trust, which he left a year ago, McCabe boasts years of advocacy under his belt for organized labor.
McKoy was named President of New Jersey Policy Perspective in February 2019 and leads the think-tank’s attempts to help policy debates in the halls of the State House. The South Orange native has become one of the most progressive voices in the state for policies aimed at boosting economic security for the state’s working families. He and the organization have backed many progressive and left-leaning policies, including those rolled out by Gov. Murphy, with whom the organization has a relatively easy rapport. In Murphy’s first two years in office, those policies have ranged from a $15 minimum wage to paid sick leave and expanded family leave. And NJPP has supported Murphy’s push to tighten oversight of New Jersey’s controversial tax incentive program. The organization’s support for and defense of those and other moves will undoubtedly be welcomed by the governor and his campaign staff during this election year.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has made one thing clear, it’s the disproportionate impact that it’s had on people of color, in much higher cases and fatalities, more serious effects on minority-owned businesses, and uphill battles for obtaining COVID-relief business assistance like the federal Paycheck Protection Program. That makes Medina’s work as president and CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce all the more relevant. Hispanic-owned businesses make significant contributions to the state, with over 120,000 such companies large and small generating more than $20 billion for the economy. He’ll be a key figure in ensuring none of those businesses are left out of the recovery.
Last year, Menendez worked face-to-face with members of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program to create a national manufacturing supply chain database, which he worked into the amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. Though it didn’t end up in the bill, he said he would introduce it as a standalone measure, giving manufacturers hope that America might become less dependent on foreign materials, making room to buy from our own countrymen. Menendez also became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after Democrats gained control; and New Jersey is, after all, a state of immigrants. One insider called him “one of the three or four most important politicians in the world right now, as the U.S. tries to rebuild its international relations … At a crucial time for our country, post-Trump, Menendez stands alongside the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense” in importance.
Meyers joined Valley Hospital in 1980 and was named president and CEO in 1999 and assumed that role for Valley Health System in 2003, so Meyers is one of the longest-serving CEOs in the state. A new 372-bed hospital campus in Paramus is slated for completion in 2023. Like hospitals up and down the state, the flagship Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and the entire health system under Meyers’ watch have shifted its efforts to handle COVID-19 patients and more recently, administering the vaccines needed to move New Jersey out of the pandemic. Her career accomplishments include strategic affiliations with the Mount Sinai Health System and the Cleveland Clinic.
Even before the pandemic, Murphy did not shrink from her role as New Jersey’s First Lady. Murphy has used her public stature to focus on issues of women’s and maternal health, infant mortality affecting communities of color, environmental justice and climate change. But COVID-19 raised even more dangerous challenges. Murphy responded, in part, by helping to create and promote the New Jersey Pandemic Fund, bringing together prominent New Jerseyans and an effort to provide financial support for struggling communities. And those challenges are persisting beyond what she expected. “It’s obvious that this pandemic and the the implications for the economy and more are going to be with us for a long time,” Murphy told NJBIZ last summer. “And while we had originally anticipated that they fund would wrap up by Christmas time or thereabouts it’s pretty clear now that we will carry on as long as we have the resources to do so and there’s a need for us. Which means we definitely need our corporate partners to step up very much so over the coming months.”
Murray just finished an extended period in the national spotlight as one of the nation’s top pollsters and is heading into a similarly intense time in New Jersey. Last year it was the presidential election, this year it will be the gubernatorial and legislative campaigns here. The Monmouth University poll, which Murray runs, is one of the most closely watched surveys of public opinion and he is a sought-after political analyst and is able to dissect poll results in a way anyone can understand. That skill will be important over the coming months because of the skepticism toward polling in the media and among the public generated by some high-profile misses by several prominent pollsters. “Pat Murray’s Super Bowl didn’t work out so well for him or for the entire industry,” said one insider of the polls being off about the presidential election. “But he didn’t duck and hide. He went out and did interviews and talked about what polling is going to be going forward.”