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Presenting the 2021 Power 100

Last year’s version of this list was published just a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the state and the country.

Reading through the 2020 list today is like opening a time capsule. That world was quite different than the way we live in 12 months later. The list had fewer government officials than past iterations – a conscious decision reflecting the view that business leaders were the true drivers of the state’s economy. Decisions on hiring, acquisitions and expansion were more consequential in the long term than an agency rule or executive order.

Well, here we are.

Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency last March and has renewed it every 30 days since. Under the emergency, the governor exercised sweeping powers to impose restrictions on businesses and require certain behavior – like working remotely and wearing masks in public – on the part of the state’s residents.

Under ordinary circumstances, New Jersey’s governor ranks among the most powerful state leaders in the country.

Murphy would likely have occupied the top spot on this year’s list – as he did last year – even without the pandemic. Today, Murphy is arguably the most powerful economic actor in New Jersey. He moved more aggressively to slow the spread of the virus than many of his counterparts around the country. And business owners and executives in several sectors believe, with good reason, that he holds their fates in his hands.

So the decision to rank the governor as number one was easy. The question of who should occupy the rest of the top ten was also relatively simple. Health care always plays a prominent role in the business of the state and that role was even more critical over the past 12 months. And it will certainly remain so over the remainder of 2021. That reality is reflected throughout the list, especially the first ten individuals.

If all goes well – that is, if the statewide vaccination program finally brings an end to the pandemic before the fall – next year’s Power 100 will be more difficult to compile. The 2022 list will likely include those individuals who get the state back to work and propel an economic recovery. Given that so many leaders are already stepping up, choosing just a hundred could be a monumental task. Let’s hope it is.

As always, the top ten individuals are ranked in numerical order; the remaining 90 are listed alphabetically. Read through the profiles and let us know what you think of the choices and of the work reflected in these pages. And you can read the digital edition here.

Jeffrey Kanige