Dennis Toft is a vet. He’s been with the same firm his whole career, creating the environmental practice at Wolff & Samson in 1983 and maintaining it after the firm’s 2015 rebrand into what is now Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC. He’s also a vet on the Walk to Washington, with around 20 years of participation under his belt.
He’s met some people. There’ve been the governors and gubernatorial candidates, Cardinal Joseph Tobin and members of congress. One year, he reconvened with a prior connection on the train without realizing that person was about to take a “fairly high-level position in the state government.” That person, in turn, became a quality contact for his own clients’ business purposes.
“It’s one of the few times you get that kind of captive audience all together with the main purpose of networking,” Toft said. “We have common goals, and in addition, it’s a unique opportunity for congressional delegates to learn what we’re all thinking about both in the state and nationally.”
The new rules put out by the Chamber for this year’s Walk should attract people who are serious about why they’re attending, he said.
“This year, I am traveling to Washington for the Chamber Trip a day ahead of the train ride to meet with members of our congressional delegation. We will discuss Hackensack Meridian Health’s growth and potential opportunities. I also look forward to participating in some of the Chamber activities, networking and reconnecting with old friends,”
– Kenneth Esser, senior vice president, chief of staff, Corporate Services and Governance, Government Relations, Hackensack Meridian Health.
“It’s not about just having a good time. It’s about making the right business connections and the right connections with the leadership of the state. I think that’s what’ll happen, and that’s been the purpose of it all along,” Toft said.
This year, he explained, is particularly important. The New Jersey business community must make its voice heard by state leaders regarding the importance of a sustainable incentive program in attracting business now that the Grow New Jersey program has expired. And with the Gateway Project still up in the air, he’s “hopeful this trip will provide an opportunity to connect with federal decision-makers to advocate for funding for this and other much-needed projects.”
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the state faces back-to-back national and statewide election campaigns.
Toft, who’s a member of the Chamber board, hopes the Walk will continue to serve as a platform for New Jersey businesspeople to express their views to state and congressional leadership.
“I think it’s a great New Jersey tradition. I look forward to it every year,” Toft said.
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.
- Building relationships: Some of the state’s top economic development officials are boarding this year’s train
- Better environment: NJ’s top lawmaker on #MeToo issues endorses the Walk
- Bring your own food: Scheduling conflict prompts NJRHA to send its sincere regrets
- Stronger ties: A Genova Burns partner works to solidfy connections
- Back to basics: Gellman Images’ founder looks forward to in-person meetings
- First-time walker: NJMEP’s CEO on the benefits of the Walk to Washington
- Murphy, Menendez, Booker and Smith to headline annual #ChamberTrain dinner