There are many ways to mark the governor’s standing with the New Jersey business community. Here’s mine: Selecting the top spot for the NJBIZ Power 100.
Now in my fourth year as editor, I’ve seen Chris Christie go from a popular governor few could believe was involved in a nonsensical bridge incident to a man viewed as more concerned with running for president than running the state to someone almost every leader will say, at least privately, that they wished was out of office so the state could get back to business.
When I asked for nominations for the top spot, the first response was always A-B-C: Anybody-But-Christie.
Almost everyone then turned to Jared Kushner.
“He’s the reason why Chris Christie is still governor,” said one insider, alluding to Kushner’s assumed role in helping prevent the man who sent his father to prison from getting any job in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Kushner’s power is far more than just settling personal scores, they noted. As Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser, his influence over desperately needed infrastructure projects (starting with the Gateway tunnel), health care and the selection of the next U.S. Attorney for New Jersey made him an obvious pick for the top spot in our rankings.
And it’s a change business leaders welcomed.
No. 1 not only wasn’t Christie, it was someone they already knew — someone who already knew them.
“The guy has got real Jersey bones on business,” another insider said. “He’s totally familiar with the landscape: the key players, the key areas, the key issues.”
Christie, all the business leaders seem to agree, still has power as governor but has lost much of his influence.
It’s not necessarily because he seemingly abandoned the state and its needs on his quest to run for president. Many said they understood that as a reality of politics.
Rather, it’s a realization that his end is near.
His diminished power over the Legislature was shown when he tried (and failed) to push through two last-minute bills.
It’s time for a change. And that’s certainly reflected in our list. The change in the top spot is just one that we have made in 2017.
There are 32 newcomers on the list — and only 18 of those in last year’s Top 25 remain in one of those premier spots.
That being said, there isn’t enough change.
Last year, I vowed to talk with more female and diversity leaders in an effort to make our list more reflective of the business community.
And, while we did that, we’re still sorry to see that not enough women are in key positions in companies around the state.
This needs to change.
It’s not only the right thing to do (why is half of the population still struggling to get key roles in business and politics?), it is the smart thing to do.
All statistics show companies are run better — and have higher profits — when more women are in key positions.
It’s time for more women to be in more positions of power.