Murphy names 3 to cabinet, marking a first for women

Gov. Phil Murphy named three more members of his cabinet Tuesday, nominating a secretary of higher education, chair and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and a chair and CEO of the Civil Service Commission.

All three nominees, who must be confirmed by the state Senate, are women:

  • Zakiya Smith Ellis, director of finance and federal policy at the Lumina Foundation, will lead the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education;
  • B. Sue Fulton, a former global project lead at Pfizer Consumer Health, will lead the NJMVC; and
  • Deirdre Webster Cobb, the equal employment opportunity/affirmative action officer at the state Department of Treasury, will lead the Civil Service Commission.

The three nominations mean the majority of Murphy’s 21 cabinet officials will be women, the governor said. Eleven nominees are women, eight are men and two positions have not yet been filled.

“For the first time in New Jersey’s 242 years, the majority of a governor’s cabinet appointments are female,” Murphy said in a prepared statement. “While it has taken too long to get to this first, I am proud to stand with this diverse group of leaders, all of whom are committed to building a stronger, fairer New Jersey that works for everyone. This is who we are — strong and diverse, smart and talented, and committed to making our state a better place.

“Our team is made up of the best and brightest, and their accomplishments and dedication will ensure that our residents and businesses have a state government that is responsive, responsible and professional.”

In addition to her role at the Lumina Foundation, Smith Ellis previously served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as a senior policy adviser for education under President Barack Obama.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to serve the people of New Jersey,” she said in a statement. “I know from personal experience the transformative power of education and have worked for my entire professional career to ensure those opportunities are available for more students. I’m excited that Gov. Murphy recognizes and understands the increasing necessity of higher education in today’s society, and am looking forward to building out his vision to make learning after high school more affordable and accessible for residents of New Jersey of all ages and backgrounds.”

Fulton, an Army veteran and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, also serves as executive director of the Women in the Service Change Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates for women in the armed forces. She also serves on the U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors, to which she was appointed by Obama.

“I’m honored — and humbled — to be asked to lead the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and to be part of Gov. Murphy’s administration,” she said in a statement. “We will make it our aim every day to better serve the people of New Jersey. There is tremendous opportunity to bring about a positive change in New Jersey, and I am excited to be a part of that change.”

Webster Cobb has served in senior leadership roles at the Department of Treasury, Department of Community Affairs and Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“I am honored by the trust Gov. Murphy has bestowed upon me,” she said in a statement. “As a career public servant, I understand the issues that the civil service system has experienced over the last 28 years. My goal is to implement Gov. Murphy’s agenda by working diligently to address these issues in cooperation with labor and management with a clear and open mind. I plan to undertake a thorough review of the current system to determine the areas that need improvement for the well-being of all government employees.”

Murphy announced the nominations at an event in Newark.

According to published reports, Murphy intends to retain Col. Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, in the permanent cabinet position.

For a look at Murphy’s cabinet nominees, click here.

ACG NJ celebrates founding, longtime members

More than 75 members of the New Jersey chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth celebrated the organization’s founding and long-term members Tuesday morning at its monthly breakfast meeting at the Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange.

“We are here today to celebrate the launch and success of the New Jersey chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, as well as to acknowledge those whom, as founders of this great organization, have been with us for nearly 15 years,” Sally Glick, president of ACG NJ and principal and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co., said.

Their names are:

  • John Aiello, secretary of ACG NJ and chair of the corporate and securities law practice at Giordano Halleran & Ciesla;
  • Robert Anderson, partner at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper P.C.;
  • Joel Cartun, board member of ACG NJ and president of Business Advisory Services;
  • John Ferro, partner at Grant Thornton LLP;
  • Matthew Finlay, vice president of private equity for ACG NJ and managing director at Finlay Parker Holdings;
  • Karen Grexa, vice president of sponsorship for ACG NJ and senior vice president at Key Bank Business Capital;
  • George Hansen, vice president of membership for ACG NJ and managing director of Oberon Securities;
  • Allen Kohan, committee member for ACG NJ and managing director of Mast Advisors;
  • Mark Kuehn, founding chairman of ACG NJ and director of corporate business development at Gibbons Law;
  • James Lukenda, treasurer of ACG NJ and managing director of Huron Consulting Group;
  • Lou Monari, board member of ACG NJ and senior vice president at Aon Risk Solutions;
  • Alfred Sagarese, committee member for ACG NJ and president of Forrestal Consultants International;
  • Heidi Shore, vice president of programs for ACG NJ and marketing manager for Grant Thornton LLP;
  • Larry Svoboda, president of Strategic Response Inc.

Founded in 1954, the Association for Corporate Growth represents more than 14,500 members worldwide and provides strategic growth strategies for nearly 90,000 investors, executives, lenders and advisers in the middle-market.

Plumbing products maker moving HQ to Parsippany

Plumbing and industrial products manufacturer John Guest USA Inc. is moving its North American headquarters to Parsippany after signing a lease at an industrial/flex building in the township, Colliers International said recently.

The company is moving to 60,600 square feet at 20 E. Halsey Road from Fairfield in order to expand, Colliers said.

John Donnelly, based in Colliers’ Parsippany office, represented John Guest USA. Thomas Consiglio and Scott Peck of Resource Realty were the brokers for property owner GTJ REIT.

Donnelly said Byron Woodard, president of John Guest North America, wanted to grow the brand’s presence to coincide with its overall growth.

“My client wanted to elevate the brand’s presence commensurate with their growth trajectory at a high-profile, stand-alone facility,” he said in a prepared statement. “The property at 20 E. Halsey Road met these specifications beautifully, offering a large multipurpose space, building signage and visibility from (Interstate) 287. GTJ Management recently renovated the building — raising the roof, upgrading the power and sprinkler systems and updating the landscaping program. That proactive move played a big part in securing John Guest USA’s commitment.”

The property includes a 15,000-square-foot office component, as well as parking and expansion potential, Colliers said.

John Guest will move in during the second quarter, the firm added.

Accounting firm Prager Metis creates staffing company

Prager Metis CPAs LLC, an accounting, tax and advisory firm with offices in Basking Ridge and Cranbury, has created a new staffing company specializing in recruitment services, it announced recently.

The New York-based firm said PM Human Capital Solutions LLC will be led by CEO and President Mike Zaremski, most recently president of a boutique staffing firm in New York. The firm will provide a full range of finance and accounting recruitment services, including in the direct hire, temporary solutions, contract services and retained search sectors.

“I am very excited about the unique market positioning and rapid growth of Prager Metis,” Zaremski said in a prepared statement. “Essentially, we are positioned as a recruitment firm that understands the technical aspects of client fulfillment coupled with a relationship-centered approach.”

Zaremski has more than 20 years of human resources, operations and leadership experience in the public accounting and staffing industries, Prager Metis said.

“We are extremely excited to launch this new company in an effort to continue to provide the necessary and required services and advice to our clients around the world,” Glenn Friedman, Prager Metis’ co-managing partner, said in a statement. “We also welcome Mike as CEO of PM Human Capital Solutions, who brings decades of experience in (the) staffing and recruiting industry.”

HQ move highlights new leases at Princeton complex

A headquarters relocation highlights recent leasing activity at a Princeton office complex, according to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

C&W said four tenants have leased space totaling 64,000 square feet in recent moves at the Class A complex at 600 & 650 College Road. C&W is the exclusive leasing agent for the 440,000-square-foot property.

Global credit insurance company Coface North America is the newest tenant at the site, taking 27,000 square feet as it moves it headquarters from East Windsor. JLL was the tenant broker for the long-term lease.

“The move from nearby East Windsor to 650 College Road enables Coface North America to leverage the employee recruiting and retention benefits of a Princeton address in Forrestal Center,” C&W’s Todd Elfand said in a prepared statement. “In addition to this master-planned campus’ bucolic outdoor facilities — including extensive walking and jogging trails — 600 & 650 College Road offers easy access to Route 1 and abundant amenities, as well as downtown Princeton’s vibrancy. This neighborhood is a recognized go-to location for Fortune 1000-quality tenants, who enjoy access to the region’s affluence and deep white-collar labor pool.”

Other recent leases at the properties include renewals from:

Cushman & Wakefield orchestrated both the BT Americas and Hamilton transactions on behalf of the property owner, TH Real Estate, an affiliate of Nuveen, TIAA’s investment management arm.

TH Real Estate is planning a rebranding and renovation program, C&W said. Elfand, along with Paul Giannone, Kevin Carton and Joe Vacca, handle the project for C&W.

Goldberg Segalla grows its office in Princeton

The national law firm Goldberg Segalla has relocated its Princeton office to a larger location, reflecting the ongoing growth of its New Jersey presence, it announced recently.

The office now housed at 301 Carnegie Center, Suite 200, hosts 27 lawyers, as well as related staff members, in its 20,000-square-foot space. It had been located at 902 Carnegie Center Blvd. W., Suite 100. Goldberg Segalla also has an office in Newark with 19 attorneys.

“Since Goldberg Segalla’s founding partners first opened up shop in 2001, the firm’s growth has always been steady and methodical—adding only single lawyers or very small groups at a time, based on client needs or the opportunity to bring in the right combination of talent and personality that fits with our teamwork-driven business model,” David S. Osterman, the partner who leads the Princeton office, said in a prepared statement.

“In New Jersey, we have exceptionally strong teams that meet a wide range of legal practice or industry-focused needs. Health care, product liability, transportation, environmental, commercial litigation, insurance coverage, employment and workers’ compensation defense — these are just some of the capabilities that keep getting stronger in Princeton and Newark, and we expect to continue growing and diversifying further.”


Truth or dare: Is threat to pull digital ads as much about industry transparency as brand safety?

When Unilever put the giants of digital platforms on notice last week, calling out their inability or unwillingness to control content that is both offensive to children and to Unilever’s wide array of brands, it drew a lot of attention.

It’s not often that a company puts Google, Facebook, YouTube and the rest of the digital platforms that have gained so much power while making billions off advertisers on notice.

And, while the stated purposes of the Englewood Cliffs-based company — protecting the brands it is pushing in what it estimated to be a $2 billion annual digital ad campaign — is noble, some digital marketing experts in New Jersey say Unilever may have had an additional goal in mind: gaining more transparency (and more metrics) in the digital world.

Chris Delany, the founder and CEO of SEM Geeks in Belmar, has been involved in digital advertising and marketing since 2001.

He said the industry has needed policing for some time.

Delany said interest in the accuracy and character of content has risen since President Donald Trump began calling attention to what he dubbed “Fake News” during his candidacy. And, although Trump may have created a mainstream term, Delany said he wasn’t talking about something people who play in the digital game have known for a long time.

“Unilever is too smart a brand to just realize this year that this is happening,” he said.

Big brands, however, haven’t had an issue that enabled them to fight back, Delaney said.

“Big companies always have been wanting more transparency from the big players out there, the Googles, the Facebooks,” he said. “They have never gotten what they wanted.

“And what they have come across here is a way to attack them on something that will give them what they want, by using society as the scapegoat as to why they need to get it.”

Delany said the biggest issue is that the ever-changing algorithms of the digital giants keep them one step ahead of advertisers.

He said the rules of engagement regarding campaigns based on search terms are constantly being modified.

What works one year doesn’t work the next. How they are charged changes, too.

“The rules constantly change,” he said.

Delany understands why Unilever, one of the biggest advertisers in the world, could be so upset.

“Every year, this stuff continues to grow,” he said. “I can only imagine the frustration of bigger guys who are dealing with multibillion-dollar budgets. It’s hard for them to forecast what they are going to get.”


Brand safety is a part of this discussion, too.

YouTube came under fire earlier this year when one of its digital stars, Logan Paul, produced a video from a famed “suicide forest” in Japan that included the aftermath of a suicide in the background.

The video led to global debate on whether Paul should be banned from the site (he hasn’t been), but it didn’t touch upon the impact it could have had to any advertiser on the site when the video was viewed.

The video showed, Luis Hernandez said, an inherent problem with social channels.

“The challenge is, you’re trying to mix a paid environment with an organic user-generated environment,” he said.

That user-generated content could include hate speech, terrorist recruitment or sexual exploitation, among other things.

Hernandez, senior vice president and digital strategist at Cedar Knolls-based Marketsmith Inc., said it has led to some advertisers, including Verizon, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson, leaving the platform.

Hernandez said Marketsmith offers other solutions.

“We work with our clients to build black lists, things you don’t want to run up against when doing programmatic advertising specifically,” he said. “The idea there is, actually to look at white-listing to get a proper curated audience.

“It’s more of a question of, I’m only really going to target things that are relevant to my audience and consistent to my brand and values. As much as we want to target behavior, it’s really going to be about finding these islands of audience interest and targeting specifically these safe havens.”

Hernandez said the ever-changing and ever-secretive algorithms of the platforms don’t make this easy to achieve.

“When you are doing that kind of bidding, you’re depending on third parties, such as Google and Facebook, using data you don’t have access to and matching it against other criteria. You may be getting a lot of traffic you can’t control,” he said.

Hernandez said the issues are sparking some change.

“You’re going to see more people partnering with companies that can say, ‘I know who this person is down to the individual and their devices, I know where they are going specifically across the web, I’m not going to tell you who they are, I’m going to protect their privacy, but I’m going to give you that individual-level targetability,” he said. “And you’re going to pay a premium of that.”


Alex Baydin understands the importance of brand safety as well as anyone.

PerformLine Inc., his Morristown-based technology company, provides some of the world’s largest brands an independent monitoring and surveillance technology to ensure brand safety and compliance are taking place in the digital world.

They have to be. Many of the brands PerformLine works with — particularly those in pharmaceuticals and financial services — have a legal obligation to not only ensure they are in compliance with the rules and regulations that come with their services, but that they are not aligned with content that could mislead a consumer.

Baydin thinks Unilever is elevating a conversation that has been going on for some time.

“I think it’s a big deal,” he said. “Unilever has reached for one rung higher than the discussion and dialogue has been around brand safety. If you look closely at (Unilever Chief Marketing Officer) Keith Weed’s comments, he said, not only do they have to be in an environment that’s safe, and brand safety has been a sentiment for the last couple of years, they also need to be in a suitable environment.

“It’s a rung or milestone that Unilever wants their brands adjacent to and aligned with content and publishers that make a positive contribution to society. It’s not just, ‘We need to make sure our brand is always safe, but we need to be in a suitable environment that overall is consistently delivering a positive message to our children or society.’

“I think that’s a pretty substantial distinction between what the sentiment has been of the large advertisers who have needed things cleaned up, and we’ve seen that over the last couple of years or so. This seems to be stretching a little further in sentiment.”

Stretching and solving, however, are not the same.

Baydin, who has automated his industry so much that he can monitor 50 million pieces of compliance data a day, said technology may not necessarily be the answer.

“There’s two different potential solves for this,” he said. “You hear about Facebook and Google doing more to clean up the content. We’ve seen press releases that they are hiring 5,000 more human reviewers to watch videos to make sure the videos don’t breach their content rules and requirements.”

Baydin said both the platform and the advertisers need to play a role.

“I think the platforms have to clean up their backyard more for the brands to be more comfortable, but I think the brands themselves should trust but verify, and third-party companies can bring 100 percent focus on that,” he said.


Weed’s words resonated.

He told a sold-out crowd at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, California, that digital platforms must “collectively build trust back into our systems and society,” and that Unilever would cut investment in platforms that breed division.

Weed said Unilever will not invest in platforms that do not protect children, that the company is committed to tackling gender stereotypes in advertising and only will partner with organizations that are committed to creating better digital infrastructure, such as aligning around one measurement system and improving the consumer experience.

Their impact remains to be seen.

Hernandez thinks it will be minimal.

“I feel, from a broader trend perspective, this is probably going to mirror more with what you saw with P&G,” he said “You saw some threats, you saw some response, but you saw no real spend pullback.

“I think you’re probably going to see the same thing with Unilever because, from an advertising product and reach perspective, social channels are dramatically better over what you can do over traditional programmatic advertising.”

Delany thinks the benefits to consumers will be limited.

“I don’t know that what they are complaining about is (that pertinent) to the consumer side,” he said. “I think all they really care about is where the money is going and how it is being spent.”

Baydin said what Unilever didn’t say is as important as what it did say.

“What you’re not hearing is this: Advertisers are not willing to give up the scale and reach the platforms provide and the individual publishers never could,” he said. “The reason why Facebook and Google are such powerful mediums is because they are platforms, they’re not demographic-specific publishers with an opinion.

“They have mass global reach and it doesn’t seem to be slowly anytime soon, but, in order to get that, that means they have a lot of long tail content and a lot of that content is user-generated content.

“The Unilevers of the world want that and need that reach.”

Baydin thinks change will come from the platforms, not from pressure from advertisers, but he feels those platforms may welcome the chance to act.

“In a way, I think it helps the platforms like Facebook and Google make some of these tough decisions,” he said. “They are almost happy they are getting this ultimatum because they want to do the right thing, but it’s hard to prioritize to find that balance.

“But these are public companies, and when the largest advertisers that generate the vast majority of revenue for these companies say, ‘Enough is enough,’ it helps them make those decisions and invest in areas such as suitability and brand safety. You’re seeing quotes from the people at Facebook almost welcoming this because it will give them the opportunity to make investments to showcase these investments to the advertisers and prove that they are being heard.

“I think you will see larger brands making similar statements and I think you’ll see the platforms reacting the best they can.”

Mom’s personal quest turned into Ikuzi Dolls business

Ozi Okaro has known insecurity, self-doubt and a sense of not belonging.

It was children’s dolls that taught her those feelings.

And she wasn’t the only one who had those emotions.

“If you talk to women of color, you find that the dolls we grew up with really affected your perspective of what’s beautiful,” Okaro said. “It was further reinforcement of the images you’re bombarded with on an everyday basis in advertising and everywhere else.”

Okaro is in the business of changing that.

She’s the founder of Ikuzi Dolls, a line of dolls that is sensitive to diversity and the many different ways a little girl can look. It’s a big mission she’s taking on at her small startup and the Montclair resident is running the business by herself.

But Okaro would be remiss not to mention that her children have helped in areas such as prototyping. It only makes sense for them to get credit, too — given that it was the mother of four’s experience of shopping for her daughters’ dolls that inspired her to start the company.

“It was more than a little frustrating; we could only ever find dolls with one shade of brown,” she said. “One of my daughters has dark brown skin and the other has light brown skin. I couldn’t find dolls for each of them individually.”

Okaro said the online-only Ikuzi Dolls taps into a market that until recently has been overlooked: girls’ dolls that represent various skin tones and ethnicities.

Okaro is an unlikely candidate for an entrepreneur in the toy industry. She’s a computer science whiz who was employed as a systems analyst for the majority of her career. After leaving the tech world and taking some time off to raise her children, she wanted something creative and ultimately more fulfilling when she re-entered the workforce.

It’s a path she started down by studying marketing at the Columbia Business School in New York. From there, she would work at Giorgio Armani and Victoria’s Secret. Then — definitely relevant to her current venture — she took a position as manager of global e-commerce for Wayne-based Toys R Us.

When she went to launch her own company with all that experience to call on, she did it with crowdfunding through Kickstarter.

But it fell flat.

“I was going in a little blind,” Okaro said. “Afterwards, I realized you have to build up a following and really get people rooting for you. I didn’t have that yet.”

She also was — and still is — up against some of the industry heavy-hitters in the toy category, corporations that have wised up to the need for an e-commerce presence and a more diverse line of products.

“There are so many toys and many different categories and some of the big brands are doing everything,” she said. “But, I think we still have something that’s meeting a need.”

So, she had her niche. Then she had a big break, too.

Like a bolt from the blue, she got a call one day from an editor for O, The Oprah Magazine, which had been searching online for dolls featuring girls of color and stumbled across Ikuzi Dolls.

The only problem is that the big-name publication needed 100 dolls ready in two days for a photo shoot. It was hectic, but more than worth it.

“Getting out there like this is allowing me to grow with what little financing I’ve been able to put into it,” she said. “I only really started this about two and a half years ago, so I’ve been blessed to have that exposure this early in the game.”

Okaro is still very much in a preliminary stage with her startup. She’s eager to get Ikuzi Dolls’ name out there — counting every new social media comment, like or share as a success.

But, she has a larger vision for her company, one that she feels will connect with a movement playing out in the larger African-American community.

“There’s an increasing awareness of the need to celebrate ourselves — embracing natural hair, our skin tone and more,” she said. “That’s hopefully something we can ride as a business. But, on a social level, it’s so important for little black boys and girls to be proud of who they are, not ashamed of it.”

She believes there’s just as much to be said for the potential to make an early impact on youth outside the African-American community.

“It’s just as important as well that girls have dolls featuring people of other races to engage with in a positive way,” she said. “Those experiences at a young age really enhance their appreciation and acceptance of diversity. I think (these dolls) can make a difference.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Ozi Okaro of Ikuzi Dolls at:

ADP says 5% of workers leave each month, most by choice

Five percent of employees leave their jobs each month, with most turnover being voluntary, according to a new report from the ADP Research Institute.

The Roseland-based human resources and payroll company said in “Revelations from Workforce Turnover” that 60 to 70 percent of employees quit rather than leaving involuntarily. The firm said a tightening labor market can prove challenging — and costly — to companies, but proper application of data could potentially predict, or even reduce, unplanned exits.

“It has always been important for employers to minimize turnover, but it is more critical now than ever before, given the current state of (the) labor market,” Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a prepared statement. “Unemployment is at a 17-year low, and job-switching is at a record high. If employers can use data to identify flight-prone employees and understand what’s driving their departure, they will have an important advantage in a highly competitive market for talent.”

The institute analyzed two years of payroll data covering more than 41,000 companies to develop a model for predicting employee turnover and explain factors driving it.

Among the study’s findings:

  • The majority of turnover, whether voluntary or involuntary, takes place in September, while the lowest rate of turnover takes place in March. (The study noted there are exceptions, such as the education and manufacturing sectors.)
  • Turnover rates vary widely by industry, with the highest average monthly turnover in leisure and hospitality, at 9.1 percent, and the lowest in manufacturing, at 3.4 percent.
  • The majority of turnover in every sector is voluntary, ranging from a high of 72 percent in accommodation and food services, and the lowest in administrative, support, waste management and remediation services, at 58 percent.
  • Some 40 factors can contribute to voluntary turnover, with pay and promotion the leading causes — as might be expected, ADP points out. Commute time is a more important factor than experience and tenure, the study found.

“Data can say things that employees might not during exit interviews, and shed light on causes of voluntary turnover that even the best expert may miss,” Marc Rind, chief data scientist at ADP, said in a statement. “In today’s challenging talent market, unbiased insights derived from actual workforce data can enable employers to identify potential flight risks before it’s too late.”

For more on the study, click here.

WCRE arranges sale of two Pennsauken buildings

Wolf Commercial Real Estate handled the sale of a two-building commercial property in Pennsauken, it announced recently.

The buildings at 3477 Haddonfield Road and 3450 Saint Martin Road total 6,600 square feet. They were sold by Pauline M. Rockhill, trustee of the Pauline M. Rockhill Revocable Trust, to Hemera LLC & Hesperus LLC. WCRE represented the seller in the exclusive marketing and sale of the complex.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Jason Wolf, managing principal of WCRE, represented both the buyer and seller in the deal.