Return to the airwaves for award-winning TV show focused on Hispanics

A four-time Emmy Award-winning show highlighting the Hispanic population is being reimagined and brought back to life after seven years.

Images/Imagines went off the air in 2011 when New Jersey Network ceased operations and all of its programming was either dissolved or moved to other institutions.

Images/Imagines was one of those that dissolved, but, for the past few years, its band has focused on getting back together.

The show’s restoration first began with funding from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey for a special program that highlighted diabetes and obesity — two common health problems in the Latino communities.

William Sanchez, who had produced Images/Imagines for New Jersey Network.

That was one of the reasons Rutgers University hired William Sanchez, who had produced the Emmy-winning show, after NJN shut down, according to Isabel Nazario.

Nazario is associate vice president for the Strategic Initiatives Office of the senior vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers, and is helping to revamp the show.

She said the health care program that aired on NJTV two years ago reached 15 million Latinos between the ages of 15 and 55.

“That, to us at Rutgers, was an indication that there is a need for such programs,” she said.

Especially at a time when the country is seeing an increase in divisive and prejudiced commentary.

The 30-minute show is going to cover a variety of subjects, including health and food, business, law and entertainment.

And it will have a mix of conservative and progressive show hosts.

“All of us work very closely together and know that, ultimately, our community represents all these voices. We don’t have only one voice,” Nazario said. “Our community, while disagreeing on, for example, religious perspectives — abortion, for example, is a really big issue — and concerns of the politics of the relationship of the U.S. to Puerto Rico or to Cuba, those things we all disagree on. But, we have more issues, more areas of focus, that we agree on.”

Carlos Medina, chair of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a board member of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, is going to be one of those hosts.

Sanchez and Medina said the time to resurrect the show is now.

“Everything is falling into place,” Sanchez said.

That includes having a prominent Latina, Sara Peña, director of the Center for Hispanic Policy Research and Development at the New Jersey Department of State. That could lead to support from the current administration.

There is also interest from the Horizon Foundation and Rutgers University, as well as sponsors through the Hispanic chamber. And two stations have already expressed interest in airing the show.

How is that happening, despite the existence of prominent Spanish-language channels like Telemundo and Univision, as well as sports channels and entertainment stations airing separate programming catered to Spanish speakers?

Sanchez explained that, despite the breakthroughs the community has had, it isn’t represented well enough.

The new hosts for the revived Images/Imagines TV show, from left, Ebby Antigua, Jessica Ramirez, Carlos Medina and Jimena Florez.

“When you look at when Latinos have been in Hollywood, they were always playing the same types of roles in different movies. So, what you’re doing is, now you have a lot of Latinos on television, but what you have is almost duplicate programs,” he said. “There are issues and people who are role models, heroes that went to war and could be your neighbor, and we don’t even know. So, we have to dig deep and find those stars of the community.”

The shows are going to specifically stay away from politics, Medina said, unless absolutely necessary.

And New Jersey is the perfect place to launch the show, despite larger populations of Latinos existing in other states, because New Jersey has played a prominent role in the community’s history, Sanchez said.

It is sandwiched between New York City and Philadelphia, but it has its own prominent region in West New York.

“The embroidery capital of the world is West New York. A lot of women found jobs there,” Sanchez said. “So, it was towns that were, like Union City, abandoned. They became rich with the Latino presence, even though Latinos in New York and Pennsylvania went through the same past.”

And the state continues to play a prominent role for Hispanic immigrants.

“For example, in West New York now, there are a lot of Mexicans. Why? That population didn’t exist,” Sanchez said.

Historically, Cubans had a stronghold in the area.

“If you talk about Arizona and California, where (Mexicans) were being kicked out … that’s what happened,” Sanchez said. “We’re the gateway to the Latino community’s explosion in the market. Even from California they come here.”

Medina said recording that change and following the developments that come from it, especially how it affects the economy, is important.

“The climate in this country is that Hispanics are a drag on the economy; it’s the opposite,” he said. “We are saving the economy. We are starting jobs and creating revenues. Just ot show America what are the positive contributions of the Hispanic community.”

N.J. gets federal approval, funds for health reinsurance program

New Jersey is now among 14 states approved by the federal government to implement a reinsurance program through the Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver, the state’s Department of Banking and Insurance announced late Thursday.

Reinsurance is a tool that was first used by the Affordable Care Act to help soften the impact of the new law, as well as help keep the marketplace competitive. It works by making insurance companies whole in the face of steep claims that come from the ever-shifting population on the health insurance marketplace. Because people tend to take whichever plan costs them the least, and includes the doctors they like, it becomes hard to depend on a consistent set of claims.

“Under the waiver, New Jersey will receive federal funds to cover a substantial portion of state costs for the reinsurance program. The state has requested $218 million in federal pass-through funds to support the program for 2019,” according to DOBI.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law to create the reinsurance program in May, and the state applied in July.

If an insurer is hit with a sudden increase of high-risk members and high-cost claims, the state can reimburse them for a certain percentage from a pool of state and federal funding.

“Specifically, the reinsurance program will reimburse individual health carriers for a proportion of the cost of certain high-cost claimants between a minimum and maximum threshold. Under the parameters for 2019, the program will reimburse 60 percent of claims between a $40,000 minimum threshold (attachment point) and the $215,000 maximum threshold (reinsurance cap). The program will be funded by three sources: (1) funds collected by the state pursuant to the law continuing an individual mandate in New Jersey and establishing a shared responsibility tax; (2) federal pass-through funding granted by the waiver; and if necessary (3) an annual appropriation from the general fund,” according to DOBI.

DOBI anticipates a 15 percent reduction in what premium rates would be without the program, and has already seen a decrease from other ACA-like laws signed by Murphy.

“The Murphy administration has made it a priority to pursue policies that protect the health of New Jersey families by improving access to affordable quality health coverage,” said DOBI Commissioner Marlene Caride. “The reinsurance program is an innovative way to increase stability in the insurance market and reduce costs to consumers. Ultimately, this is about creating greater access for residents in the state to the coverage and care they deserve.”

In the statement from DOBI, Murphy said health care is a right, not a privilege.

“This program is a significant step in our effort to link families to the health care access they need. We are committed to continuing our work to make sure that as many New Jerseyans as possible enroll in coverage and get the care that is so critical to their health and well-being,” he said.

The approval will affect the final rates that insurers are expected to file in the fall.

Movado paying $100M-plus for MVMT watch brand

Movado Group Inc., the Paramus-based watchmaker, has agreed to acquire MVMT Watches Inc. for approximately $100 million plus up to another $100 million in contingency payments.

Movado said in a news release that the deal for MVMT will be funded through cash and credit, with the final purchase price determined by MVMT’s future financial performance.

MVMT was founded by 27-year-old Jacob Kassan and 26-year-old Kramer LaPlante in 2013, and sells watches as well as sunglasses and accessories. Both are expected to remain brand leaders.

“Jake and Kramer have built an incredible brand and business in just five years, and we are excited to have MVMT join Movado Group,” Movado Chairman and CEO Efraim Grinberg said in a prepared statement. “Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for Movado Group. The acquisition of MVMT will provide us greater access to millennials and advances our Digital Center of Excellence initiative with the addition of a powerful brand managed by a successful team of highly creative, passionate and talented individuals.”

Movado hopes the deal will bolster its appeal to millennials and provide significant global growth opportunities, while providing the MVMT brand with Movado’s infrastructure and distribution network. The company purchased another millennial-focused brand, Olivia Burton, last year.

MVMT employs approximately 40 people, Movado said.

The transaction is expected to close around Oct. 1, pending customary conditions and approvals.

Centerview Partners LLC served as Movado’s financial adviser, while Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP served as legal adviser. Rothschild & Co. was MVMT’s financial adviser, while Cooley LLP is its legal adviser.

Comodo CA buys website recovery company

Comodo CA, a Roseland-based web security solutions company, has acquired a website maintenance, backup and recovery firm, it announced Thursday.

Georgia-based CodeGuard Inc. will operate independently as a unit of Comodo CA, helping businesses reverse damage from cyberattacks or development errors and server crashes, Comodo said in a news release.

“The impact of website disasters can be devastating for a company,” Comodo CEO Bill Holtz said in a prepared statement. “… By adding CodeGuard’s solutions to our existing product portfolio, we are able to further protect business owners and their customers. This acquisition is also further proof of our continued accelerated growth and differentiation in the market.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Paterson nail care company buys its facility

Kirker Enterprises Inc., a Paterson-based maker of nail care products, has purchased its home in the city as it continues to grow its business, it announced Thursday.

The company said it bought 9.4 acres of land and more than 190,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space, with plans to add equipment over the next six months to a year.

It also invested in Creative Studio 55e, a collaborative space for its marketing and creative departments that was unveiled earlier this summer.

“These investments solidify Kirker’s roots in the Paterson community and open up opportunities for sustained economic growth,” CEO and President John McLaughlin said in a prepared statement. “Ownership of the previously rented space alongside the addition of new equipment will allow Kirker the ability to expand production and better serve our customers.”

Financial terms of the real estate deal were not disclosed, nor was the seller.

PTC Therapeutics renews 90K sq.ft. South Plainfield lease

PTC Therapeutics Inc. has extended its lease of 90,000 square feet in South Plainfield, where it maintains its corporate headquarters and research and development facility, according to property owner National Realty & Development Corp.

PTC, a biopharmaceutical company, is based at the Middlesex Business Center, an 11-building, 489,000-square-foot office park on Corporate Boulevard. The company occupies three buildings at the site.

“Middlesex Business Center entertains a quality mix of tenants, many of whom are prestigious leaders in their industry,” Brian Sekel, executive vice president with NRDC, said in a prepared statement. “We are pleased that MBC’s convenient, central location can continue to offer the requirements that PTC Therapeutics is looking for. PTC has been our tenant in South Plainfield for the past 18 years, and we look forward to continuing our long-term relationship with them.”

Sekel represented the landlord, while Charles Parmelli of Cushman & Wakefield in Morristown represented the tenant.

Hollister implements succession plan with new top execs

Hollister Construction Services, based in Parsippany, has made a number of executive changes as part of a succession plan, it announced recently.

Christopher Johnson of Hollister Construction Services.

Co-founder Christopher Johnson is stepping away from day-to-day management of the building firm, according to a news release, although he will continue to serve as an executive coach and relationship builder in a new role as “head coach.”

Brendan Murray, an executive vice president, has succeeded the firm’s other co-founder, Kieran Flanagan, as the company’s third president, building on his recent six months of leadership.

Another EVP, Matt Higgins, has become chief people officer, tasked with best implementing corporate culture among members of the Hollister team.

Finally, Joe Furey will remain in his role as chief financial officer, serving with Murray and Higgins as the third member of the new leadership team.

Two other executives have been promoted to assist with day-to-day operations, the firm said.

Vincent Solano, vice president of preconstruction, has been promoted to EVP, preconstruction, a new role combining elements of business development and estimating.

And Keith Lovas has joined the executive team as vice president, field operations, to lead work in the field.

IT firm signs lease at renovated Parsippany office site

A regional information technology company has signed a lease for nearly 7,000 square feet of space at a Parsippany office building currently under renovation, according to real estate firm NAI James E. Hanson.

NAI Hanson said in a news release that Strategic Micro Systems is taking 6,905 square feet at 111 Littleton Road, owned by CRG 119 LLC, an affiliate of Commercial Realty Group. The 36,289-square-foot, three-story property will also house CRG’s 8,000-square-foot corporate headquarters when renovations are completed in the third quarter.

“Small business is the backbone of the American economy, but it’s often difficult for the image-conscious small business to find appropriate space. We deliver that here at 111,” CRG General Manager Andrew H. Billing said in a prepared statement.

The property is over 40 percent leased with these two signings, NAI Hanson said.

W. Joshua Levering and Nicholas DePaolera represented the landlord in the Strategic Micro Systems deal.

“Finding quality office space for today’s small businesses can often be a challenge,” Levering said in a statement. “In response to this, the smaller floor plates found at 111 Littleton allows CRG’s construction team to design and build spaces tailored to small business owners. This flexibility, coupled with highly favorable lease terms and best-in-class highway access, makes this building uniquely suited to fit the needs of the modern small business.”

The property was designed by Paul Newman of Kimmerle Newman, with renovations managed by Michael Walsh, president of CRG affiliate Corporate Contracting Inc.

Zwicker: New commission will define N.J.’s innovation clusters

For a state with a $34 billion operating budget, $1 million is a drop in the bucket to reinstate a Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation.

But that is just step one.

The legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday to spur the new high-growth sectors of business will also settle a brewing debate over New Jersey’s innovation identity.

Seeking similar notoriety to California and Massachusetts, which have their clusters of technology and life sciences, respectively, New Jersey has been struggling with identifying its innovation hub.

Should it be a major city? A region of the state?

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Monmouth Junction), who sponsored the legislation that Murphy signed, has the answer.

“What’s next is we build out centers of innovation. The North is going to be cybersecurity and financial technology. Central is biotech and life sciences. South is aviation and agriculture. Shore is renewable energy and autonomous vehicles,” he said.

These are all obvious to those who know where companies have been migrating or growing.

Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark have seen high growth in the fintech and cybersecurity space. Life sciences and biotech have for ages been clustered, largely, in central New Jersey. South Jersey is known for its agriculture, and Atlantic County is seeing a spike of interest in the long-stalled aviation tech park. The Shore is already seeing interest in offshore wind companies, like in Atlantic City, and more growth is anticipated as the state sets regulations and pursues growth in other renewable sources.

The formalized clusters will stand on a network of nonprofit and state funding.

“These nonprofits that will crop up there will be funded by the commission to invest in innovation from the workforce pipeline into investing directly into companies, in partnership with the private sector, by taking an investment stake,” Zwicker said. “The money that is invested grows those companies, creates jobs and, if any money goes back to the state, it goes right back into the commission, then gets funneled back into investing into more companies.”

The idea came from neighboring Pennsylvania, he said, as well as the aggressive investments Massachusetts made to attract life sciences in recent years — some of which came from New Jersey.

Pennsylvania, for decades, has had the Ben Franklin Technology Partners — a part of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.

“They went right through the ’09 recession because, when the legislature and the governor couldn’t appropriate enough money because times were tough, they were, because their investments were so good, they were able to keep going,” Zwicker said.

That’s not to say the government will suddenly be taking on risk at the level of venture capital firms. New Jersey does have its own independent or school-affiliated venture capital funds, and the state has the Economic Development Authority, but the commission will be yet another option.

“Governments are not the venture capitalists,” Zwicker said. “So, you don’t go out and take huge risks. But what the federal government and state governments have shown is, when you take moderate risk, then you get the positive return on investment three-fold, four-fold, easily.”

“It takes a while. We will start at $1 million. The last time New Jersey funded the commission, it was just under $11 million,” Zwicker said.

During the bill signing event Wednesday in New Brunswick, Murphy said the state needs to regain its dominance in innovative business sectors, plugging the drain of companies to competitor states.

But New Jersey has partly been responsible for that, based on state documents.

In its former existence, the commission was a 16-member body that had partnered with the Small Business Administration with the formation of the Early Stage Enterprises Limited Partnership in 1995.

The fund’s purpose was to turn $4.3 million of state funding into $30 million through joint investments with private industry.

But a 2001 audit by the Office of Legislative Services found that, while the investments were being made, they went out of state.

“As a result, only six of the 17 companies in the portfolio as of March 31, 2001, were located in New Jersey,” according to the 2001 audit. “The other 11 companies were located in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. These are states that New Jersey is in direct competition with for startup companies. It would seem prudent for the commission to prioritize investment in New Jersey companies instead of just investing.”

Murphy expressed optimism about the role of the resurrected commission, and said there was still room despite the existence of other entities focused on investing in and attracting innovative companies.

“I think the fact that this is legislative, that it’s the law, that these folks (legislators) and their colleagues lead this, and I’m going to put my name on it, puts this into a little bit more different, perhaps special, category,” he said.

Murphy highlighted the work being done by organizations like Choose New Jersey, which is coordinating trade mission trips to Germany and Israel in the fall, led by CEO Jose Lozano, and the EDA, led by CEO Tim Sullivan, as well as Higher Education Commissioner Zakiya Smith Ellis.

“What Jose is doing right now, we were not focusing on. What Tim is doing with incubators and the EDA, we’re not doing. The connection between (business) and higher ed and what Zakiya is doing … higher ed research into the real economy, it just wasn’t being done,” he said. “I think it’s up to us to make sure we orchestrate this in a way that we are not bumping into each other. We think there’s plenty of space.”

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Murphy re-establishes Commission on Science, Technology and Innovation

Gov. Phil Murphy took his latest step focused on the innovation economy Wednesday by reinstating the state’s Commission on Science, Technology and Innovation.

The legislation calling for the 17-person commission, which has been defunct since 2010, was sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Monmouth Junction), a physicist, and Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), an engineer.

The commission became non-operational after its funding was eliminated in 2010, but it will receive $1 million in funding by the new administration to redevelop the infrastructure.

It will be comprised of 17 members including the Secretary of Higher Education, the Commissioner of Education, and the CEO of the Economic Development Authority.

After it was started in the late 1980’s, the budget for the commission grew as large as $30 million, but, by the late 2000s, it had dropped to less than half of that.

Donald Sebastian, CEO and president of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, said the commission will also help universities unite their voices.

“Universities speak with many voices, companies speak with many voices. This is a way of pulling all of those sort of competing interests together around a common goal and around common issues that, in the end, accrue back to the benefit of the individual companies and the individual universities. In the end there will be … partnerships between companies and researchers that form as a result of this, but you need to create a framework to make that happen,” he said.

Zwicker agreed.

“We are setting up to ensure the taxpayer dollars we spend are well-spent and actually have a positive return on investment. And you need this commission to be a focal point, to be a glue,” he said. “The commission is the hub.”

Off of the hub are spokes that include the groups and agencies that already focus on promoting the state’s STEM industries, such as the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, BioNJ, the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, the state Economic Development Authority, Choose New Jersey and the New Jersey Tech Council.

These spokes will help attract the money to the state, he said.

Jose Lozano, CEO of Choose New Jersey, said that, while his organization does prioritize the innovation economy, it has many other focuses.

“Where, for a lot of us, the innovation is a part of it, it’s not the only thing we are focusing on. The innovation economy is what we feel … will grow much faster than the other sectors we are focusing on,” he said.

Michele Siekerka, CEO and president of NJBIA, said the commission will help resolve ways to leverage the transfer of technology research between academia and industry. She also highlighted the Research with NJ portal, which was launched in April at the annual national BIO summit in Boston.

“Such academic-industry collaborations could be stimulated by way of advanced technology centers, innovation partnership grants, business incubation facilities and technology extension services. This added focus on innovation in this legislation falls in lockstep with one of NJBIA’s core missions of regaining New Jersey’s status as an innovation leader,” Siekerka said.

James Barrood, president of the New Jersey Tech Council, said the commission helps to align efforts in the state and create the perception and reality that innovation is happening and accelerating in the state.

“That’s the most important thing. It’s optics, it’s perception, and this goes a long way,” Barrood said.

The plan for the commission was also one of the recommendations for the state in the governor’s Biotechnology task force.

The new law was signed by the governor just days after appointing the state’s first innovation officer.

How the reinstated commission and Beth Simone Noveck will be working together is yet unknown. But discussions were taking place Wednesday to iron out the relationship.

Murphy said the commission would help the state re-establish itself as a dominant player in the STEM industries.

“Our dominance in innovation eroded even as competitor states like California, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York began their efforts to attract the companies and capital that once would have looked at New Jersey and nowhere else,” Murphy said.

And the onus of continuing funding during next year’s budget process now rests with the Legislature, Sarlo said.