Big names head 150 speakers announced for VOICE Summit

Industry superstars Dave Isbitski, Howard Lerman and Chiori Hori are three of the more than 150 speakers and presenters who will appear at the VOICE Summit this summer at New Jersey Institute of Technology, organizers announced Wednesday.

The VOICE Summit, the nation’s largest multiday voice-first conference, will take place July 24-26.

Isbitski is the chief evangelist for Alexa and Echo and an industry leader who has helped support the launch of numerous platforms, frameworks and programming languages across an array of devices at Amazon and Microsoft.

Lerman is the founder and CEO of Yext, the leader in digital knowledge management. Yext’s mission is to give companies control over their brand experiences across the digital universe of maps, apps, search engines, voice assistants and other intelligent services.

Hori has been working on neural network-based technologies for human-robot communication at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories since 2015, introducing deep learning architectures as a key step toward real-world human-robot interaction.

The organizers of the VOICE Summit say the event will explore the voice ecosystem across health care, education, marketing, government, fintech, transportation, smart home and security.

There will be more than 125 talks, panels and hands-on sessions across an array of development, design, monetization and user experience topics. Organizers feel attendees will be armed with the knowledge to accelerate their career, startup or major company initiative.

Other distinguished speakers for the event include:

  • James Poulter, head of emerging platforms, digital consumer engagement at Lego (Playing With Artificial Empathy);
  • Lauren Lucchese, head of AI content, Capital One (Designing Conversations);
  • Jan Neuman, director, applied AI research, and Jeanine Heck, VP of AI product, of Comcast (How Voice Helps Comcast Reinvent the Customer Experience);
  • Jennifer Warner, senior editor of Mayo Clinic, guided by voice (Mayo Clinic on Call);
  • John Rome, Arizona State University (Alexa Goes to College);
  • Cris DeLuca, global director, digital innovation, Johnson & Johnson Innovation (Innovation and the Healthcare Experience).

Click here for the full lineup.

The VOICE Summit, which is being organized by Modev, includes sponsors such as Amazon Alexa, Yext, Audible, Applause and Orbita.

Community partners include New Jersey Tech Council, New Jersey Innovation Institute, Code for Newark, Women in Machine Learning and Data Science, Women Who Code, GDI, System of Systems, VoiceTechTO, Catalaize, BotsandAI, Women in Tech NJ/NY, #ODSC, NYC Blockchain AI, fuse machines, NYC Media Lab and CO Network. Media partners include geomarketing.com, Dreamplay.tv, Voicebot.ai and VoiceFirstFM.

Amazon will provide more than a dozen technology evangelists to conduct Amazon Alexa skills training for consumer and enterprise use cases.

Pete Erickson, founder of Modev, said he feels the event will be a gathering of all the top minds and products in voice technology.

“We fully expect this summit to be the epicenter for voice technology discussion as we bring together speakers and attendees from retail, health care, transportation, marketing, higher ed, government, startups and tech to discuss best practices, industry challenges and the future of multimodal engagement,” he said.

The VOICE Summit will be held at NJIT’s new Wellness and Events Center, a state-of-the-art, 3,500-seat arena and conference venue that opened this winter with the goal of increasing community engagement.

Lerman said he is thrilled to be involved.

“We are witnessing a major platform shift: the rise of AI-powered services like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant,” he said. “Voice search and AI are transforming how consumers discover businesses every day.

“At VOICE Summit, we’ll discuss this macrotrend and why businesses of all kinds need to manage their digital knowledge to win customers in this new era.”

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HillTop Partners opens residential tower in Irvington, creating 114 units on former hospital site

HillTop Partners Urban Renewal LLC and officials from the township and county cut the ribbon on a new mixed-income residential property in Irvington earlier this week.

The 114-unit building at 280 Park Place serves to revitalize the blighted former site of Irvington General Hospital — which has been vacant for 12 years — according to a news release.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, members of the township council and others joined the joint venture partners who make up HillTop Partners to open the township’s first major residential redevelopment in decades.

“Today was an exciting and significant day for the township of Irvington,” Vauss said in a statement. “The closure of Irvington General Hospital was devastating to our community, and this project is symbolic of Irvington’s resurgence. I am grateful to the developers for not only choosing to invest in our township, but for also delivering a transformative and world-class project.”

The building at 280 Park Place is five stories and comprises 125,000 square feet, including a fitness center, resident lounge, children’s library and more.

Adenah Bayoh, whose Kapwood LLC is part of the joint venture, told ROI-NJ earlier this year that at least 80 percent of the units are affordable housing, but with greater amenities than traditional units.

“I wanted to bring features to it like granite countertops, huge bathrooms and large closets,” she said. “I wanted a space that someone can walk in and feel at home. And, for me, that means feeling that a woman had a hand in the development.”

The property represents phase 1 of a larger planned community, with construction of phase 2 slated to begin in 2020.

“280 Park Place marks the beginning of an ambitious development plan,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said in a statement. “… In place of a vacant hospital building, the new 280 Park Place will be infused with individuals and families who will become part of the community.”

HillTop is a joint venture between Kapwood and Urban Builders Collaborative, a unit of Lettire Construction Corp.

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EisnerAmper bolsters International Tax Service Group

EisnerAmper LLP has added a director in its International Tax Service Group, the firm announced.

Chip Niculae, who has more than 13 years of experience in inbound and outbound tax structuring, cross-border transactions, global reorganizations and more, will work out of the tax and advisory firm’s Iselin office, it said in a news release.

“As the world grows more complex, international taxation is also becoming increasingly complex,” Gerard O’Beirne, tax partner and leader of EisnerAmper’s International Tax Services Group, said in a prepared statement. “Chip brings a wealth of experience to this area and will be a valuable business adviser for clients with an international presence or those considering such.”

O’Beirne was named to head the group earlier this month.

EisnerAmper, based in New York, also has a New Jersey office in Princeton.

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N.J. attorney among Fox Rothschild promotions

Fox Rothschild LLP, a national law firm, recently promoted an associate in the Princeton office to partner as part of a series of moves.

Corinne McCann Trainor, a trial attorney who handles litigation related to complex business transactions, intellectual property disputes and other business and family matters, was one of 19 associates promoted by the firm.

She is a graduate of Rutgers University and Seton Hall School of Law.

Fox Rothschild also has New Jersey offices in Atlantic City and Morristown, as well as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and more.

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Murphy signs controversial nuclear subsidy bill

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a nuclear subsidy bill and an energy master plan executive order Wednesday during a ceremony in Monmouth Junction.

The nuclear subsidy bill, which faced heavy opposition from many consumer and environmental groups, would provide Public Service Enterprise Group with a potential annual subsidy from the state (if it is deemed necessary after a review by the Board of Public Utilities) of up to $300 million, in order to support the decreasingly profitable — but clean — nuclear energy.

“These facilities support 5,800 jobs, not to mention the ancillary impact of those jobs,” Murphy said. “Those are good-paying, union jobs that support a middle-class family.”

PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo previously told ROI-NJ that the subsidy, if approved, will help the company maintain two nuclear plants in Salem County.

The Salem plant, owned 57 percent by PSEG and 43 percent by Exelon, and Hope Creek, owned by PSEG, are facing increasing market pressure from cheaper and more abundant natural gas, Izzo said.

“With Gov. Murphy’s exciting agenda to advance renewable energy and the guidance and oversight of the Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey is poised to return to its place as a national leader in clean energy,” said BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso. “We are proud to have already deployed 2.5 gigawatts of solar energy in the state and look forward to expanding our portfolio of renewable energy projects.”

This bill also helps PSEG feel confident in its ability to bid to provide nuclear capacity for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the results of which are due from grid operator PJM Interconnection on Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, Izzo applauded Murphy’s signing of the bill and executive order.

“Together, these measures create a forward-looking energy policy that makes New Jersey a national leader in advancing clean energy,” he said “This package follows through on Gov. Phil Murphy’s pledge that an enlightened, comprehensive energy policy would be a top priority of his administration. These new laws will preserve and create good-paying jobs and spur billions of dollars in investment in clean energy and energy efficiency across the state. And will help preserve nuclear energy, which generates nearly 40 percent of the state’s electricity and more than 90 percent of its carbon-free generation. Our company looks forward to working with state leaders to make sure the promise of this legislation is achieved.”

In a statement, Exelon also applauded Murphy’s actions.

“Exelon commends New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy for taking a national leadership role in recognizing the environmental value of the state’s nuclear fleet, advancing other clean energy policies and putting New Jersey on a path to achieve its carbon emissions goals by signing into law a package of legislation that will help to preserve 90 percent of New Jersey’s carbon-free power, protect 5,800 jobs and save residents and businesses $400 million on their electric bills,” the statement said.

Izzo told ROI-NJ that, despite criticism from competitors and the public, he was confident about the bill’s protections for the ratepayers.

“We are asking for a safety net that could be less than $300 million annually, with built-in protections. The BPU could reduce the amount if a price on carbon emissions (is developed) and they can reduce if (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) comes with (incentives) for fuel diversity. Also, if it becomes too expensive for New Jersey to pay, the state has the right to say no. The cap in our bill would be a $10 increase in the energy bills,” Izzo said.

The new initiatives do, in fact, call for zero-emission credits for the state, in addition to ramping up wind and solar energy, and calling for greater renewable energy storage.

“This is a great day for New Jersey,” Izzo said. “Thanks to the leadership and vision of Gov. Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, we are on track toward the healthy and prosperous clean energy future this state wants and needs. We also appreciate the perseverance and foresight of the legislative sponsors, led by Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblyman Jack McKeon, for their tireless efforts in advancing thoughtful, comprehensive measures intended to meet the state’s energy demands and environmental needs of tomorrow.”

Subsidies for the plants, which most estimates indicate would cost ratepayers between $35-50 annually, drew heavy criticism from consumer and environmental groups — and were a cause for the delay of the signings.

One of the biggest critics of the subsidy bill, the N.J. Coalition for Fair Energy, said there is likely going to be legal action following the signings — a strategy that has been used in other states where Exelon received subsidies for its nuclear plants.

“Today’s news is a disappointment for many, and a major setback for ratepayers,” said spokesperson Matt Fossen. “While PSEG shareholders just became more prosperous, the reality is New Jersey consumers now have to confront higher electric bills for no reason other than to bail out PSEG management’s bad business decisions. We wish officials would’ve waited to make a decision until after the results of PJM’s capacity auction were announced, which will be literally only hours after the governor’s signing, but this issue is not over — and it’s unfortunate the courts may be necessary to bring a dose of reason to the debate.”

Atlantic City Electric, which is part of Exelon, said Murphy’s actions will help New Jersey continue its work in workforce development.

“As part of Exelon’s merger with Pepco Holdings, the company committed to investing $6.5 million in a workforce development initiative to expand training programs for energy-related jobs,” ACE said in a statement. “This initiative, which will kick off this summer, includes five programs with three vocational schools and four workforce development boards across southern New Jersey. It will help train the workforce needed to fill these future energy jobs, including the build out of the underlying infrastructure necessary to facilitate the growth of the clean energy economy.”

“We applaud Gov. Murphy’s commitment to driving a clean and sustainable energy future for all New Jerseyans, and today’s signing is another example of his leadership role in this important policy initiative,” said Dave Velazquez, CEO and president of Pepco, which includes Atlantic City Electric. “We are committed to partnering with stakeholders across the state to ensure that this legislation leads to the development of new and innovative programs and initiatives that will create new jobs in the energy field and have a positive impact on our customers, our environment and the communities we serve.”

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Columbia manufacturing subcontractor wins SBA award

Imperial Machine & Tool Co., a 75-year-old machining, fabricating and assembly firm based in Columbia, was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2018 Regional Subcontractor of the Year for Region II, the SBA announced this week.

Imperial Machine & Tool beat out nine other subcontracting firms from the region, which includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to receive the award. The fourth-generation firm has 40 employees based out of its 33,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing and test facility.

“Each of our employees shares a sense of commitment and pride in their work that contributes to the success we enjoy today, and has put us in a position to be recognized as SBA’s 2018 Regional Subcontractor of the Year,” President Chris Joest said in a prepared statement.

SBA Regional Administrator Steve Bulger said the company was nominated by Jessica L. Straub, small business liaison officer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, a Department of Defense research and development lab.

“To be nominated by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a well-respected and renowned R&D facility, is truly an honor, and I can honestly say each of us here is grateful to the SBA for this recognition and prestigious award,” Joest said.

Imperial Machine & Tool was selected for the honor based on criteria including technical and management capability; financial strength; customer interface and support; innovativeness of products offered; and ability to deliver quality services on time and at competitive cost to the U.S. government.

“This is a small business that has a rich history in manufacturing and providing its customers with technically challenging and complex components,” Bulger said in a statement. “Imperial Machine & Tool Co. is a prime example why small businesses across the country are so vital to supplying the U.S. government with superior quality services and goods.”

The company serves the semiconductor, technology, energy, aerospace and defense industries, among others. It was established in 1943 by Michael Joest, Chris Joest’s grandfather, and counts Chris Joest’s son, Christian Joest, among its leaders.

“Small businesses like Imperial Machine & Tool Co. continue to play an important role in the manufacturing sector in New Jersey,” SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone said in a statement. “By embracing technology and exploring avenues like metal 3D printing, Chris Joest and his staff have raised the bar and developed a blueprint for all small manufacturers to follow.”

The national award was won by Evans Capacitor Co. of East Providence, Rhode Island.

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Middlesex County College president to retire after 13 years

Middlesex County College announced that its president, Joann La Perla-Morales, will retire effective June 30 after 50 years in higher education.

La Perla-Morales became MCC’s sixth president in January 2005, making her the longest-serving president in the college’s history.

“My 13 years at Middlesex have been the most professionally rewarding of my life,” she said in a prepared statement. “To the students, faculty, administration, employees, alumni and board of this great institution, I offer my sincere gratitude for providing me with the opportunity to lead an institution that will only grow stronger.”

The board will announce an interim president in the coming weeks, the Edison college said, and will begin a national search for a permanent replacement shortly.

“Dr. La Perla-Morales has been an integral part of our growth, and we wish her well in her retirement,” board Chairman Dorothy K. Power said in a prepared statement. “On behalf of the board and our entire community, we thank her for her many years of service to Middlesex County and its residents.”

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RCBC rewards acting president with permanent post

Rowan College at Burlington County has named its acting president, Michael Cioce, to the permanent post, effective Sept. 1, it announced.

RCBC President Paul Drayton was placed on leave just before the start of the academic year, and resigned in April. Cioce, who had been vice president of enrollment management and student success, was named to the interim post in August, when Drayton’s leave began.

Cioce will become the Mount Laurel college’s sixth president upon Drayton’s formal resignation in September.

“As the first in my family to graduate college, I’m committed to making sure all students have the opportunity to open the doors of their future through education,” Cioce said in a statement. “I’m humbled by the trust the board has placed in me, and am excited to work with the college’s exceptional students, faculty, staff and partners in our quest to provide innovative, high-quality and affordable education.”

Cioce has a bachelor’s from Marywood University and MBA and master’s in financial management from Drexel University, RCBC said. He completed a doctorate in higher education leadership at the University of Pennsylvania this month.

“The board of trustees is thrilled to have Dr. Cioce as our college president,” board Chairman George Nyikita said in a prepared statement. “He has proven himself to be fully dedicated to the spirit and mission of this institution, and I am confident students in Burlington County will benefit greatly from his leadership and service.”

Cioce joined RCBC in 2010 as director of financial aid before he was promoted to executive director of enrollment management and then the VP position he held before becoming acting president.

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Sills lawyer: Supreme Court ruling in employer-employee litigation is ‘major victory’ for local businesses

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this week dealing with employee-employer litigation has some clear winners and losers in the eyes of New Jersey legal experts.

The Supreme Court on Monday decided in a 5-4 majority — led by newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch — that one long-existing federal labor act trumped another and, as a result, employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate legal claims have to do it individually.

It was a “major victory” for local businesses, according to David I. Rosen, who represents management at businesses in legal matters as chair of the employment and labor practice group at Sills Cummis & Gross P.C.

“What it means practically for employers in New Jersey and elsewhere is that arbitration agreements that they enter into with employees can effectively waive the employee’s rights to bring class action suits against employers and can require them to arbitrate individual (legal) claims instead of group claims,” he said. “You’re going to see more employers asking judges to bar class actions if employees ignore the agreements and simply start their lawsuits.”

The upshot requires a less lengthy explanation.

“I expect this to save businesses from litigation expenses and adverse publicity,” Rosen said.

That doesn’t mean class action lawsuits will now become a thing of the past. Where there are no arbitration agreements in place with the proper language, there will still be collective actions, Rosen explained.

It’s not uncommon, however, for the signing of such contracts to be made a condition of employment. In situations like that, Adam Kleinfeldt, a partner at Deutsch Atkins P.C., argues that employees often don’t know what they’re agreeing to. He said a sizable percentage of employees, without attorneys to consult, don’t understand the repercussions of every paper they’re signing on the first day of a job.

“And, so, employers who are sophisticated can prevent employees from getting their right to have a jury of their peers hear legitimate employment disputes,” he said. “It’s only later employees find this out.”

Kleinfeldt comes to this issue from the perspective of representing workers’ interests. He deals with employment litigation such as discrimination, retaliation and whistle blowing.

Given that, he’s troubled by the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Millions of workers will be impacted by this,” he said. “The threat of a jury responding to employer conduct has been removed. I believe this undermines the jury system overall.”

Similar to what was expressed by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered the dissenting opinion on this matter, Kleinfeldt considers this a setback after decades of federal and state policy aimed to create an equal playing field for employers and employees.

“I think Ginsberg gets it right,” Kleinfeldt said. “I agree that the result will be a negative effect on statutes on the federal and state level that are designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers. These workers are powerless against the actions of employers, and access to a jury trial was the one of the only powers they had.”

New Jersey has had its own set of high court opinions pertaining to when someone can voluntarily waive a right to a jury trial as a matter of contract law. The state’s Supreme Court has held arbitration agreements to a strict standard in terms of the language in the contract — making that the deciding factor of arbitration’s enforceability.

Each state has its own approach to how arbitration agreements are enforced. In most cases, it seems the federal court’s decision will take precedence.

“The Supreme Court is enforcing a federal statute, and, if you have an employment agreement, it is governed by federal law,” Rosen said. “So, if the Supreme Court is saying you can enforce arbitration agreements against employees, it will in all likelihood undercut state court decisions that suggest otherwise.”

What it doesn’t undercut, Rosen clarified, is an employee’s right to litigation involving disputes over pay, benefits and other matters. His view is that there are a lot of positives in the strengthening of the use of an arbitrator to resolve these conflicts.

“An arbitrator is not going to be swayed by emotion, but instead just listen to the facts to make a decision,” he said, adding that the process resolves disputes “quickly and efficiently.”

At the end of the day, no business wants to get sued — especially in large class action lawsuits.

“It’s bad for publicity, it’s expensive to defend, and — to top it all off — it can be at the whim of a jury deciding whether they engaged in wrongdoing,” Rosen said. “So, for businesses here, this is a sigh of relief.”

Sobel’s Glick honored for leadership of ACG’s N.J. chapter

Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co. in Livingston, has been awarded this year’s Association for Corporate Growth 2018 Meritorious Service Award for her commitment to and the advancement of the New Jersey chapter of ACG.

“Every organization knows that the dedication of its volunteers is the truest measure of its value and success,” J.B. Dollison, chairman of the ACG global board of directors, said. “ACG is no exception. This year’s award recipients are natural leaders who have generously given thousands of volunteer hours. It’s our honor and privilege to recognize them.”

Glick, who has served the last four years as New Jersey chapter president for the global organization focused on driving middle-market growth, was nominated by her peers especially for encouraging dozens of new members to join and lead committees, revamping the sponsorship program, and working closely on the chapter’s signature annual event, the Corporate Growth Conference and Awards.

“It makes it that much more meaningful to be recognized and appreciated by one’s peers for one’s leadership,” Glick, who also is responsible for the development and implementation of her accounting firm’s branding, marketing communications and business development strategies, said. “The Association for Corporate Growth is one of the most effective business organizations I have been a part of and I’m thrilled to be in a leadership role there.”