State of New Jersey
She might be the hardest person to place on the list. For starters, she’s usually the first response when people are asked: Who is the most powerful woman in the state? Defining that power is not as easy. To be clear, it comes from more than just being married to the governor — everyone says that. “She’s incredibly smart, driven and focused on what she wants to accomplish,” one insider said — and could be speaking for many. Murphy has made bringing investment to female entrepreneurs a top priority through the Golden Seeds program. And she’s just as focused on improving maternal and infant care — especially among underserved communities. Her influence, however, extends beyond that. Everyone recognizes it, but can’t fully describe it. “I think it’s fair to say she has a role in everything the administration does,” another insider said. “And I think most people think that is a good thing.”
CEO and president
Hackensack Meridian Health
Some call him the ultimate health care businessman, as Hackensack Meridian has long been positioned at the forefront of new business models to improve the sector. But HMH’s impact in care and research should not be overlooked. The acquisition of Carrier Clinic — and the rollout of a new program that brings behavioral health care to urgent care — makes Hackensack the leader in behavioral health in the state. HMH also took the lead on the vaping crisis that is prevalent throughout the state. Its partnership with Saint Joseph’s Health in Paterson will help bring improved cancer care treatment to an underserved community. And the opening of the Center for Discovery and Innovation is expected to lead to breakthrough discoveries and treatments for a wide range of issues and illnesses.
CEO and president
Ostrowsky has long advocated that preventative health measures are more cost-effective — and produce better outcomes. He’s finally getting a chance to put that into practice with the announcement of the building of 70 affordable rental apartments in the South Ward of Newark. The project, in conjunction with the development firm Pennrose, the city of Newark and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, aims to allow residents to change their greatest social determinant: their housing. The impact of the project could be felt for generations — and in cities across the state. And it’s just one of the major impactful measures RWJBH is taking. The announcement of the Rutgers Cancer Pavilion in New Brunswick should provide state-of-the-art care — and research — for cancer in the state.
Founder and CEO
We know, we know: Amazon is not going to build its HQ2 in Newark. And, while that would have been great for the state (and, we’ll argue, Amazon), it was never the only reason Bezos appears on so many of our lists. For starters, Amazon has more than 18,000 full-time employees across the state, with 12 fulfillment and sortation centers. There’s an Amazon Books Store in Paramus, five Amazon Pop-up store locations and 19 Whole Foods Markets. Even more, its success in building distribution centers certainly has made other e-commerce outlets understand they need to be in New Jersey, too. And, finally, Amazon’s interest in warehouse space has been one of the drivers of industrial real estate. Then there’s this: “New Jersey is one of those states that is seen by others as being stuck in the past — Amazon has made it cool,” one insider said. “Now, getting the headquarters would have increased that exponentially, but we shouldn’t downplay the significance of their presence here. And it’s a presence that surely will grow.”
New Brunswick Development Corp.
Pick your project with Paladino. Should he be saluted for the recently opened New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, the latest showpiece he’s added to his projects in the city? Or perhaps for the announcement of the new Rutgers Cancer Pavilion, a state-of-the-art facility he’s building for RWJBarnabas Health in the city? And then there’s the Hub, which is envisioned as a tech research center for the city and the university. Paladino, of course, is busy outside of New Brunswick, including continuing work on the Gateway Project in Atlantic City and potential work transforming the Great Falls area in Paterson. “He’s the ultimate developer, especially when it comes to public-private partnership deals,” one insider said. “No one makes those deals without talking to Chris. I can’t imagine how many he turns down.”
State of New Jersey
She may have risen to the forefront of public consciousness — or public shaming — by creating her working group to look into the toxic culture women face in Trenton. And making sure it is productive. This doesn’t surprise anyone who knows Weinberg. “I know I won’t be the first to say this, but she’s tenacious,” one insider said. Of course, she’s always been. Just ask former Gov. Chris Christie. Weinberg, insiders say, doesn’t play party favorites when it comes to speaking the truth. “The best example is when someone spoke out against (Senate President Steve) Sweeney,” the insider said. “That was the kind of stuff that could have come out against anybody. She made it clear they are not putting constraints on anybody. She’s letting everyone say what they want to say.” In the end, Weinberg may get the last word. You can be sure her investigation into the culture of Trenton has many powerful people on edge. That’s influence.
He’s the head of American Dream, the biggest “experiential retail” project of this generation. One that has so many hopes — and jobs — riding on it. And one where only 8% of the 3 million square feet of the facility currently is open. But it’s one that supposedly is doing great. At least, that’s the take of one insider. “You don’t understand the size and scope of American Dream until you are inside,” they said. “You can’t tell from just driving by.” There are already are more than 2,000 employees (400 just in lifeguards) and Nickelodeon Universe, dubbed the Western Hemisphere’s largest indoor theme park, has been packed, especially on weekends and holidays. American Dream officials say the water park and the start of retail and dining will be added in the spring — with the entire facility expected to be open in time for the holiday shopping season. Can it sustain its start? That’s the question that remains. And an answer that a state seeing the demise of its retail is eager to find out.
Chairman and CEO
Public Service Enterprise Group
There have been a lot of recent wins for the state’s biggest utility, a credit to the company’s history and Izzo’s influence. Many will point to the company’s ability to secure a $300 million subsidy to keep its nuclear facilities up and running, but Izzo will point to the company’s commitment to green energy and sustainability. PSEG is partnering with Ørsted on an offshore wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City. And Izzo pointed to the company’s recent executive reorganization as necessary to continue its push its recent Clean Energy Future filing. And, more than anything, Izzo is continuing to make his push that energy efficiency is the easiest way to make a change. “You’ve seen us enter into an option agreement with Ørsted for offshore wind,” he said. “We continue to look at the development of solar projects throughout the country. We continue to operate our nuclear plants with excellence. But the piece that is missing — by far, the biggest one — is the major investment in energy efficiency that we want to make.”
Cooper University Health Care/Conner Strong & Buckelew
Let’s be clear: Gov. Phil Murphy wanted to take down George Norcross, the most powerful nonelected political figure in the state. Even officials close to Murphy will own up to that. Norcross, however, is still standing. “Has he been wounded?” one insider asked, and then answered: “Having your name dragged through the mud over all the incentives in Camden couldn’t have been fun, but there’s no reason to think George is any less powerful today than he was before. In fact, you can argue he’s taken the governor’s best shot.” Most business leaders want the perceived feud to be over — and for the governor to make amends with Norcross so the state can get back to doing business. “George is going to be a factor in everything that goes on in Camden and a lot of South Jersey,” another said. “Murphy needs to understand that — and deal with that — like (former GovChris) Christie did. The state will be better off. Look at Camden. It is better off, much better off, then it has been in decades. Arguing about incentives is only slowing progress elsewhere.”
Click below to see who landed in the Top 30 spots on the ROI Influencers Power List 2020:
- Top 30: 1 (click here)
- Top 30: 10-2 (click here)
- Top 30: 20-11 (click here)
- Top 30: 30-21 (click here)
Here’s the most powerful people in 13 industries:
- Higher Education
- Government Affairs
- Economic Development
- Health Care
- Real Estate