Frazier, Tilghman, Lozano to head groups that will create blueprint to reopen N.J. (UPDATED)

Murphy to lean heavily on top members of business community when making plan to rebuild state economy

By Tom Bergeron
New Jersey | Apr 27, 2020 at 11:14 am
Updated

(Editor’s Note: Gov. Phil Murphy formally announced the members of the Restart and Recovery Commission on April 28.)

Gov. Phil Murphy is forming two groups of powerful and influential business leaders to assist in creating the blueprint for how the state will reopen and reignite the economy, ROI-NJ has learned.

Merck Chair and CEO Ken Frazier and former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman are expected to co-chair the lead commission, which will approach the recovery from a macroeconomic viewpoint, numerous sources familiar with the planning told ROI-NJ.

The group, sources said, will be made up of 15-20 thought leaders — some of which will be from outside New Jersey.

Among those expected to be named to the group include: former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, former U.S. Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson, former acting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Richard Besser, incoming Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, former Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison and Prudential Financial Chair and CEO Charles Lowrey.

Johnson and Besser already represent New Jersey on the Northeast multistate council that is discussing how the region will reemerge from the crisis.

Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano is expected to be named head of the second group, an advisory committee that will include a handful of sector-specific subcommittees made up entirely of New Jerseyans, sources said.

The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the planning.

Some members of the Murphy administration pushed back against the report, saying committee members have not yet been confirmed.

Murphy, during his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday, said he will announce the formation and the members of the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission on Tuesday. He said the group is as diverse as it is talented.

“Economists, academics, business leaders, labor leaders, health care experts among them, with local, national and global experience and knowledge,” he said.

“It will be their task to balance multiple competing needs to ensure we arrive at equitable decisions that work with every community in our state. And I will ask them to help us and our businesses to leverage any and all available federal funds and programs to support our recovery.

“I will ask the commission to give the highest priority for reopening, using a clear standard of essential and safe, beginning with businesses, industries and activities which are not only essential to our economy, but which provide the lowest risk of disease transmission.

“Then we can move up the matrix, bringing more businesses and activities online until we achieve a fully functioning and open economy.”

The groups will have similar tasks: Determine when it is safe for businesses to reopen and what help the state will need to provide before that date, in the immediate aftermath of that reopening and through the rest of the year and beyond.

The advisory committee will follow the same format as the state’s transition team — which Lozano headed — but it will be much smaller.

Sources said there will be six subcommittees, each of which will have 15-20 people, in the following areas:

  • Infrastructure (including construction and real estate);
  • Professional services;
  • Small business (including retail and hospitality);
  • STEM (including research & development and innovation);
  • Social services;
  • Tourism and entertainment.

The governor’s transition team had 15 subcommittees totaling more than 500 participants.

Frazier is a logical choice to be one of the chairs of the commission. In addition to running one of the most successful —and important — companies in the state, Kenilworth-based Merck, he has a long history of assuming such roles.

In 2011, Frazier chaired a committee at Penn State University looking into how the school handled allegations involving now-disgraced former football coach Jerry Sandusky. Frazier was a trustee at the school at the time.

In 2017, Frazier earned notoriety when he quit a manufacturing committee advising President Donald Trump, citing Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists following a violent altercation in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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