Coughlin announces all-star lineup for his Economic Advisory Council

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | May 12, 2020 at 1:16 pm

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced the remaining 33 names on his Economic Advisory Council on Tuesday — and it’s an all-star list, for sure.

(See the complete list below.)

Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), in a release, said the panel will advise him and other members of Assembly Leadership on efforts to ensure New Jersey can responsibly recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 when the pandemic subsides.

George Zoffinger.

The private sector panel consists of experts in the fields of government, health care, education, higher education, business, commerce, tourism, social services and more. It will be chaired by George Zoffinger, who has led six different companies in his professional career and is currently CEO at Constellation Capital Corp. and the chair of New Brunswick Development Corp.

The panel will hold its first electronic meeting Friday.

“I am pleased that so many highly regarded and well-respected experts in such a vast array of fields have agreed to sit on this very important economic advisory panel,” Coughlin said. “The names are well known to many New Jerseyans.

“These members will help the Assembly devise a strategy to ensure New Jersey is prepared to safely and successfully reopen, balancing the needs of public health and the economy. It is time to consider reopening our hospitals for elective surgeries and to begin initial infrastructure construction. We must have a game plan and, with the help of these esteemed members, we will.”

The question: Is the panel meant to complement the commission and working groups recently announced by Gov. Phil Murphy, or compete with it?

The speaker’s office said it is meant to be a complementary group — that you can’t have enough good ideas. It also may be something else: a reminder that the Legislature has a say in how the state reopens, too.

That was one of the takes of Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship.

Dworkin said having multiple voices is a good thing.

“I understand why some might think it’s a competitive thing and, in some institutional ways, it is,” he said. “But I think it’s a net positive.

“In a lockdown like this, communication is key. So, let’s talk to each other. Let’s put some ideas together. Maybe we can come up with something that the other folks haven’t come up with. The information needs to be freely exchanged. And ideas need to be freely exchanged, so that the best ones can rise to the top.”

Ben Dworkin.

Dworkin, however, said the need for the Legislature to be heard is greater than ever.

“(Legislators) are under tremendous pressure,” he said. “Not every local business leader can call the governor to complain, but they can call their state senator or assemblyperson. The local constituents who are struggling to manage the bureaucracy, get their unemployment checks, figure out how their local business is going to survive — the legislators are the ones who are getting those calls. They are facing a barrage of daily pressure from the public.

“And, while most people have the view that the data and the health experts should drive certain decisions, they need to be seen as doing something. They want to respond in some way, and they’ve got their own opinions.”

So far, those opinions haven’t been heard. And Dworkin said they need to be —and have a constitutional right to be. And, when it comes down to passing any legislation regarding reopening, they will have to be.

“Despite the governor’s use of emergency powers, it’s still a political process by which public policy gets implemented,” he said.

With that, a look at the leaders who make up Coughlin’s Economic Advisory Panel:

Chair

  • George Zoffinger: Chair of the New Brunswick Economic Development Corp.

Academics

  • James Hughes: Professor at Rutgers University (former longtime dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers).
  • Carl Van Horn: Director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

Banking and finance

  • Christiana Foglio: CEO of Community Investment Strategies.
  • Steve Guidette: Executive vice president of business banking at Provident Bank.
  • Paul Vecchione: Principal at International Planning Alliance LLC.

Business

  • Luis De La Hoz: Chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
  • John Harmon: CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
  • Jack Kocsis: CEO of the Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey.
  • Valerie Montecalvo: President of Bayshore Recycling.
  • Cheryl Norton: President of New Jersey American Water.
  • Chris Paladino: President of New Brunswick Development Corp.
  • Peter Visceglia: Owner and operator of Federal Business Centers.

Education

  • Kyle Anderson: Interim executive county superintendent, Middlesex County.
  • Mark Finkelstein: Vice chair of the Middlesex County College board of trustees.
  • Jonathan Holloway: Incoming president of Rutgers.

Government

  • Theresa Berger: Mayor of Howell.
  • John McCormac: Mayor of Woodbridge Township (and former state treasurer).

Health care

  • Andrew Brooks: Chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR Infinite Biologics.
  • Ken Esser: Senior vice president for government relations and chief of staff at Hackensack Meridian Health.
  • Amy Mansue: VP and chief experience officer at RWJBarnabas Health.
  • Dom Pellegrino: Operator of Bridgeway Senior Healthcare Services.

Labor

  • Bill Mullen: President of the New Jersey State Building & Construction Trades Council.
  • Charles Wowkanech: President of NJ AFL-CIO.

Law and public safety

  • Tony Coscia: Partner at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf (and chairman of Amtrak).
  • Peter Harvey: Partner at Patterson Belknap (and former state attorney general).

Manufacturing

  • Debbie Hart: CEO of BioNJ.

Retail

  • Amy Bellisano: Senior general manager at Brookefield Properties (which includes Woodbridge Center).

Social services

  • Rose Cushing: CEO of YMCA of Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge, South Amboy.
  • Dena Mottola-Jaborska: Associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action.
  • Carlos Rodriguez: CEO of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
  • The Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree: Aide for clergy affairs for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Tourism

  • Marilou Halvorsen: CEO of New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association.
  • Jack Morris: Founder and CEO of Edgewood Properties, co-owner of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City and board chair of RWJBarnabas Health.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: