ROI Influencers: People of Color 2021 — Nos. 21-30

Ken Frazier. (File photo)

21 Ken Frazier
Executive chairman
Merck

Frazier retired as CEO on June 30 and it’s unclear how much impact he will have as executive chairman during a transition period, but his impact and influence in New Jersey figures to remain strong as long as Murphy is in office. Frazier has been a key adviser to the governor, which is a good thing. Few executives can match his intellect and thought leadership on both business and social issues.

22 Don Ghermezian
Developer
Triple Five

American Dream is carrying on as best it can during a pandemic that has severely limited the ability — and the desire — of consumers to go to a megamall. Many will argue the number of jobs (and revenue and tourists) tied to the project makes it too big to fail. Ghermezian, who opened the luxury retail wing of the mall earlier this month, is doing all he can to ensure that it won’t.

23 Megan Myungwon Lee
Chair and CEO
Panasonic North America

With more than 30 years of experience in a variety of senior leadership roles with Panasonic (including DEI and STEAM initiatives), Lee was the perfect person to assume the role of chair and CEO of Panasonic’s North American headquarters in Newark. Lee also is acting chair of the board of the Panasonic Foundation.

24 Melonie Johnson; Jacqueline Grace
President and chief operating officer; Senior vice president and general manager
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa; Tropicana Atlantic City

They are part of the next generation of leaders in Atlantic City — as women are now at the top of four casinos. Grace said she appreciates the significance: “I appreciate what it means for others to see themselves represented in leadership and believe that they have a real shot at ascending to these roles.” Their efforts to help the industry rebound from the pandemic — will conventions have to be reimagined? — will have great influence on the future of the city.

25 Adenah Bayoh
Founder and CEO
Adenah Bayoh & Cos.

Pandemic be darned. Bayoh has opened two restaurants (Cornbread Newark and Urban Vegan) on the ground floor of the 84-unit mixed-income, mixed-use project she developed in Newark. The hope is that her numerous efforts are inspiring a next generation of immigrant developers for the future — all while having tremendous impact on underserved communities of today.

26 Marcus Samuelsson
Owner and chef
Marcus B&P

He was No. 1 on the 2021 ROI Influencers: Food & Beverage list for more than a million reasons: Newark Working Kitchens, the food program he helped start and support, has long surpassed 1 million meals served to those in need. Samuelsson, a celebrity chef and famed restaurateur, is bringing more than just world-class cuisine and concepts to Newark.

27 Eliana Pintor Marin
D-Newark
N.J. Assembly

She is one of the few top state officials who is not a male of Irish descent — a fact that has to be recognized whenever officials brag about our diversity. But it’s not the reason she is ranked this highly. Pintor Marin always has offered smart and sound financial thinking (read: no nonsense) when it comes incentives and spending. The more influence she has, the better off we all may be.

28 Ravi Bhalla
Mayor
Hoboken

Bhalla has been a step ahead of other elected leaders since the start of the pandemic. (Remember, he locked down Hoboken when others still thought it was unnecessary — and before the state acted.) Since then, he’s been a leader on vaccinations and — most importantly for this crowd — getting relief grants in the hands of small businesses.

29 Dianna Houenou
Chair
Cannabis Regulatory Commission

She will oversee the regulation of an industry that has potential to not only bring great revenue to the state, but right many of the wrongs that resulted from the War on Drugs. This, of course, is far easier said than done. That’s why one of the governor’s signature issues has been both delayed and filled with missteps. Houenou is tasked with getting it on track. 

30 Brandon McKoy
President
N.J. Policy Perspective

Too many think tanks — on both sides of the political spectrum — use their platform simply to push their partisan view. McKoy and New Jersey Policy Perspective are different. Do they have an angle or an agenda? Of course. But their studies and their statements don’t blindly support their supposed side. If anything, they call out the left for failed efforts in a way that forces progressive leaders to reevaluate their actions. 

Special recognition

Andy Kim
D-3rd Congressional Dist.
U.S. House of Representatives

Kim had great impact drawing attention to longstanding — and long-ignored — issues facing the AAPI community. But his biggest influence may not be felt for a generation — and will be a direct result of his actions on Jan. 6. How many young people who saw Kim sweeping up the people’s house after the horrific insurrection have been inspired to serve their communities in one way or another moving forward? How many people, decades from now, will take an oath of office and say Kim was their inspiration to serve? That’s influence. And worthy of special recognition.

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