Jose Lozano, who helped elevate the stature of Choose New Jersey throughout the country and around the globe — bringing numerous big economic wins to the state in the process — announced Thursday morning that he will be leaving the organization at the end of the year, ROI-NJ has learned.
Lozano, who told the Choose staff at an emotional in-person meeting Thursday morning, will join Hackensack Meridian Health in the new year as a senior vice president in a role that will incorporate his lengthy background in government, business and health care.
Lozano, who took over as the head of Choose shortly after leading Gov. Phil Murphy’s transition team after his election in 2017, said leaving Choose was a difficult decision and not a move he was looking to make.
“It was a very difficult decision, but, ultimately, it was an opportunity for me and my family that I couldn’t pass up,” he said.
Choose, which is privately funded but works closely with the administration, is in the process of selecting a successor.
Lozano said whoever is selected will be fortunate.
“My time at Choose always will be a career highlight,” he said. “Being a part of the governor’s strategy on economic development, both domestically and abroad, being able to sell the merits of my home state, being able to do it with a governor, an administration and a team at Choose that I love and respect — is something most people can only dream of.
“I’m helping to leave New Jersey a better place for my kids and my grandkids. That is something I’ll always cherish.”
Lozano’s accomplishments at Choose are numerous:
- Choose led three international trade mission trips with the governor and three additional trips with a business delegation — travels that resulted in numerous companies coming to New Jersey and the establishment of Choose offices in Germany and India;
- Choose created its first strategic campaign, defining a “Why NJ” narrative, which helped elevate the state nationally and internationally;
- Choose significantly increased its staff and its board, bringing more business leaders into the organization.
“I think the biggest accomplishment is that we solidified Choose New Jersey as a real economic development (asset) for New Jersey on both the business attraction side and the marketing side,” Lozano said.
“I think we legitimatized ourselves in the region, nationally and internationally. Site selectors and Realtors and developers now know that Choose New Jersey is the place you go to when you want to bring a new company to the state.”
Choose, working along with the Governor’s Office and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, did just that. Leaving such a team will be difficult, Lozano said.
“It’s incredible to be able to work for a governor that you so truly respect as a person and a leader,” he said. “And I can’t say enough good things about the working relationship we have with the EDA and my personal relationship with (CEO) Tim Sullivan.
“The success that we’ve had as a state are a direct result of the camaraderie we have as a group.”
In the past year, the organization has played a key role in numerous wins for the state, including:
- Fiserv announcing plans to open a 3,000-person office in Berkeley Heights;
- BeiGene opening a manufacturing and research & development center in Hopewell Township;
- WebMD bringing at least 600 employees to Newark;
- HAX opening an office in Newark that intends to fund 100 startups;
- Party City moving its headquarters (and 357 employees) to Woodcliff Lake;
- Freshly bringing 340 jobs to a new facility in East Greenwich;
- Tel Aviv University to take space at the Hub in New Brunswick.
“Fiserv epitomizes what New Jersey is,” he said. “Multiple states were vying for their attention and for the win. And, even though incentives closed the gap a little bit, they made the decision to come here for the reasons we always pitch: New Jersey is a wonderful place where you can find the workforce and the talent you need. It’s a place where your workforce can raise their families with good schools. And it’s a place where companies can have access to other key companies and the region and access to the world.”
While Tel Aviv University was the last announcement on the list, it may have been in play the longest.
“This is something we talked about from my first days on the job,” Lozano said. “It just shows how long it sometimes takes for seeds to grow into something real. The incredible thing is that it will pay off for years to come, as we’re confident it will help to attract many other international companies to the Hub.”
Lozano’s advice for his successor is simple, he said:
“Be real,” he said. “I love New Jersey and feel it’s the best play to live and work. My wife and I wouldn’t raise our children anywhere else.
“That’s the way I feel — and I truly believe that came across when I was pitching the state. In the end, we’re all salespeople. And, when you believe in the product you’re selling, it’s an easy pitch to make.”