Putting together a Power 100 list can be a daunting task because “power” can be defined in many different ways. And having been editor of NJBIZ for only a matter of months meant the learning curve for me was somewhat steep. We used previous lists as a guide but also challenged the staff to take a fresh look at the people they cover and make a compelling case for who should make the cut.
The criteria were pretty simple: Identify the people impacting business in New Jersey in a positive way, whether they be stewards of companies or firms, legislators, educators or heads of organizations whose primary mission is to foster growth in the state. Many have appeared on the list more than once, while a few are first-timers. All have impressive track records of affecting change.
Our top pick this year doesn’t reside in New Jersey, but he and his company have a substantial impact on the state — and it may just be the beginning. Jeff Bezos and Amazon already operate a 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Carteret with more than 2,000 employees, with plans to build three more in Cranbury, Edison and Logan, creating another 2,500 full-time jobs. All good.
In the process, one of the state’s leading retailers and an Amazon competitor, Toys ‘R’ Us, first filed for bankruptcy protection before deciding to close all of its U.S. retail outlets. Now Amazon reportedly is mulling acquiring some of its soon-to-be-shuttered locations. Not so good for Toys “R” Us.
Ultimately, what catapulted Bezos to the top of our list was Amazon’s inclusion of Newark on its short list of 20 finalists vying to become home to the company’s second headquarters, so-named HQ2. In the process of courting Amazon, the state pledged $5 billion in incentives, with Newark throwing in another $2 billion.
And though Newark faces intense competition to come out on top, its simply making it to the final 20 has cast a spotlight on the $5 billion offered in state incentives to lure the e-commerce titan here. If Newark wins, its renaissance gets a huge boost and the state has a nice new flag to fly.
But if the city falls short, there’s still, in theory, some of that $5 billion in incentives that can, and should be, used to buff up businesses already here to ensure they continue to succeed and call the Garden State home. That’s what some influential business leaders — Power 100 players — would like to see happen as a contingency. So, though Bezos operates from afar, he and his company’s influence on New Jersey, especially in the past year, cannot be overstated.
Having been in B-to-B media for more than 30 years, I long ago realized that while rankings can be titillating, unless statistically based they serve no real purpose other than to get people’s noses out of joint if they feel they’re under-represented. That’s why we decided to rank a top 10 based on sustained influence and events of the past year. The remaining 90 are listed alphabetically.
To say this isn’t an exact science is a no-brainer. But what it does offer up is a snapshot of people who are so important to New Jersey business today and likely will be in the years to come. It’s an impressive roster and we are privileged to give them their due.