Thought leaders

New Jersey Business Thought Leaders Vol. 2

NJBIA has gathered some of the most influential CEOs in the state to be part of its Business Roundtable. New Jersey Business magazine is proud to spotlight these executives in this second and final installment of our Business Thought Leaders series. Throughout the year, this group has met with some of New Jersey’s top policymakers to help determine the true tenor of business in the state, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, while also providing critical input to help drive policy solutions that will help make a difference for workers, families, communities and job creators. We recognize these exceptional thought leaders for their valued contributions to NJBIA and for advancing the competitive nature of business in the state.

Rashaad Bajwa 

President and CEO, BizRatings.com, ApprenticeIT, and Domain Computer Services 

bajwaRashaad Bajwa is the president and CEO of BizRatings.com, ApprenticeIT, and Domain Computer Services. Domain took on a private equity investment in September 2020 to support its growth into one of the largest SMB-focused IT support providers in the US. Bajwa is an active leader in local cybersecurity and business groups, including serving on the Board of Directors for the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber and NJBIA. He is also passionate about promoting electric vehicle infrastructure in New Jersey, and serves on the Board of Keep Middlesex Moving – the official Transportation Management Association for Central New Jersey. 

On Diversity: It is not just good enough to focus on running your business and hope that diversity will take care of itself. You must be intentional about diversity and reach out to populations that may otherwise not feel like they would “fit in” with your current workforce. You cannot be a supporter of diversity and inclusion from the sidelines. You are either an agent of change, or part of maintaining the status quo. 

Dr. Joel S. Bloom 

President, NJIT 

Dr. Joel Bloom joined NJIT in 1990 as a vice president and later became the founding dean of NJIT’s Albert Dorman Honors College before becoming the university’s president in 2011. He and his team have added a million square feet of teaching and research facilities at the institute, appointed 130 new faculty, and grown research expenditures from less than $80 million to nearly $170 million. Bloom created the New Jersey Innovation Institute, a portal and platform for working with business and industry. NJIT’s annual economic impact on the state’s economy is now $2.8 billion. Dr. Bloom holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. He also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Hunter College of the City University, New York City. 

On COVID-19: The pandemic has impacted us both operationally and fiscally. I am proud of how NJIT responded. We navigated budget challenges and were able to bring 1,300 resident students back to campus this fall and welcome more than 3,000 people each day without experiencing any broad virus spread. 

Robert C. Garrett 

CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health

Robert C. Garrett is the CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest health network with 17 hospitals, 500 patient care locations, 36,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians. The network has played a major role in the COVID-19 pandemic, including treating more patients than any network in New Jersey and developing major breakthroughs, including the state’s first commercial COVID test. The network is also participating in several clinical trials to deliver effective therapies and a COVID vaccine. Under Garrett’s visionary leadership, the network opened the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine and has made major strides in innovation and research, cancer care, and behavioral healthcare. 

On COVID-19: This pandemic has challenged our network like never before. We have treated more than 16,000 patients and contributed major breakthroughs including New Jersey’s first commercial COVID test. We are at the forefront of participating in clinical and vaccine trials to deliver effective therapies and a breakthrough vaccine.  

Angelo J. Genova 

Co-Founder, Managing Partner & Chairman, Genova Burns LLC 

genovaAngelo J. Genova is a noted trial and appellate advocate, labor negotiator, employment litigator, government contracts & procurement counsel, and campaign finance and election lawyer. He counsels clients in matters involving the development of urban landscapes and provides government and strategic affairs advice. His precedent-setting legal representations have touched all corners of the state and federal legal landscape. Genova is a former commissioner of the Port Authority of NY/NJ, and former chairman of the New Jersey Urban Development Corporation. 

Off the Grid Advice: Life is about balance … and finding it for myself has been a lifelong challenge. At this stage of life, I am happy that at least I know that tenet to be more than just a cliché. So, I continue my pursuit when off the grid by spending quality time with my grandchildren who teach me – with each wondrous discovery – that lesson. Music, my guitars, Italian red and a good historical biography are my escapes. 

Ralph A. LaRossa 

Chief Operating Officer, PSEG 

Ralph A. LaRossa was elected chief operating officer of Public Service Enterprise Group in January, overseeing all of the operating businesses of PSEG, including Public Service Electric & Gas, PSEG Long Island, PSEG Power, and PSEG Services Corp. He also is president and COO of PSEG Power. LaRossa joined PSE&G in 1985 as an associate engineer. He advanced through a variety of management positions in the utility’s gas and electric operations. He is a graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology, chairman of Choose New Jersey, and a board member of Montclair State University. 

On NJ’s Economy: Regarding infrastructure investment, New Jersey employers rely on the state’s solid foundation of infrastructure networks that support their businesses. Maintaining the networks that continually provide clean water, effective transportation and safe, reliable energy ensures that we remain a competitive player in the race to attract and retain business while creating thousands of new jobs. 

Michael McBride 

Construction Group Chair, Connell Foley 

Michael McBride chairs Connell Foley’s Construction Group and is the law firm’s former Managing Partner. With a family background in construction and real estate dating back more than a century, McBride has an intimate and unsurpassed understanding of the industry and the legal issues faced by his clients. He represents owners, developers, contractors and vendors in all aspects of real estate development and construction. McBride is also passionate about community service and maintains an active pro bono practice. He helped start Covenant House New Jersey in 1990 and was instrumental in expanding the number of cities where CHNJ serves homeless children. 

On Diversity: Every organization needs to establish a culture where diversity is embraced. Good decision-making for any organization is based upon listening to differing points of view from a diverse workforce. A strong culture of diversity will attract the best and brightest to your business. 

Brian Neuwirth 

President, Unex Manufacturing, Inc. 

neuwirthBrian Neuwirth, Board Chair of NJBIA, began his career at Unex Manufacturing in 1975. The family-owned business is an industry leader in providing order-picking solutions. Neuwirth attended Columbia University to obtain his MBA. He then took a position at CBS Television in 1978, spending the next 17 years at the network. Two memorable achievements there were being on the start-up team for CBS cable television and serving as CBS vice president of sales, where he helped launch the “Late Show with David Letterman.” After 20 years at CBS, Neuwirth was ready to head Unex. Over the next 22 years, he guided the company through two downturns while maintaining its growth. 

On NJ’s Economy: New Jersey’s economy lags its neighboring states in GDP growth and job creation. Two main reasons are the high cost of conducting business and the lack of engagement in key sectors. Our legislators should be working with business associations, educators and companies to join resources and provide pathways to job creation. 

Cheryl Norton 

President, New Jersey American Water 

Senior Vice President, Eastern Division 

Chief Environmental Officer, American Water 

nortonCheryl Norton has served as president of New Jersey American Water since 2019, and in March 2020, she also became American Water’s Chief Environmental Officer. Norton started her career with American Water in 1988 as a microbiology research technician. She later served as laboratory director, before being appointed vice president of operations for Illinois American Water, then president of Kentucky American Water, and later, president of Missouri American Water. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in environmental studies from Southern Illinois University. 

On NJ’s Economy: Investment in water and wastewater systems is critical for homes and businesses, and it helps sustain jobs and grow the economy. We recently proposed a new initiative, START (Solutions Today and Reinvesting Tomorrow), which, if implemented, will accelerate investment in water and wastewater infrastructure, support workforce development, and improve supplier diversity. 

Mike Renna 

President and CEO, South Jersey Industries 

Mike Renna is the president and CEO of South Jersey Industries (SJI), New Jersey’s largest investor-owned gas utility, serving customers across 14 counties through its South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas utilities. Under his leadership, SJI (a 100+ year-old company) now operates one of the most modern, reliable energy delivery systems in the country. With the integration of Elizabethtown Gas now complete, SJI has more than 1,100 employees and 700,000 customers with a new vision – to build a clean future and deliver carbon-neutral energy by 2050. Renna and SJI are at the forefront of this transformation, committed to delivering safe, reliable, affordable clean energy for a better today and tomorrow. 

Off the Grid Advice: Allow yourself time to recharge. When you strike the right balance of making an impact in your professional life with doing what refreshes you outside of the office, it helps you bring your best self to work. My downtime includes working out, coaching football, enjoying time with family, and an occasional round of golf. 

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