For the second year in a row, NJBIZ has named Gov. Chris Christie the most powerful person in business in the state. The business publication released its Power 100 list Monday. This is the second year NJBIZ has compiled such a list.
Rounding out the top five are Robert C. Garrett, president and CEO of Hackensack University Medical Center; George E. Norcross III, executive chairman of Conner, Strong & Buckelew; Kevin O’Dowd, Governor Christie’s chief of staff; and Caren Franzini, CEO of the Economic Development Authority.
NJBIZ Editor Sharon Waters and Managing Editor Joe St. Arney sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the list. The editors said there was a lot of turnover, with 50 newcomers.
St. Arney said while there was some debate about the top 10 names, most agreed that Christie deserved to retain the top spot since much of his agenda has been about business. Waters said choosing the person in the second slot is difficult, but they chose Garrett because of the planned reopening of a full hospital at the site of the former Pascack Valley Hospital in Bergen County and the decline of opponents Valley Hospital and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.
Waters called Norcross ” the powerhouse” in South Jersey, with some people even suggesting he should have taken the top spot.
O’Dowd, who came in at number three, wasn’t even on the top 100 list last year, which Waters said was a trend with the list. There were 50 newcomers, with four in the top 10 and nine in the top 20. O’Dowd replaced Rich Bagger from last year’s list and moved a spot ahead.
St. Arney said Franzini, the first woman on the list, has survived seven governors and that her “politics are probably the best in the game.”
Along with the high turnover rate, several individuals on last year’s list slipped lower, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno who dropped 12 spots and Senate President Stephen Sweeney who dropped eight spots. St. Arney and Waters said others pulled ahead of them on the list because the first year served as a sort of benchmark while this list was meant to be more timely and concentrate on the last 12 months.