Table of Contents
6 Meet the Gateway Team
8 NJ Companies Deliver Automated Warehouse Solutions
14 Demand Hot, Supply Tight for Gateway Warehouse Space
16 Hospital Leaders Bring Female Perspective to Position
20 Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce Annual Mayors' Dinner
22 U.S. Army Tour at Fort Moore, Columbus, Georgia
Inside Business is a publication of the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Gateway Chamber comprises 10 local chambers and networking groups and supports Union County small and large businesses. We offer a variety of quality events and programs for members and perspective members throughout the year. Visit our website at www.gatewaychamber.com to learn more about membership and to see our calendar of events.
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ON THE COVER:
NJ Companies Deliver Automated
Revitalizing the Gateway
Regional Chamber of Commerce:
WE HELP YOU?
Change is in the air at the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, aka the Gateway Chamber, as we embark on an exciting journey of reimagining, restructuring and reenergizing our 112-year-old organization. In a world marked by evolving business landscapes and technological advancements, it’s imperative that we return to the core of what a chamber of commerce should be—a trusted resource that empowers the business community to thrive.
Our renewed commitment is to provide not just “a membership,” but a gateway to success. We recognize the importance of making membership dues accessible to all businesses, which is why we will be working diligently to make it more affordable without compromising on quality. But affordability is only the beginning. We will be instilling a fun, welcoming and positive culture throughout the chamber, while introducing a host of new value-added benefits designed to provide the very best opportunities for all our members to help achieve their goals.
These benefits will include introducing new morning, afternoon and after-work events to offer more flexibility and promote more member engagement; new low-cost marketing and sponsorship opportunities to fit any budget and give all our members the chance to build their brand; an enhanced offering of member discount programs to help you save money on needed business services; an improved educational seminar series hosted by fellow members focused on key areas of professional development; new committee and volunteer opportunities to get members more involved in their local communities; and new strategic partnerships that will offer our members better access to local and state programs and improved connections with local business organizations.
As we close this chapter on how things were done, we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to write an entirely new book on how things will be. The Gateway Chamber is committed to serving as a trusted partner for all our members and local communities, with the simple mindset of “HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?”
MEET YOUR GATEWAY CHAMBER TEAM!
Brian Tangora is a seasoned professional with over 23 years of experience across nonprofit, private, and public sectors. In July 2023, Brian became President & CEO of the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce (Gateway Chamber). With a proven track record of innovative program development and fostering a positive culture, Brian aims to re-energize the Gateway Chamber, refocusing its purpose as a trusted resource for local businesses.
Previously, Brian successfully led the complete re-branding of another century-old institution, the North Jersey Chamber of Commerce. This involved making membership more affordable, introducing new value-added benefits and cultivating a culture rooted in paying-it-forward. Collaborating with his skilled team of Camila and Erin, alongside the Board of Directors, Brian is enthusiastic about applying this same approach to revitalize the Gateway Chamber.
In his personal life, Brian enjoys spending quality time with his wife of 13 years, Stephanie. Known collectively as “Team Tangora,” they share a passion for traveling the world and the occasional spontaneous road trip, as well as exploring new wineries, dive bars and restaurants with close friends. At home, they find relaxation in binge-watching their favorite shows while in the company of their cherished dog, Fozzie.
Camila Cuevas graduated Montclair State University in 2017 with a degree in Business Management and a minor in Psychology. Shortly after graduation, Camila began working full-time at the Gateway Chamber. Over the past six years, Camila’s affiliation with the Chamber has been a pivotal element in her professional development. Her commitment to her work, combined with her unwavering passion, has propelled her into various roles within the chamber. From event planning to relationship building and fundraising, Camila’s responsibilities encompassed a diverse range of tasks.
Beyond her professional life, Camila strongly believes in spending quality time with her family. She is committed to a healthy lifestyle and frequently goes to the gym. Camila has an adventurous spirit, she enjoys exploring different restaurants in NY and NJ. During her travel experiences, she has hiked the Grand Canyon South Kaibab trail, explored El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, and her latest trip to Spain consisted of sight seeing the Gothic Quarter, visiting islands, and truly submerging into the European culture.
Erin Kennedy graduated from Kean University in 2021 with a degree in Communications, PR and a minor in Marketing. She joined the chamber team as The Assistant to the President in March 2022, and is now in the role of Operations Specialist. Erin has acquired a multitude of valuable skills throughout her time at the chamber with the help of a supportive team. Her responsibilities to help guide the chamber to success include managing email marketing campaigns, website management, event planning and bookkeeping. Erin is passionately committed to expanding her knowledge base in ways that can help to benefit the chamber. She envisions the chamber’s future as a vibrant and energetic organization where people are highly motivated to engage.
Outside of work, Erin’s hobbies include going to yoga classes, reading, and watching movies. She also enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, including her two cats.
NJ companies deliver automated warehouse solutions
By Emery Styron
Automated warehousing and robotics solutions boost productivity and solve problems for businesses involved in receiving, storing and distributing goods at a time labor is costly and hard to find, say leaders of four Gateway Chamber members involved in the industry.
“We had a customer who was moving 10,000 cartons a day through their building.” After automation, “that’s now up to 30,000 cartons a day,” says Seth Weisberg, CEO of Bloomfield-based ABCO Systems.
“We were doing a lot of static storage work prior to this. We have grown five times in the last 10 years through providing automated services” — from $10 million a year in volume a decade ago to $70 million last year, he says.
Weisberg represents the third generation of his family to run a business that began as a distributor of closet rod hangers made from steel pipe and has involved into a systems integrator, designing and selling warehousing solutions to customers based on their specific needs — which in many cases include automation.
Customers are facing labor challenges, including worker shortages, wage increases and safety concerns, says David Young, president of Rahway-based A&M Industrial, a dealer for French-made Effidence autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). “We get to sell them something with a proven return on investment,” he says.
Also a third-generation New Jersey business, A&M was founded in 1954 as a hardware store by David’s father, Arnold Young, and now carries more than 800,000 types of tools and supplies, offering solutions in metalworking, safety, vendor managed inventory, robotics, material handling and other areas. David’s son, Josh, who worked for A&M in high school, returned to the business two years ago to steer the company’s entry into robotic warehouse solutions.
He sees growing awareness of the advantages of warehouse automation technology. “We go to a lot of trade shows. More and more people are coming up and saying, ‘Oh, I need this.”
“Customers are asking a lot more questions than before,” agrees David Rizzo, president of South Plainfield-based AJ Jersey, an equipment distributor and dealer for Crown forklifts and Doosan lift trucks. “It hasn’t changed what we’re selling but we will have more opportunities in the future.”
“It used to just be reducing overall operating costs — labor, heating and cooling and lighting. Now there is a lack of labor in the country, mainly fueling it the last few years,” he adds.
Robots don’t complain, join unions, get injured or file workers comp claims, he notes.
AJ Jersey has served New Jersey businesses since 1970 with material handling equipment sales, rentals, leasing, parts and service, along with ground-up and CAD-designed warehouse layouts.
Ryan Ziegler, director of facilities engineering and automation at Romark Logistics, agrees that lack of available labor is one of the main driving forces.
“The markets we operate in are constantly expanding, and there is fierce competition for the same limited pool of workers. This has led to a significant increase in labor costs, which is becoming a risk to our business,” he said. “Furthermore, our customers are demanding faster order fulfillment, which we are struggling to meet.”
Automation and robotics have “transformed the industry by streamlining operations, improving efficiency, and leading to increased productivity, cost savings and enhanced customer satisfaction,” said Sharon McStine, Romark’s general manager, national business development. “We can handle larger volumes of goods, flex our workforce to meet customer needs more effectively, and provide faster product delivery. Romark has made significant investments in various technologies to offer better services.”
Based in Westfield, NJ, Romark owns and develops industrial real estate. A logistics provider with a focus on innovation and technology, including robotics and innovation, Romark provides fulfillment services and logistics operations such as inventory warehousing, picking, packing, and shipping, as well as value-added services.
Todd Lewis, vice president of Prologis Ventures, with offices in East Rutherford and around the world, offers an overview of the industry.
“Warehouse automation is being driven by companies seeking increased productivity from their existing workforce and operations. Most companies look to automation to supercharge what the existing workforce can do – helping improve productivity, reduce injuries and more,” he said in an email. “The data collected by automation can drive continuous improvement across warehouse operations.”
Both Prologis and A&M Industrial have found success working with Germany-based shipping giant DHL.
DHL Supply Chain and Prologis strategic partner Locus Robotics expanded their partnership in May with DHL planning to deploy 5,000 Locus AMRs across its warehouses and distribution centers worldwide.
A&M worked with DHL Express on a pilot project using its Effidence AMRs in a $105 million expansion of DHL’s distribution hub at the Cincinnati airport. Reactivated in 2009, the hub has grown from 50,000 shipments to 150,000 per day.
AJ Jersey’s customers’ warehouse operations range from 5,000 to 1 million square feet, so Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are the solutions for some, while others still need standard forklifts, Rizzo says. For those seeking automated solutions, AJ Jersey utilizes Crown’s factory in Ohio to design custom products, backed by Rizzo’s company’s parts and service.
ABCO’s custom-designed solutions are specific to individual customers depending on the materials handled, size and weight of packages and other factors, Weisberg says. The solutions may involve AS/RS, a system that can store and retrieve goods quickly and efficiently, using robots and conveyors to move items, eliminating the need for human intervention.
Robotic solutions typically streamline warehouse operations and increase efficiency, he said. For example, automated palletizers reduce the physical burden on staff while improving safety and accuracy. Robotic assembly bots help speed the production process while reducing errors.
“We’ve optimized our locations and positioned ourselves very well to automate these locations as the technology becomes available,” said Romark’s Ziegler. “There are long lead times on equipment. We’ve completely redone our storage and retrieval process and systems to accept robotic equipment as it becomes available.”
Romark is in the process of developing a drone-based inventory system that would be ready to roll out in the next two months.
Gateway chamber members in the warehouse tech space agree the trend toward automation will only grow. While AMRs are basically smart carts, automated forklifts are evolving and could offer “huge labor-saving opportunities,” says Josh Young of A&M Industrial.
ABCO’s Weisberg believes automated technology will become less expensive and more accessible for all types of businesses. He sees service jobs in conveyor and robotic technology as great career opportunities for young people today.
Not only will automation become more accessible, it will also become more sophisticated, offering greater interoperability and integration capabilities across systems, Lewis of Prologis Ventures added.
“This is now showing up on the implementation plan for probably all the warehouse operators nationally. It’s now a regular part of their planning and discussions going forward,” Ziegler said. “It will intensify. People don’t understand that when you order 20 robots, all of the sudden it opens up a whole new world of opportunities as an operator. Faster, faster, faster, what else is now possible?”
Rizzo of AJ Jersey says that with advances in artificial intelligence, automated warehouse technology “will be more human-like.” His forecast for his segment of the warehousing industry might apply across the board: Competitors that don’t get on board the automation/robotics trend “will see their customer base shrink,” he predicts. Those that embrace it “are going to be around the next 30 or 40 years.”
Demand hot, supply tight for Gateway warehouse space
By Emery Styron
Fueled by the prime location of New Jersey-New York port facilities and pandemic-induced changes in consumer shopping habits, demand for warehouse space in the Gateway Region remains brisk, according to Andrew Siemsen, a broker for KBC Advisors based at the company’s Woodbridge, New Jersey, office.
Warehouse vacancy sits at just 2.8%, less than half of the market’s long-term average, despite a 20-basis point, quarter-over-quarter increase statewide, said. Siemsen, whose activity is focused on northern and central New Jersey and southern New York state.
That low vacancy rate supports current rent growth, albeit not at the pace of prior quarters in 2022, Siemsen said. A licensed salesperson in both Jersey and New York, Siemsen has 25 years of experience representing landlords and tenants in acquisitions and dispositions of warehouse and distribution properties. He has been with KBC’s Woodbridge office since it opened in January 2021.
He notes that three of the region’s 14 submarkets — two of which are in southern New Jersey — recorded vacancy rates of less than 1% in the first quarter of 2023. In New Jersey, first-quarter 2023 year-over-year rent growth was 25%, an increase from the same period the year prior, but a decrease from fourth-quarter 2022’s torrid 35% year-over-year rent growth.
Underlying that demand for warehouse space.
“Changes in consumer purchasing habits that we saw during COVID have remained in place,” he said. “That enhanced everybody’s use of e-commerce.”
Whether you were accepting of e-commerce or not before COVID-19, you probably got on board once the pandemic started as online shopping was the only way to get many items, he added. Some of those new shopping habits have continued, helping keep demand high for warehouse space in the well-located Gateway Region.
With New Jersey-New York port facilities nearby, “there’s lots of demand for warehouse space compared to the supply,” Siemsen said. The populous New Jersey-New York region’s buying power is attractive, plus “it’s an easy reach to Boston and Washington D.C., and to most of the Eastern United States,” he noted.
Siemsen handles all sizes of properties — “anything from 5,000 square feet to close to a million square feet, the majority of it on the leasing side.”
Some of his clients are tenants looking for space, often to expand operations. Others are landlords, seeking to keep their buildings filled.
The warehouse business is evolving as more facilities shift toward automated systems and robotics, but Siemsen said much of his work is done “the old-fashioned way” with shoe leather and phone calls. “We find space for tenants and tenants for space.”
Most forecasts he sees call for warehouse demand to remain high and supply tight. Prospects remain bright for the Gateway Region industrial real estate market.
Hospital leaders bring female perspective to position
By Cindy Hadish
Two women are forging the future as leaders of medical centers in Union County.
Stephanie Schwartz was named president of Overlook Medical Center in December 2021, while Nancy DiLiegro started as president and chief executive officer at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in April of this year.
Both follow in the footsteps of men who had long held the positions, but are comfortable filling those shoes with their own leadership styles.
“I’ve always felt confident in my leadership,” said Schwartz, MHSA, FACHE, who oversees a workforce of 3,577 employees. “I bring forward a style that is different from some of my male colleagues. I bring different experiences as a woman to the table.”
As a mother and stepmother of adult children, for example, she is understanding of employees who are juggling their careers and parenting responsibilities.
“I can give voice to moms and dads,” said Schwartz, who still finds it interesting when she is introduced to others as the first female president of Overlook. “It’s really great seeing young families prioritizing their children and work.”
DiLiegro, PhD, FACHE, who oversees a workforce of about 2,200 employees at Trinitas, also noted a difference in leadership styles of men and women.
Since starting in her role this spring, DiLiegro has spent time making rounds in the hospital, visiting with both patients and staff.
“I don’t want it to be where I’m sitting behind a desk and I’m not out there,” she said, a practice that already has been recognized by nurses and patients. Staff members have appreciated the time she takes to talk to them, while DiLiegro addresses the minor issues that make a difference to patients, such as one who wanted less salty foods.
“It’s the little things like that, that make them feel good,” she said. “I think that’s so important.”
Industry reports in recent years show that while women account for a large majority of entry-level health care positions, that share declines to between 19-30 percent in more senior roles in C-suite positions.
“You have to really fight hard to prove yourself,” said DiLiegro, who started as director of operations in 2002 and worked her way up at Trinitas.
She became the first female leader of the hospital since tracing its history back to the Sisters of Charity.
Both DiLiegro and Schwartz consider their leadership styles as a collaborative approach.
Schwartz, who also serves as senior vice president of Atlantic Health System and previously was president of Chilton Medical Center, likes to bring others to the table, even if they don’t agree.
“The work they do is so incredibly important,” she said of the hospital team. “It’s really about inclusion.”
DiLiegro’s first move as president and CEO was changing the executive team at Trinitas.
“Open communication is key,” she said, citing her open-door policy at work. “You have to work with everyone.”
Both women are facing the challenges of health care, in general, with DiLiegro citing staffing shortages and budgets as top priorities.
Recruiting has become increasingly difficult since the pandemic, she noted.
In her short time at Trinitas, DiLiegro has already accomplished changing the executive team’s areas of responsibilities to concentrate on the goals of the hospital and enhance its strategic plan.
“One of the secrets to cultivating teamwork is to allow those teams to grow as they see they need to grow, but to make sure you’re all rowing in the same direction,” she said.
Schwartz cited navigating through the pandemic journey as the main challenge faced in health care so far, even surpassing hurricane recovery she experienced at a previous hospital.
Overlook is undergoing the renovation of a number of spaces in the hospital, including its maternity unit, and has already opened the Hersh Children’s Center during her tenure there, which brought together Overlook’s pediatric inpatient unit and pediatric emergency department in one facility.
Both are also embracing technology changes as their hospitals move into the future.
While the two medical center leaders didn’t previously know each other, they hope to eventually share their experiences with each other and with other women who aspire to leadership roles.
“It’s really important for women to feel they can come to the table and have a seat at the table,” Schwartz said.
AROUND THE CHAMBER
Chamber of Commerce
Annual MAYORS' Dinner
The Gateway Chamber hosted the 33rd annual Mayors’ Dinner in April. This tradition began with the sole purpose of bringing Union County Mayors and the business community together. This event is fun and lighthearted. Each Mayor competes for the best speaker award, they have the option to submit a 5-minute video or do a 5-minute presentation at their table. Union Township Mayor Miguel Figueiredo’s won the Best Speaker award, the video was very entertaining and unique. He will have bragging rights until next year. In addition, the Chamber gives out a variety of awards: Mayor of the Year, Business Administrator of the Year, and Economic Development Director of the Year. This year Raymond Giacobbe, from the City of Rahway won the Mayor of the Year Award. Liz Viana from the Township of Berkeley Heights won the Business Administrator award, and lastly Victor Klymenko, from the Borough of Roselle won the Economic Development Director award. The awards are given out to town officials who have gone above and beyond for the community.
U.S. Army Tour at
BY CAMILA CUEVAS
Recruitment is the life blood of the U.S. Army. Strong, educated and talented soldiers are essential to our military. But never has it been harder to recruit these young men and women. Today’s tight job market has made this task perhaps more challenging than ever, and the Army has responded with better opportunities, benefits, education and training. They make service beneficial in the long and short term.
The Army invited the Gateway Chamber along with educators from New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Virginia to tour Fort Moore in Columbus, Georgia, and learn about these opportunities and experience some of the training new enlistees receive. The tour took place July 11-15. Dr. Baron McCombs, N.E. Region Education Services Specialist, 1st Army Recruiting Brigade, planned the trip. As he explained, “this is an exclusive and up-close experience that allows prominent educators as well as other influential community leaders to participate in a five-day event showcasing Army benefits, training and education.”
Educators met with Col. Ryan Wylie, Chief of Staff at The Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE). Fort Moore and the MCoE develop programs to prepare “combat ready soldiers and leaders.” We received a briefing on Fort Moore, Georgia, and were reminded that the Army needs "you" to help shape our nation's future.
We began the tour with Capt. Steven Weiler, learning about the latest initiative, the Academic Skill Development Program (ASDP), where new recruits are given the essential skills for their military journey. We were also able to have a heartwarming lunch with Army personnel. Hearing their stories left us in awe. Their dedication and commitment to making a difference in the world were simply remarkable.
Next came the simulations center, where we immersed ourselves in a hands-on experience on a virtual battlespace. We were briefly trained how to operate a battle tank and a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. We took turns being the commander or the gunner and the realistic simulations gave us a glimpse of the challenges our soldiers face every day.
The following day, we had the honor of attending an Infantry OSUT Graduation, a proud moment for everyone. An infantry One Station Unit Training, “combines Basic Combat Training (BCT) with Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in which new recruits remain with the same unit.” The sense of accomplishment among the graduates and their families filled the air with joy. We also had the privilege of meeting an Army Reserve veteran who shared how medical simulations prepare new recruits for real-life battle experiences.
The excitement continued as we headed to airborne school. A few of our educators bravely jumped off a 34-foot mock tower, experiencing the adrenaline rush our soldiers encounter during training. Saving the best for last, we concluded the tour by witnessing a Ranger graduation. They are the premier combat team of the U.S Army and the soldiers gave us an amazing performance of their training methods and exceptional skills. As we watched them in their element, we were speechless. We wrapped up the tour with a visit to the PX, an exclusive shopping center for military personnel.
The visit to Fort Moore was nothing short of enlightening and inspiring. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the U.S. Army for giving us this extraordinary opportunity to gain insights into the lives of our brave servicemen and women.