Caren Franzini

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This article was prepared for the October 27, 2004 issue of

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Virginia Bauer: Fresh Face for Jersey Business

by Barbara Fox

Somewhere, an agency in New Jersey government is really going to

listen to what entrepreneurs need.

Sometime, a state official is really going to help smooth the business

owners’ Yellow Brick Road to success.

And at some point, the state will put its money where its mouth is and

market Central New Jersey as an alluring center for high-tech


Trenton has promised countless times to fulfill these goals, and each

reorganization of the commerce commission brings new promises and

programs. Still, searching for the right program, the right official,

or the right grant is arduous. The fulfillment of the state’s

promises, the "dreams that we dare to dream" always seem to be just

over some other state’s rainbow.

But wait! Down the road comes Virginia Samaris Bauer, the new CEO and

secretary of the state commerce commission. She may not be a dead

ringer for Judy Garland, but she has the Dorothy character’s

confidence and charisma. And just three months after she took office,

she is trying to convince business owners that bluebirds really can

fly here in New Jersey.

A cheerleader in high school, a thespian in college (she really did

star as Dorothy in "Wizard of Oz"), a financial planner who left

Merrill Lynch to raise three children, she came to the public’s

attention when, as the widow of a Cantor Fitzgerald executive, who

died at the World Trade Center, she effectively lobbied for changes in

the tax laws for 9/11 families. The McGreevey administration tapped

her to head the state lottery, where her programs broke profit

records, and when the commerce secretary’s job suddenly opened up, in

she walked.

She comes with a smile, full of confidence. "I can be annoyingly

upbeat," admits Bauer in a telephone interview. "I try to always look

at things in a positive way. But you have to arm that confidence with

knowledge and the ability to learn from others. My strength is that I

know what I don’t know and am not afraid to ask. I do listen. And

hopefully I am not just a voice, but someone who can make effective

change to the business climate, to encourage growth and jobs in the


Bauer keynotes "Empowerment & Inspiration 2004 – the Rise of the Woman

Entrepreneur," Prosperity New Jersey’s free signature event on

Thursday, November 4, from 7:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Lafayette Yard

Marriott in Trenton (609-984-4924). She also speaks at "Opportunities

and Perspectives: Blueprint for Success," a state-sponsored conference

on Friday, November 12, at 8:30 a.m. at the East Brunswick Hilton.

Cost: $125 at the door. Call 609-777-0885.

The ability to listen and consider what someone really needs is

Bauer’s trademark. Last month nearly 80 people came to hear her at an

Einstein’s Alley breakfast meeting at NEC on Independence Way, and she

demonstrated that skill.

She made it clear that she was not ready to give answers, but that she

wanted to hear ideas and problems, and that she aimed to be an

advocate – to bring problems to the right agency or legislative body.

Change is needed in some cases, she assured her constituents, and in

other areas what was needed was good old-fashioned communications.

"That’s a good idea," she’d say. "Tell me how it would work." Or, "I

hear that wherever I go, and I’m going to work hard to fix it." Or

(and most effective), "I don’t know, I’ll find out."

"The state provides a lot of good tools and programs for the business

community, but that message wasn’t delivered," she says. "People

didn’t know about them. And when people had questions, they didn’t get

the proper followup." It is a familiar refrain. "Especially from small

businesses, but even with large businesses, when they call about

permits and regulations, nobody gets back to them."

Virtually everyone at the meeting had a vested interest in getting

Central Jersey branded as Einstein’s Alley, a nationally recognized

center for technology, and getting it funded by the state. One of the

concept’s strongest promoters, Dick Woodbridge of Synnestvedt Lechner

& Woodbridge on Nassau Street, professed amazement and delight at

Bauer’s grasp of its potential. "Now I feel like I’m talking to

someone who understands what we need to do," he says. "She is the

highest level state official that I have run across who really

understands Einstein’s Alley."

But one scientist, who declined to be quoted by name, was less sure:

"I am not convinced she is exactly on target or that she understood

that Einstein’s Alley does not mean just Princeton." (It is supposed

to encompass all of central New Jersey).

On this morning Bauer is preaching to the choir, but this choir

desperately wants to believe that she can follow through on the

support for high tech businesses that promoters have been talking

about for years but never delivered. Given that Bauer has little

experience in starting a business, and knows even less about

technology, what inspires this confidence?

A dynamic and self-assured

deamanor, perhaps, but Bauer herself credits her listening skills. She

suggests that if people believe you are listening, they think you have

the power to do something. "Others will say, ‘She does listen.’ A lot

of leaders are afraid that if they listen, they appear weak, where I

feel the opposite."

Is it a female characteristic? "I think men are

sometimes afraid to appear not knowledgeable, but some women, also,

feel they have to fake it. Eventually, they are tripped up."

Her credibility comes from the reputation she gained as an advocate

for 9/11 families and as the head of the New Jersey Lottery. "Without

those advocate and lottery successes, it would have been almost

impossible for me to do this job," she admits. "That’s why the

governor chose me." (She replaced William Watley, who resigned when

allegations were made that monies had been misspent by members of the

commissions staff.) "More importantly I was well received by the

residents of the state who knew me, and I could start out on a good


The Einstein’s Alley meeting resulted in at least one quick response

from the commission, says Wei-hsing Wang of NicheUSA. As the local

manager for the Emerging Information Technology Conference, a global

conference set for Thursday and Friday, October 28 and 29, he wanted

to distribute materials touting New Jersey as a place to open a

technology business.

"After I went to the meeting and realized that the Commerce Commission

was supposed to be the first place to go for information, I phoned the

commission," says Wang. "I got immediate results – a call from Charles

Lynch, who assembled a thick envelope of materials for me, and, for

the speediest delivery, offered to bring them to my home (he lives in

the same town)."

Nevertheless, Wang thinks the commission ought to replace the many

documents with a one-page information sheet that could refer to a

website and that could more easily be distributed at conventions.

The eldest of five children, Virginia "Ginny" Bauer grew up in the

small Jersey shore town of Little Silver, where her mother taught

fourth grade, and her father had a bar and package store. "I knew at

an early age that I had good people skills," says Bauer. "It is not an

act with me. I had a lot of responsibility and took care of my

brothers and sisters."

At a coed Catholic high school she was a quick study, and if she was

not one of the most diligent students, she was one of the most

popular. "I was always very outgoing and had lots of friends, but

neither of my parents is as outgoing as I am," she says. "I learned

from others around me, those who impressed me – people like the

mothers of my friends and the families I used to babysit for. I would

emulate the mother of the household because I saw they had felt good

about themselves and had a confidence in speaking to other people."

Though accepted at bigger schools, she and several friends went to a

small woman’s college, Rosemont, on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

"Rosemont seemed pretty safe, and I ended up loving it. I was pretty

much a ‘B’ student, and I certainly didn’t study as much as I should


Going to a women’s college did teach empowerment, she admits, "but I

was never intimidated by men, either in the classroom or the

boardroom. I wish I could tell you that there was something in my life

that taught me that, but I think it was instinctual. In my family I

was always was the ‘smart one,’ the cheerleader, and I never felt

there was something I couldn’t do." (One of the things she admits she

couldn’t do, but had to do anyway, was to sing Dorothy’s "Over the

Rainbow" solo on stage.)

Though she and David Bauer, her future husband, had known each other

in grammar school, their first date was in during their senior year in

college; he was at nearby Villanova and they both graduated in 1978.

"We always had had a little ‘chemistry,’" she says. "I always thought

he was adorable, and when we dated, it was instant. We got engaged a

year after we graduated and married a year after that."

The capacity to listen and consider what people really need was

Bauer’s trademark even in her first job. She was one of the first –

and certainly the youngest – female account executives at Merrill


"I did very well," she asserts, "because I understood my job, to

introduce certain financial products, find the ones suitable, and make

those suggestions. I listened to the client to understand what their

financial needs were. Then I would go to the research department and

plug in the right products for them."

"Other account executives spent their time staring at the screen,

finding their own good buys, and not on the phone. That is part of

understanding your job and simplifying what you have to do," she says.

She worked in Westfield for seven years, until her first son was born.

"At that point my husband’s career as a corporate bond salesman for

Merrill started to accelerate. We made the decision to have more

children, but if I had kept my job, I would not have been able to keep

the same level of productivity."

"I did miss my job, but I never regretted my decision. I loved my

husband and children, and some days I’d drive the kids to practice and

think ‘There has to be more than this,’ but I knew at some point I

would have the opportunity to professionally and intellectually

stimulate myself again. We always vacillated about my working, and I

would say, ‘Then I can’t go with you when you have a trip.’ Had David

lived, I would have gone back into the workforce."

Less than a month after her husband was killed, she began working with

James Fox and Eric Shuffler in Senator Torricelli’s office on a 9/11

tax bill. "Ginny is a thoughtful, articulate, passionate advocate for

the causes she believes in," says Shuffler, who was Torricelli’s chief

of staff. "At a time when she was experiencing her own difficult

emotional situation she found it in herself to become an advocate, not

just for her, but for a lot of other people who needed her to advocate

for them."

Bauer’s own financial situation is quite secure; she has about $10

million in savings, according to public disclosure documents, and she

moved from Rumson to a $1.8 million house in Red Bank last year. She

has said that her 9/11 settlement was "about average," and the average

was about $1.25 million.

"People deal with grief in different ways," Bauer says. "Certainly my

activism was a form of constructive therapy and turned out to be a

wonderful opportunity to renew my life and renew a chapter in my

life." She believes her current work is the best tribute she could

make to her husband: "I know he is supportive."

Fox (now chief of staff in the governor’s office) and Shuffler (now

counselor to the governor) recommended Bauer for the lottery job.

Bauer had just ensconced her youngest child at boarding school and was

starting to job hunt. "I thought, ‘What the heck am I going to do? I

am 46 years old.’ That’s when I started to look for a position, and I

had a couple of offers when the lottery director’s appointment came."

In one year at the lottery she pioneered the first Internet-based game

Cyber Slingo, installed the first lottery retailer at Newark

International Airport, cut administrative fees to less than one

percent, and got the credit for a record-breaking $2.2 billion in


As commerce secretary, most days begin at 5:30 a.m. with her swimming

laps at a health club near her home. "I used to play tennis, walk,

ski, and run occasionally, and now I don’t have the opportunity to do

that. But after my husband died, I found swimming was therapeutic for

me and a good form of exercise."

"Every night this week I have had a dinner," says Bauer. "And then I

go right to bed. I am an early-to-bed girl. I do have a high energy

level, but I need eight hours sleep."

If her three teenagers lived at home, she says, she could not do this

demanding job. Each is an accomplished athlete, and she spends her

weekends driving to their games – the oldest son, a high school All

American now playing lacrosse as a sophomore at Georgetown, the middle

son, on the football team at Peddie School, and her daughter playing

three sports at Blair Academy. "There is a lot of humor in my life,"

she says, "and my children keep me very humble."

Soon after her appointment was announced on July 16 (her appointment

as commerce secretary was officially confirmed by the Senate on

October 25), Bauer cleaned house, firing the controller and five other

people and reining in travel expenses. "Change is a pill the staff was

happy to take," she says. "Any of the personnel changes I needed to

make, I made immediately. The current staff members have been working

hard a long time but were not able to do their job effectively. Morale

is high and there is a sense of relief."

Bauer has these priorities:

To clean up finances. The highest level finance job had been

controller. Bauer hired a new controller and, by executive order from

the governor, added the job of CFO (Mary Beth Davies, a 25-year

Treasury veteran) to carry out fiscal reforms. Jason Kirin is the new

chief of staff.

To emphasize marketing and PR. "We must do a better job of


what Commerce has to offer," says Bauer. "We fell short in getting the

word out. What’s needed, quite frankly, is some better packaging and

better customer service. And that’s where the State of New Jersey

needs to step up."

Acknowledging that the lottery’s marketing director, Cathy

Scangarella, was responsible for much of the lottery’s success, Bauer

hired her to a new job at Commerce, vice president of marketing.

She also replaced the director of communications with Mary Caffrey.

(At the Einstein’s Alley meeting Bauer emphasized that because Caffrey

had worked at Princeton University, Princeton’s interests would be

well represented at Commerce.) Caffrey is charged with publicizing the

20th anniversary of the Urban Enterprise Zone in order to get more

businesses involved.

To reorganize staff. Among her first moves was to move


specialists out of their Trenton offices and into specific

geographical regions. She also reinstituted industry specialists, a

concept that was started under Governor Whitman. "I felt the account

executives needed to be out in the field, and I wanted to get

executives back out there in the industries they were most comfortable

with," says Bauer.

Among the regional representatives are Lloyd Oxford, who serves

Hunterdon, Somerset, and Mercer counties; John Cuifo, who serves

Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean; and Jim Waldron, who serves

Burlington, Atlantic, Gloucester and Salem counties. Industry

specialists include James Donnelly, information technology; Ed Dietz,

logistics; Charles Lynch, chemicals; Henry Kurz,

pharmaceuticals/biotechnology; Larry Doyle, finance and insurance; and

Jo Ann Ritter, the sector specialist for the hospitality industry as

well as a regional rep for Camden, Cumberland, and Cape May.

To emphasize tourism. Bauer says it was "not acceptable" that

the name

of the commission did not include tourism. Now the name is the New

Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth, and Tourism Commission, and tourism

has been added to the mission statement. This means that Nancy Byrne,

executive director of the Office of Travel and Tourism, "has a more

important role and seat at the table than she had previously," says


Bauer harks back to her childhood days to show she knows what "a good

season" and "a bad season" can mean to a shore town. Tourism, she

points out, is the second largest industry in the state, bringing in

more than $30 billion in revenue and $2 billion in taxes, and

supporting more than 400,000 jobs that generate more than $12 billion

in wages.

Until now, says Bauer, the Tourism office concentrated on marketing.

Now, if issues arise with other state agencies (water testing by the

Department of Environmental Protection, for instance, or weatherizing

hotels by the Department of Community Affairs), Bauer will advocate to

get the issues resolved.

On the marketing side, Bauer and Byrne have created cooperative

marketing sponsorships, ranging from $500 to $100,000, for the

promotion of special events. Organizations can apply to this program,

which began in October; it uses state funds to leverage private

resources. The criteria for getting this award include "the

applicant’s significant interest in the promotion of a tourist

destination, attraction, or activity, as well as the ability of the

program or event to promote the Office of Travel and Tourism to broad

audiences or targeted markets, including cultural, historic, and


To encourage the technology sector. Bauer’s cause will surely


from actions taken by another McGreevey appointee, Sherrie Preische,

who as executive director is trying to restore the stature of the New

Jersey Science and Technology Commission. One of the questions at the

Einstein’s Alley meeting concerned the NJCST, which seemingly lost

power and prestige when some of its functions were turned over to the

New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Scientists were worried

about the possibility that grantmaking would be done by lay people.

Their worries were unfounded, according to the EDA’s Caren Franzini,

who points out that the NJCST has a strong vote on the committee that

gives grant money, and that the EDA merely does the back office

accounting chores.

Still, there was a perception problem. And just last week Preische

named two celebrity scientist/administrators to the board. The new

chairman is Don Drakeman, founder of Medarex, a successful biotech,

and previous chair of the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey. Also

new on the board is Greg Olsen, the founder of Sensors Unlimited who

is most recently famous for his attempt to be an astronaut. These

appointments are the first step toward solving the problem.

The governor’s new Innovation Zones (Newark, New Brunswick, and

Camden) are supposed to bolster technology companies. But it doesn’t

please Einstein’s Alley advocates that the largesse to be given out in

New Brunswick will not extend to Princeton. At the Einstein’s Alley

meeting, Bauer held out the hope that the zones might eventually be


Increasing responsiveness to small business from state


Bauer has asked Megan Mulcahy to establish a clearer method of

client/customer service. "If business callers have questions, they

will not be asked to call four or five different departments," says


Aren’t the Small Business Development Centers supposed to be providing

that help? "Yes. But Commerce, in many cases, is the first place

people come to. If a small business has a concern, we have to do a

good job of being sure they get to the right spot and making sure they

are getting an answer."

"It is not all that difficult," she promises. "We might have to set up

better phone lines and clean up the website. And do a better job of

marketing the programs we have. If you clarify your message and are

straight with people, you are usually much more successful. That’s

what we will do here."

Whew. All this adds up to a monumental task. And unlike Dorothy, Ginny

Bauer can’t click her heels to make things happen. Will she succeed?

Perhaps, says Wang of NicheUSA. The new commissioner, he says, "is

really serious about what she is doing and is going to work hard, but

it is too early to say whether she will be successful."

Bauer’s success may depend on being less like Dorothy and more like

the Wizard, who was able to inspire people to find their own solutions

to perceived problems.

One thing is clear, she gets to keep her job when the governor’s

office changes hands. "Senator Codey is very happy to leave people who

are doing their job in place," she says. "This is not a hostile


New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission, 20


State Street, Box 820, Trenton 08625-0820. Virginia S. Bauer,

secretary. 609-777-0885; fax, 609-777-4097. Home page:

Empowerment & Inspiration: The Rise of the Women Entrepreneur,

sponsored by Prosperity New Jersey. Free by reservation; call

609-984-4924. Erik R. Pages, EntreWorks Consulting. "Personal

Relationship Marketing: Building Relationships of Trust," Marlene J.

Pagley Waldock, 1st Impression Communications; Virginia S. Bauer,

secretary of commerce; Kent Manahan of NJTV, panel moderator.

Lafayette Yard Marriott Conference Hotel, Trenton. Thursday, November

4, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

New Jersey Economic Development Conference, East Brunswick


"Opportunities and Perspectives: Blueprint for Success," Virginia

Bauer, CEO of NJ Commerce, and Senator Richard J. Codey, governor

designate. Jon S. Corzine, U.S. Senator, keynote. Cost: $125. Call

609-777-0885. Friday, November 12, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bauer also chairs a panel, "NJ Commerce – Helping Business Access New

Jersey," featuring Bradley M. Campbell, commissioner of the DEP;

Jeanne M. Fox, commissioner of the Board of Public Utilities; John F.

Lettiere Jr., commissioner of the DOT; Susan Bass Levin, commissioner

of the Department of Community Affairs; Kevin McCabe, commissioner of

the Department of Labor; John E. McCormac, state treasurer; and Caren

Franzini, CEO of the NJEDA.

Marlene Pagley-Waldock of New Jersey 12 hosts "Financing Steps to

Success," with panelists Phil Politziner of Amper Politziner & Mattia;

William Best of PNC Bank; Brenda Gavin of Quaker BioVentures; James A.

Kocsi, office director of the New Jersey District, Small Business

Administration; and William A. Moody, director of business lending at


Steve Adubato of Channel 13/WNET moderates "Successful Models for

Reducing Operating Costs to Improve the Bottom Line" with Alex Garcia

of the El Taller Colaborativo, Carol Hazlett of PSE&G, Jim Leonard, of

the NJ Chamber of Commerce, and Bill Ragozine of the Cross County


Top Of Page
Caren Franzini

The biography of Virginia Bauer has a certain likeness to another

highly placed woman in state government: Small town girl from big

family works hard, gets married, has a family, and holds down a

prestigious position in state government. It is very similar to the

biography of Caren Franzini, the CEO of the New Jersey Economic

Development Authority, who is the mother of three school-age children,

is popular, and respected for being a straight shooter.

Indeed, Franzini and Bauer are two of a kind and it is easy to imagine

that they like each other’s styles. "I am such a fan of Caren’s," says

Bauer. "She is knowledgeable, caring, selfless, and a wonderful

partner to me."

"We are having fun already," says Franzini. "This week alone we were

at three events together. We are very supportive of each other. We

each have our own strengths."

Franzini is too polite and way too political to comment on the

procession of other Commerce secretaries she has had to work with,

saying only, "the business community should be very happy to have

Ginny Bauer. Not only is she full of enthusiasm, she now has a team

that is ready and excited to work with the community. It’s catching.

You meet her and you feel the excitement and energy. You have to have

a good leader to charge up an organization."

It may be an uphill climb for one person to get much done in a

bureaucracy, but when two "like minds" work together, almost anything

is possible, Franzini agrees. Then she quickly emphasizes that Kevin

McCabe, who heads Labor and Workforce Development, is an integral

member of the team. "EDA does the financing, Labor does the job

training," says Franzini, "and Commerce should carry the flag. That’s

their job."

"But when we need something really big to happen," says Franzini,

taking the opportunity to bring another person into the circle, "we

turn to the state treasurer (John McCormac)." McCormac took some flack

when he tried to cut the Business Employment Incentive Program, but he

learned from that and is now an enthusiastic BEIP supporter. "It is

such a great advantage to the business community to have a team that

likes each other and works together with the goal of helping

businesses," Franzini says.

– Barbara Fox

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