NEWARK, NJ - The first wave of an expected 750 plus CEOs, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and non-profit leaders boarded the 11:35 a.m. Amtrak train and headed to Washington D.C. Thursday.
The departure kicked off the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s 83rd Annual Walk to Washington, an event the business advocacy organization’s president and CEO Tom Bracken said offers “the kind of super networking that helps businesses grow.”
Launched in 1937 as an opportunity for the state’s top business leaders to venture to the nation’s capital to have dinner with New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, the event is considered a “must attend” for those seeking to rub elbows with top decision makers.
With some room still left to move comfortably, the aisles will quickly fill as the most hearty attendees attempt to “walk” from one car to the next, trading business cards and pleasantries along the way.
Among the recognized elected officials taking the journey was Paterson’s Mayor Andre Sayegh who said that “rebuilding a city means building connections that extend beyond Paterson’s borders.”
Asked how he’ll evaluate the success of the trip Sayegh didn’t miss a beat in his response: “Grant dollars, federal support, and investment in Paterson,” he offered before moving to the next outstretched hand.
Another notable Paterson leader on board is Freeholder TJ Best. His 10th "Walk to Washington", Best echoed Sayegh's sentiments that it's an opportunity to network with leaders from throughout the state, something he believes helps in his efforts to support Passaic County.
Unlike bigger events like the annual League of Municipalities where attendees roam through an expansive expo center, the NJ Chamber event, Best said, leads to more in depth conversations. "Everyone is in a confined space," he said of the close quarters the train provides. "You can't help but have longer and more engaged conversations."
Academia also has a place on the train ride, Benjamin Dworkin, director of Rowan Universtiy's Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship (RIPPAC) said. "In 24 hours you can meet every major player in the state's political ecosystem,"
"If you're going to teach this there's no better field study," he said, cut off by a greeting from Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who moonlights as a comedian. Extended an invitation to speak at RIPPAC Bramnick deadpanned that he was working on new material.
Comparing the legislative leader's comment to the train ride Dworkin concluded that "there is no better place than this event to get new material."
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