Leader Interview: Ken Calemmo
Leader Interview: Ken Calemmo,
Chief Opperating Officer, Cooper Levenson
Sarah Grady (SG): Hello, my name is Sarah Grady, and I am the Assistant Director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism here at Stockton University. LIGHT for short. We are part of the School of Business. I am joined here today by Mr. Ken Calemmo, Chief Operating Officer of Cooper Levenson and long serving member of LIGHT’s Advisory Board. Thank you for joining me today, Ken.
Ken Calemmo (KC): Glad to be here.
SG: Glad to have you here, So, I’d like to maybe start this interview off with the question, Who is Ken Calemmo? What would you like to tell us about yourself?
Chief Operating Officer, Cooper Levenson
KC: Well, I don’t know, I came to this marketplace, believe it or not, almost 33 – 34 years ago. I’ve been in Atlantic City and have made it my home - raised my children [here]. My wife works in Atlantic City, she’s a judge here locally and… been very much engaged in what’s been going on here in Atlantic and Cape May counties. I’ve always taken the opportunity to try to be involved in the community and work with individuals and see what we can do to better our environment here.
I’m really happy to be part of the Cooper Levenson family. This law firm has been almost going on sixty years in this marketplace and has been, I consider, almost a foundational element to the community. We’ve done things with all of the educational institutions in the area. We’ve worked with churches. We’ve worked with county government, state, city – and we try to stay engaged. Its been a long fun ride.
SG: And the second question is what have been the highlights of that ride? What kind of path led you to become Chief Operating Officer at Cooper Levenson?
KC: Well, I was recruited some thirty plus years ago by Jim Cooper and Lloyd Levenson. I had been running a small firm out in Delaware County, prior to that I was running the offices of United States Senator Arlen Specter in Washington DC.
So, it was kind of a logical progression. I mean back, when I first got here, our firm was under thirty lawyers and now we are almost surpassing seventy lawyers in five states. We’ve grown considerably. Our market share has considerably grown. We’ve worked to broaden our base beyond the state of New Jersey. We have probably one of the biggest gaming practices in the country right now. We do things worldwide in that area. We’re handling clients from the whole tri-state area here. A lot in the commercial world as well as small businesses in and around our marketplace.
SG: The third question I have is What would you consider your greatest challenge or success, currently? I sounds like there’s been a lot of growth with Cooper Levenson. So it’s certainly a success.
KC: I’m probably dealing with many of the issues that most employers are dealing with right now. And that’s really finding a diverse employment base. I love Atlantic City, the beach the shore, but we are kind of stuck between the Philadelphia marketplace and the New York/North Jersey marketplace and it can be somewhat challenging to attract young people into this area. Its probably the greatest challenge we face.
I think the pandemic made us all look at things a lot differently. We have gone to certain hybrid situations allowing many of our professionals to work outside the office, at home, some as far as a few states away. We are doing what we can to meet the needs of our clients. That’s probably been the biggest issue we’ve had to deal with.
Cooper Levenson has a strong presence here in Atlantic City, and I always like to ask our leaders, What’s your vision for Atlantic City, What key issues or trends do you feel are going to come up in the next few years?
KC: Atlantic City needs to begin to figure a way to attract more capital. Capital investment is probably the most critical element. And Capital goes where they feel there is less risk, and it’s a good place for their employees, good educational systems… we have many of these things but we have to continue to work at it. When major businesses and corporations are looking to deploy resources, they are going to go someplace where it fits their best interests. We have to create that here in Atlantic City.
I would like to see the population increase by 5,000 or 10,000. I’d love to see other businesses diversify here. I think where we have an opportunity to do that, not in the areas of hospitality that many people think, but eGaming continues to come along and R&D in that area. Aviation with the [FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center] out there. These are opportunities I think we have to exploit and take beyond the county and let the state and other partners know about – that there are opportunities here.
We have, right in our backyard, people probably don’t even realize this, a huge server farm. Continent 8 has built a facility, a magnificent server facility, right in our backyard. We need to reach out to technology companies to try to join forces and find ways we can attract them to come here and bring their capital, bring their investment and bring their employees.
... a strong community is good business. It is. Its our job to make sure we have a good community, a strong community, a community that can grow economically..."
SG: Even just talking earlier, about how you were trying to attract new talent into the area to fulfill the needs of Cooper Levenson, the next question is What role do you see Cooper Levenson playing in all of that?
KC: I learned early on from a guy that was doing it back in the early sixties, Jim Cooper, a strong community is good business. It is. Its our job to make sure we have a good community, a strong community, a community that can grow economically – make sure we are taking care of the folks that need to be taken care of. I think Cooper Levenson shows that’s something we are interested in - up and down our ranks - from our staff people right up to Lloyd Levenson. The involvement that people have in the marketplace.
I think that’s going to continue. I think we are going to continue to play a role, be it a support role or a leadership role. We are here and we’re not going anywhere - this is our home and we’re going to continue to expand it.
SG: To round out the interview, I always like to ask if you have any Advice for someone who is considering a career in your specific field?
KC: A career in the law?
SG: In the law, in gaming law?
KC: Oh, sure. In the law, that is a process, make sure you have that passion to want to be in this profession. I would suggest people research it – it is a very diverse area for employment opportunities. People say, ‘hey I’m an attorney,’ but that spans a huge, myriad of practice areas. Everything from tax law, to business, to transactional work, to real estate opportunities… things you that would never think of – cyber, electronics R&D – there are just a multitude of opportunities. I think using the law as a backbone and a fundamental basis for a passion in other areas can be a very strong piece to move people along.
What I would really like to see, is Stockton opening up that law school we keep talking about. That I desperately would love to locate here in the city of Atlantic City, because access to law schools and keeping people here in New Jersey continues also to be a challenge. It we could parlay that into something in our own backyard here, Cooper Levenson would play a big role in making sure that we are putting out talented young professionals into the courtrooms.
If I could wave a magic wand, that’s the magic wand I’d want to wave.
SG: If only. If only we all had magic wands to make all of the challenges come together. I want to thank you so much, Ken, for joining me today and having this conversation and sharing your expertise, wisdom and vision. Is there anything you’d like to add, anything you really want to draw a line under today.
KC: No. Thank you so much. Thankyou to Stockton for all the things you guys have done in moving the ball forward here in the community. Not only are you training the leaders of the future, but you are taking steps to physically change the landscape particularly in Atlantic City. It’s just as important to continue to make that investment in our community. Thank you to you guys, and all the work you do for LIGHT, and all the very best.
SG: Thank you so much, Ken. Thank you again for joining us today. And thank you to our viewers for joining us for this interview.
KC: Hope they enjoyed it.