The College of Charleston has launched an Office of Economic Development and promoted its lobbyist and former Board of Trustees chairman to run it.
The office will work with local businesses to promote economic development in the Lowcountry, and with the college's academic programs to assist them in better preparing students for jobs, school leaders said. They also said it would help the college meet one of Gov. Nikki Haley's goals for public colleges.
Haley is working with college leaders to refine performance goals, the attainment of which will determine how much state money the schools receive. Haley's goals include promoting economic development in the state and boosting the number of students who land jobs after graduation.
College of Charleston President George Benson was not available for comment.
The college has hired Bobby Marlowe, who was one of the school's two legislative affairs liaisons, to run the new office, according to Steve Osborne, executive vice president for business affairs. Marlowe's new title is senior vice president for economic development and government relations. His new annual salary is $100,000, up from the $85,000 salary he drew as a lobbyist.
Marlowe served on the college's Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2008. He was elected board chairman in 2004, and held that position until he resigned in 2008, saying he needed to devote more time to his building business. He began working as a lobbyist for the college in September 2009.
Osborne said college leaders did not do a national search for the new vice president position. They decided instead to hire Marlowe, who will continue to do some work in government relations. For now, Marlowe is the only employee in the new office, Osborne said. "A national search would have been expensive," Osborne said. "We considered it, but decided we could meet our needs using in-house resources."
Lynn Cherry, speaker of the faculty, said she hasn't received any calls from faculty members about the new office. She thinks it's consistent with the governor's higher education goals, and a natural extension of Marlowe's current duties.
Simon Lewis, an English professor, said everybody at the college likely is supportive of economic development. But he thinks a lot of faculty members would like state leaders and the college's administrators to value and invest more in the core function of the school. That core function includes aiming to become the best liberal arts college in the Southeast by 2020, he said.
Marlowe said the efforts that his office will undertake are crucial in tough economic times. His office is dedicated to improving services for students and the economic climate in the Lowcountry and the state, he said. It's not about getting the college to turn a profit. However, it will likely pay for itself and generate some money for the college. "We're looking at things from an entrepreneurial perspective," he said.
And Marlowe said he has the experience to do the job, citing his institutional knowledge from his previous work at the college and on the board. He also has worked as a businessman in the area for 24 years, he said.
Some of his accomplishments include launching construction of a water park at Wannamaker County Park when he was chairman of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission; and overseeing the construction of the college's basketball arena, science center and George Street housing and commercial complex when he was board chairman.