Robert M. Hitt III, Secretary of Commerce
Robert “Bobby” M. Hitt III was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to serve as Secretary of Commerce in January 2011. Hitt, the previous manager of corporate affairs at the BMW Manufacturing Company in Spartanburg, brings a wealth of economic development experience to the Department of Commerce and has personally worked with the previous five commerce secretaries.
Under his leadership as Secretary of Commerce, South Carolina has become a leader in economic development recruiting more than $23 billion in capital investments and 86,000 new jobs to the state. Throughout Hitt’s tenure, South Carolina has consistently ranked number one in the export of both completed passenger motor vehicles and tires. In three of the last four years, the state has also led the nation in jobs created from foreign direct investment, per capita.
Before his time at Commerce and BMW, Hitt served as the director of planning and development for the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm and worked for 17 years at The State and The Columbia Record newspapers, serving as managing editor of both publications.
Hitt is a native of Charleston and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He and his wife Gwen have two sons, Lucas, and Robert Paul and one grandson, Ben.
Jennifer E. Noel, Deputy Secretary
Jennifer Noel was promoted to Deputy Secretary of Commerce in January 2015. She previously served from 2011 to 2014 as Director of Global Business Development, responsible for managing the recruitment of new industry to the state and the growth of existing businesses in South Carolina.
Major wins for the state during her tenure at Commerce include deals with the top global tire manufacturers, including greenfield projects for Continental Tire and Giti Tire; the recruitment of top aerospace suppliers, including carbon fiber manufacturer Toray Industries; new corporate headquarters for LPL Financial and The Lash Group; and expansions by BMW, Boeing, GE and many more globally respected brands.
Jennifer brings nearly twenty years of economic development experience to Commerce. She came to Commerce from the Upstate SC Alliance, where she was executive vice president. During her time at the Upstate Alliance, Jennifer secured and administered more than $2 million in grant funding for the organization and championed the organization’s award-winning “I Was Blown Away” regional branding campaign.
Jennifer holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina, and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. She is a 2006 graduate of Leadership South Carolina and is a member of the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Economic Developers Association.