Agency Leadership

Robert M. Hitt III, Secretary of Commerce

Robert M. Hitt IIIRobert “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.

Hitt served as the director of planning and development for the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm in Columbia. In that role, Hitt was involved in bringing the BMW Manufacturing Company to the Upstate, one of the state’s largest success stories. He worked for 17 years at The State and The Columbia Record newspapers. He served as the managing editor of The Columbia Record from 1980 to 1987. In 1988, Hitt was named managing editor of its sister paper, The State, a position he held until 1991.

Hitt is past chairman of the S.C. Manufacturers’ Alliance, has served on the executive committees of Advance SC and the Upstate Alliance and on the boards of St. Francis Hospital System and Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC.

Hitt is a native of Charleston and graduate of the University of South Carolina. USC recognized him as Distinguished Journalism Alumni of the Year in 2001. In 1987, he received the prestigious Nieman Fellowship for journalists, which allowed him to study for a year at Harvard University where he focused on management and law. 

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.