For Ted Pitts, taking state chamber job ‘right fit’
Source: Columbia Regional Business Journal
February 20, 2015
After working in commercial real estate and serving in the General Assembly and governor’s office, Ted Pitts believes his new job as CEO and president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce is the “right fit.”
Pitts, 42, moved to the organization in November, and succeeded long-time chamber chief Otis Rawl in January.
Previously, Pitts worked in the administration of Gov. Nikki Haley, last serving as chief of staff.
“I told the governor I would stay for her first full term,” Pitts said. “After the election (in November), the timing ...it made a lot of sense. Everything just worked out.”
However, Pitts doesn’t believe his ties to Haley and a stint from 2003-2010 in the General Assembly as a Republican House of Representatives member from Lexington County are the primary reasons why he was hired at the chamber, which lobbies the Legislature and governor on behalf of the state’s business community.
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with the S.C. Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 178th Field Artillery, Pitts visited Afghan children at Qali-E-Moslim School. (Photo/S.C. National Guard)
“I don’t think I was specifically hired for this job just because I was the governor’s chief of staff,” Pitts said. “I think my resume as a whole was a great fit for me, but also the chamber board thought it would be a great fit for me.”
However, Pitts believes he can be an effective leader of the chamber in promoting economic development because of his commercial real estate background – he worked 11 years for Newmark Grubb Wilson Kibler – and his time in the Legislature and governor’s office.
“I think seeing economic development from the government side helps because we see some of those hurdles that businesses have to clear that government puts up,” Pitts said. “The governor has tried to bring those hurdles down and make South Carolina the most business friendly state in the country and the most business friendly place to operate in the world.”
The government experience also has helped him understand the process and “develop relationships that are needed to be effective in this role,” Pitts said.
Looking ahead to this session of the General Assembly, Pitts thinks one of the chamber’s top issues, improving transportation infrastructure, will make headway.
House Speaker Jay Lucas has appointed a special committee to come up with a plan and Senate Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, have both labeled fixing the state’s roads and bridges and a top priority.
Haley also has pushed the issue to the front-burner, proposing essentially a tax swap that would increase the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon in return for cuts in income taxes.
“I do think there is an opportunity because of some momentum and conversation,” Pitts said. “I think the impetus is there.”
A Lexington native and graduate of Presbyterian College, Pitts is married and the father three children. He also is a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard and commander of a medical services unit. In 2010, he deployed with the Guard’s 1st Battalion, 178th Field Artillery to Afghanistan.
During his tour, Pitts was based at Camp Dubs on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Kabul, a city of more than 3 million people that bears the scars of the 1979 Soviet invasion and long-running civil war.
“Seeing Kabul, makes you appreciate this country, this state and the opportunities that it provides for its people,” Pitts said. “This is a great place to live and we need to continue to improve upon that.”
He paused and then added: “We’re lucky. We’re blessed.”
Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.