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CIU celebrates opening of business and technology center

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Columbia International University honored one of its past presidents Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new business and technology center that bears his name.

More than 100 community, city, county and state leaders attended the dedication ceremony for the  $20 million, 44,000-square-foot William H. Jones Global Business and IT Center. The building will serve as a hub for the university’s Monticello Road business development initiative. It also will be used by students at Ben Lippen School.

CIU president Mark Smith (holding scissors) and former president William Jones (facing Smith) celebrate after cutting the ribbon on the William H. Jones Global Business and IT Center. (Photo/Renée Sexton)In two years, the university raised $18.2 million to cover the center’s construction cost. Ground was broken on the building in May 2018.

Jones, a former president of the university and its current chancellor, said the school of business is CIU’s fastest-growing program. It started as a single business course, then expanded to a minor before becoming a major. The university is now offering master’s and doctoral degrees in business, he said, that help it address its core mission.

“Twelve years ago when I became the president, we had been, for 85 years, focusing on educating what we called professional ministers, the pastors and the ministers of music,” he said. “We asked if we could begin emphasizing ministering professionals, people who could be trained in the same way in terms of knowing the scriptures and being focused on their inner character and moral values, so they could go and exert a positive Godly influence in the community. That part has been very successful.”

The business center includes meeting and classroom space and state-of-the art technology.

“This is the culmination of several years of planning to have a first-class business program,” said Scott Adams, dean of the CIU School of Business and Professional Studies. “This is one of the most modern facilities for business schools in the state.”

The university hopes the business center will anchor its efforts to revitalize development along the Monticello Road corridor. The university purchased several nearby properties on Monticello Road and is developing them into projects including a convenience store and a neighborhood substation for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department which will open Oct. 30.

CIU has associates in nearly 150 countries worldwide, but school leaders said it also must address the needs of the people who are closest to it.

“It was time for us not only to touch the world but to reinvest in this community,” said current CIU president Mark Smith.

University officials said Mashburn Construction completed the project one month ahead of schedule and under budget. Mashburn currently is working on several construction projects on the CIU campus.

“The opportunity to participate in a project like this, that is a beacon to this community, is an honor for us. It’s something that we’re thrilled to be a part of,” said Brian Johnston, Mashburn vice president of operations. “It’s really a kickoff to a lot of great things to come here.”

Also during the ceremony, Jones was presented with the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the governor of South Carolina.

“It’s a very humbling blessing,” Jones said. “It’s almost embarrassing.”

Reach Renée Sexton at 803-726-7546.

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