Erwin Penland Co-Founder, President Set to Retire by Year End

Agency Plans to Name Successor in a Few Weeks

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Erwin Penland's #ToastToJoe microsite
Erwin Penland's #ToastToJoe microsite Credit: Courtesy Erwin Penland
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Erwin Penland co-founder and president Joe Erwin is retiring from the Greenville, South Carolina-based business after 30 years at the helm.

The advertising veteran -- also former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman -- will step down from his role at the end of the year. Erwin Penland, which was acquired by Hill Holiday in 2004, will likely name a successor in the next couple of weeks, and Mr. Erwin will help the firm with the transition.

While Mr. Erwin said he's excited for his next endeavors, he said his joy is mixed with a bit of melancholy.

"You don't start something from nothing and grow it for nearly 30 years and leave it without some sadness, but it's still a great day," he said.

Over the last few months, Erwin Penland had to lay off about 30 staffers after losing business with its longtime client Verizon. Mr. Erwin said one reason for layoffs is to "turn up salary" and since agency presidents usually make the most money, his departure made sense.

"I don't need a paycheck anymore, so it seemed like the right thing to do," he said.

Mr. Erwin said he will not go back into politics himself, but will continue counseling and helping others running for office, such as Chandra Dillard, who is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. "I want to help those people who want to go serve for the good of others and not to just take up a chair in a legislative body," added Mr. Erwin.

In addition to political consulting, Mr. Erwin plans on doing development work around the country for the Erwin Center for Brand Communications at Clemson University, which he and his wife, Gretchen, helped launch in 2012.

On Monday, Erwin Penland posted a farewell message to its leader on Facebook, which said: "How do you say goodbye to Joe Erwin? How do you bid adieu to the guy who built what he built, who acts like he acts, who gives what he gives, who is who he is? This is tough for all of us. But we all know that you'll continue to make a huge difference in so many lives, and create success for the people you touch. Thanks Joe, for everything."

The Facebook post links to a Toast to Joe microsite where users can upload sendoff notes, videos and photos for Mr. Erwin.

In 2008, Mr. Erwin launched a three-day conference in Greenville called Food For Thought, which aimed to shine a spotlight on food, creativity, entrepreneurism and social responsibility.

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