Name: Frank Miles
Job: Executive Director, Southwestern Illinois College Sam Wolf Granite City Campus
Outlook: "I think the future of our country is going to be rooted in education of our young people. With the economy changing as rapidly as it has been, training and education is going to be much more important."
The hallways and classrooms that surround Frank Miles' office are very familiar. Miles was recently appointed the executive director of Southwestern Illinois College's Granite City campus, but he had already spent some of his formative years on the campus. Business writer Will Buss recently visited him in his office to talk about Miles' current and past connection to the school:
What brought you to this job?
"I have an interest in economic development. The field in education, secondary education, has always been an interest to me. Prior to that, I had been an adjunct professor at SIU, where I taught public administration and policy analysis and courses in economic development. The opportunity became available here and the position intrigued me, and I applied and got hired. Also, this is my old high school. This was Granite City North. I was the first four-year class to come through here. In fact, the paint was still drying on the place when I started as a freshman. This is my hometown. My mom and dad live just down the street. I've always wanted to give back to Granite City and the tri-cities community my whole career, and I thought this was an opportunity to do that."
Where had you worked before?
"Prior to this, I was at the port district as the business and economic manager there. While there, I was responsible for promoting the operations of the port district and elevating it in the community and increasing awareness and obviously trying to bring new businesses and jobs to the tri-cities. Then, before that, I was the county treasurer. That didn't turn out so well. But before that, I was the Madison County Planning and Development Director. In that position, I tried to help support economic development in jobs for folks in Madison County and in particularly on the development side. Before that, I was the district chief of staff for Congressman Jerry Costello. I did that for a number of years and helped the congressman and again, tried to support the needs of the constituents here in the 12th District. Before that, I was the administrator for the City of O'Fallon. I managed the city government there under two mayors and helped guide that community's growth and development in its formative years, as the car dealerships grew and the stores grew. And then, before that position, I worked as the chief information officer for the Madison County Circuit Court system. Before that, I started as the director of economic development administration, I was the city planner for the City of Edwardsville in the mid- to late-'80s. Back then, we redid the downtown and we built the new office buildings, we built the county administration building and some of the other residential developments. It's a whole scale of service to the community and service to the public and again, trying to help folks obtain jobs and opportunities."
What do you hope to achieve in your new position?
"Mainly what I hope to achieve is to increase the visibility of SWIC in Madison County, and two, to increase the connectivity between Southwestern Illinois College and the communities here in the tri-cities, the Granite City, Madison and Venice area. I have already met with the mayors, I have met with the economic development folks here, the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Madison County has put me on their board. I have also contacted the Chamber of Commerce from Highland, Collinsville and St. Jacob, Maryville and Troy. So we want to try and increase the visibility of SWIC and how we can help and support them, mainly because of the opportunities that are here on this campus."
What are those opportunities?
"There are lots of opportunities here. There are lots of people who are willing to learn. We've a great faculty. We've got a great staff. We've already started on a couple of programs, a welcome back program for kids who were starting here in the fall. We internally tried to promote a welcoming atmosphere for students that were returning to SWIC. Next fall, what I'd like to do is expand that in the community where all of the business would welcome SWIC students and maybe there are programs and things that we can do together. Also, I think there's opportunity here to do some cultural resources working with some of the folks in Granite City and trying to strengthen some of those things. We've got musical groups at SWIC that need to be out in the community. We've got a whole slew of sports teams, the Blue Storm. For SWIC in Granite City, it's a soccer capital, and so we're trying promote some of those activities there. We're just trying to facilitate communication. Communication is a wonderful thing."
What is your reach for students?
"Mainly Madison County, and we've got about 2,500 students here. In fact, one in four high school graduates here join SWIC. So that's a pretty good number. A predominant number are from Madison County. We do get folks from St. Clair County to come up for programs that are offered here that aren't offered at the Belleville campus. We have the industrial training center, we have a fairly robust culinary program and an aviation program here. The focus here is also on computers. We have Cisco Network Academy. Students can come in and be trained and certified on the Cisco network."
What have you enjoyed most about your new post?
"I enjoy the folks, the people here I work with. I also am happy to be close to my mom and dad. They're getting up in age and they live about half a mile from here. So I am close by and can go to lunch there. I used to walk to school here. So that's good. Again, it's just being back here in my hometown and the ability to try and help people."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.