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Dr. Robert L. Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

USM’s Caret to make statewide listening, marketing tour

University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret will take a four-day bus tour of the state next week to meet with business leaders and government officials and discuss what the system’s institutions have to offer.

“We want to let people know that we’re listening to them,” Caret told The Daily Record, adding that he hoped to identify areas where the system could be doing more. “It’s an entire week of telling and selling and listening,” he said.

The tour can also help build political support for the university system and find partners who want to help keep education affordable, Caret said. “It’s important to maintain public support for public education,” he said.

The trip, scheduled to include a tour of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and closed-door meetings with Kevin Plank of Under Armour and Jim Perdue of Perdue Farms, is expected to cost the university system $50,000, officials said.

But compared with the cost of buying TV or newspaper advertisements, the cost of the bus tour is “a fairly insignificant investment” to promote the university system, Caret said.

“We’re a $5 billion business. We get 25 percent support from the state itself, but there’s another 75 percent we need to go get,” Caret said. “We can’t sit behind walls and be invisible. We need to be out there talking to people.”

Half of the $50,000 will go to Nevins & Associates Public Relations for marketing consultation and half will pay for videography, meals and three nights of hotel accommodations for Caret and five members of his staff, said Anne Moultrie, a spokeswoman for the university system.

Footage shot by the video crew will be used for a variety of future marketing needs, and system staff will also spend time on the tour working on other projects, Moultrie said.

Rental of the bus itself, along with gas, the driver and signage, was paid for by the State Employees Credit Union, whose logo will appear on the bus to give some return on investment, Caret said.

“There’s a lot of synergy between SECU and the university system,” said Peggy Young, vice president of marketing for SECU, which includes USM employees and graduates in its membership and sponsors the naming rights for a sports arena at Towson University. “We also want to help Marylanders better themselves.”

Caret also made annual listening tours while he was president of the University of Massachusetts System, which he says yielded many good ideas.

Next week’s tour is scheduled to include closed-door meetings in Bel Air, Fruitland, National Harbor, Salisbury, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge and USM facilities in Hagerstown and Shady Grove.

Caret and his team will spend one night at the Hyatt Place hotel in Harbor East, one night at a Hampton Inn in Fruitland and one night at a Ramada Inn in Cumberland.

“I’m going to enjoy each part of it,” Caret said. “We’re really trying to pull in a whole cross-section of the people we deal with.”