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James "Jim" R. Clark - Clark Pacific

August 2004

Name: James “Jim” R. Clark
Registered Structural Engineer #1151, State of California; Registered Civil Engineer #11907, State of California.

Date of Birth, Place: August 7, 1931, Lompoc, California

High School (name, place): Manteca High School, Manteca, California

College (name, place): University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, California B.S. in Civil Engineering, 1953

Family: Wife Sharron, graduated from Stanford University and has been a major support to Jim throughout his business career. His sons, Donald and Robert work in the business; He has three daughters: Robin is an attorney and estate planner, Tracy is a podiatrist, and Maureen, initially trained as a neonatal nurse, is now a full time mom.

Hobbies: Traveling and time with family including 18 grandchildren.(all live close by)

First position in Concrete Industry (year and company): Jr. Structural Engineer designing foundations for oil refinery.

Present position in Concrete Industry: Chairman, Clark Pacific.

Some other companies of employment over the years: 1st Lieutenant – Marine Corps, 1953 – 1955; URS Blume Structural Engineering, 1955 – 1962, Structural Engineer; Continental Heller (General Contractor), 1962 – 1965, Estimator/Project Manager; Clark Pacific (originally called Tecon Pacific), 1965 – present, GM/Owner, (Tecon Pacific was changed to the name Clark Pacific in 1992 when Jim Clark, Donald Clark and Robert Clark became equal partners).

Boards and committees: Board of Directors (current and previous), Precast Concrete Institute (PCI); GFRC Committee, Precast Concrete Institute (PCI); Past President, Precast Concrete Manufacturers Association of California (PCMAC); Member, Structural Engineers of Central California (SEOCC); Member, West Sacramento Rotary Club.

Most significant mentor early in career: Mike Heller, president of Continental Heller in Sacramento. “He is a skillful business man,” says Clark. “He gave me the opportunity to become Vice President and General Manager of his precast plant.” As a young man, Clark’s significant mentor was Earl Klapstein (football coach, high school).

Greatest projects: Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, Sacramento, California. This building is the "crown jewel" of all the Shriners Hospitals. Anheuser Busch Brewery in Northern California was our first million dollar job. It consisted of large, prestressed wall panels 12’-0” wide by 50’-0” high. This project represented a significant milestone for the company.

Toughest project: Primate Building, University of California – Davis, Davis, California 1965. We had to cast the wall panels twice. What a nightmare!!!

Most significant improvement to precast in the past 20 years: Participating with other architectural pre-casters and many other engineer and firms in the development of;
1. Architectural finishing in color and texture,
2. the development of connection systems, and
3. the development of erection and transportation procedures.

Challenges for the Industry: Developing new ideas and systems.

Advice to future Industry Icons: Working in the precast industry is a great opportunity. You can’t find a better career than precast concrete because there is always a new challenge. If you work hard and learn as much as you can as quickly as you can, you’ll have a great career.

Additional Comments:
Jim Clark started preparing for a career in construction when he was still in high school. He spent summers working as a helper in a structural steel shop. When he attended the University of California at Berkeley, he learned even more about construction, not just in his civil engineering classes, but in his summer job as a logger. He spent three summers as a choker-setter and log bucker on a high lead cables and rigging operation in Oregon. “Working as a logger taught me a lot about rigging and hoisting,” says the Chairman of Clark Pacific and third generation Californian.

When Clark graduated in 1953 with a civil engineering degree he joined the marines and spent two years on active duty as a 2nd Lieutenant. When he was discharged in 1955 he went into the inactive Marine Reserves for six years. His first official job in the construction industry was in the position of junior structural engineer for John A. Blume and Associates, a structural engineering firm located in San Francisco that specialized in structural and earthquake engineering. It was a premier firm at the time, recognized for its work in seismic design. Clark spent seven years at John Blume designing mostly mid-height buildings. He was the project engineer in charge on many of the airplane hangers and miscellaneous structures on the newly established Lemoore Naval air station near Fresno, California.

Meeting A Mentor:
In 1959 Clark registered as a civil engineer and two years later registered as a structural engineer in the state of California. It was during that time that he decided he wanted a change of pace. Clark had always imagined himself working in construction so he set out to find a job that would give him more hands-on opportunities. He found that job at Continental Heller in Sacramento, a general contracting company where he worked as an estimator and project manager for three years. It was at this company where Clark also met the man who would help guide his career.

“The person who had the most significant influence in my construction career was Mike Heller, founder of Continental Heller Construction Company (a large, well-managed construction company) in Sacramento, California,” Clark says, “Mike Heller is the sharpest business man I’ve ever known.” Mike Heller was a very successful general contractor who had extensive business acumen.

Heller later founded Tecon Pacific (later changed to Clark Pacific) in the mid-1960s. However, this architectural precast company was struggling due to lack of a capable, experienced manager. At that time, Clark had been with Heller for three years and even though he had no precast experience, Clark asked for the chance to turn the new company around. “He gave me the opportunity to be a vice president and general manager for his company even though I didn’t have any precast experience,” Clark says. “It was great to have someone of Mike’s stature have the confidence in me and feel that I wouldn’t put his company at risk.”

Almost all the final decisions for bidding, fabrication, erection and bottom line results fell on Clark’s shoulders. “Mr. Heller greatly risked his good name and obligated himself to considerable financial risk when he banked on me to make the right decisions and manage the company properly,” Clark says. “For this trust he placed on me, I want to personally thank him.”

At that time, all engineering calculations were done by slide rule and all drafting was accomplished by hand on the drafting board. Because precast concrete panels were a relatively new technology, all forming, casting, stripping, loading, shipping and erection techniques had to be developed from scratch for the many sizes, types and weights of panels produced.

Building A Legacy:
Clark was initially vice president and general manager of Tecon Pacific, which at that time had one labor superintendent and twelve employees. In 1978, he became Heller’s 50 percent partner and in 1988, Clark and his two sons bought Heller’s interest in the company.

Even though Clark initially had no experience in precast concrete, he helped put the struggling company on the map. Since 1978 Clark Pacific has engineered, fabricated and erected (with in-house employees) over ONE BILLION DOLLARS worth of precast concrete.

Through Clark Pacific’s pioneering spirit, engineering strength, practical construction experience and management ability, the company has grown and prospered, remaining healthy and successful even through difficult recessions. Clark says, “The best compliment I ever had about Clark Pacific was when a major architect that I had known for 30 years introduced me to his partner as ‘a Survivor’ in the precast industry”.

Through it all, Clark Pacific’s secret for a healthy company has been to understand customers' needs and to train and challenge employees to produce a constructible, top quality precast product – continually developing and improving it through research, new technology, engineering, craftsmanship, quality control and hard work.

Today, Clark is semi-retired and his sons, Don and Bob (each co-presidents and 1/3 owners), have taken over the active management of the company to continue the Clark family legacy. Two of Clark’s grandchildren also work in the company on the production line during summer vacation. The Clark Pacific family is committed to improving the company, employees' careers and the Clark Pacific legacy through the continued offering of a superior product at a reasonable price and a sound operating company.

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