Case Studies

Clark Bros. Inc.

Generations of quality workmanship in California and Arizona

The history of Clark Bros. Inc. (CBI) dates back to the late 1930s when Norman Clark and his two brothers founded a construction business in Dos Palos, Calif. Over the years, the business diversified, expanding into farming and crop dusting services. Norman passed away in 1949, effectively drawing the first phase of CBI to a close.

In 1958 Norman’s sons, Allen and Norman Clark, revived the family business to provide an income for the family. The brothers purchased a late model D-8 tractor and began leveling land and sub-soiling farm ground, while at the same time taking turns going to college one semester at a time.

Despite the challenges of running a company as two young students, the Clark brothers managed to develop CBI in the subsequent years. The Clarks added new equipment and diversified services. CBI has been growing uninterrupted for more than 50 years now and a new generation has taken over. Allen is now retired, but is still involved in the business, while Lawrence Clark, Allen’s son and current president and CEO, now leads the company. Additionally, Lawrence’s brother and sister are part-owners in the business.

A broad niche

CBI now performs far more than excavation work. Lawrence leads a team of approximately 60 people who specialize in performing and managing a wide range of projects, including water and wastewater projects, as well as work in the energy sector. As a civil and municipal contractor, the company performs most of the work in-house, such as earthwork, paving, underground utilities, concrete and framing. Customers include cities and municipalities, as well as private contractors and environmental companies.

Diverse in-house capabilities have allowed the team to build up an impressive portfolio. CBI recently completed several contracts for the Kern County Water Agency. “We worked on pumping stations where we constructed five new vertical turbine pumps and all associated piping, surge system and electrical control facilities,” says Lawrence. “We performed all of the mechanical, piping and civil work in-house and subbed out the electrical.”

The most challenging part of the project was the shutdown. “You have a live water system supplying the city of Bakersfield with water,” says Lawrence. “We had to overhaul and remodel the main manifold and pumping system for the city. Our shutdowns were limited to eight to 12 hours, with only two to three available, so we had to be fully prepared to cut over. This was an incredible challenge in terms of communication and technical ability, as well as making sure the owner would be satisfied with the quality of work.”

Environmental improvements

The team also recently performed a levee improvement project along the San Joaquin River. “This was a great project for the city of Firebaugh, Calif.,” Lawrence recalls. “Basically, a levee was failing immediately adjacent to the local community center. When it was originally built they had in-filled and reinforced the levee with debris. There was nothing but bad fill and trash holding back the river. We went in and undermined the levy, excavating and filling a section of it. We removed all debris and trash, and then installed sheet piling, a concrete decorative cap, a viewing platform, as well as slope protection. Throughout the project, the river was flooded. At one point it was within about 2 inches of our concrete pour. It was a race against time prior to the oncoming flood.”

Another unique environmental project has been work restoring vernal pools for CalTrans. The work was part of environmental mitigation to create a land bank for preservation for restored natural habitat. “We went into 160 acres of native ground and restored it to its original vernal pool habitat,” says Lawrence. “This was a massive project and extremely complicated and environmentally sensitive. The project ended up winning an award through CalTrans and the state.”

Self-preservation work

While the last few years have been busy for CBI, the recession a few years ago put the business in a bind. The company had been working on building a great crew and employee team who were part of the company for years. “Laying off some of our team members was difficult to do,” Lawrence explains. “We had to pick up jobs on tight margins so they didn’t have to cut too many employees loose. We also diversified our skill sets and wore a lot of hats so we could do everything in-house. We also had to diversify the type of project we bid on. We took on markets that we would not have usually, for example the energy market helped carry us through.”

As the recovery crawls ahead, more opportunities are opening up. CBI is able to be more selective about taking on work and the business has entered a period of growth. Lawrence takes great pride in the growth of his team and the projects CBI builds. “Our employees are extremely important to us,” he explains. “Some of our team members have been with the company for a long time. Their contributions have been the most significant factor in the growth of the company throughout my leadership there.”

As the business moves ahead, Lawrence and his team are looking at significant growth over the coming years. Clark Bros. Inc. continues to devote resources to growing internally and externally all while building strong relationships with clients and partners alike.

Published on: July 21, 2014

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