Clark Engineers, Inc. was started in Washington in 1973 as a consulting engineering firm, primarily offering civil engineering and surveying. According to landscape architect James Ash, senior project manager and director of public relations at Clark, the firm was originally established as Keefauver, Hillegonds and Moldovan Engineers, Inc. (K H & M Engineers), with four employees. "Building on a base of both public and private clients, the firm grew consistently over the next 25 years, primarily through a series of mergers and acquisitions. As a result of a 1985 merger, the firm became Clark Engineers, Inc., and expanded the services to electrical, mechanical, and plumbing engineering, along with landscape architecture. Today, in addition to the corporate office in Peoria, the firm has Illinois offices in Salem, Bloomington, and Chicago, along with offices in Parker, Colo., and Phoenix, Ariz."
Clark offers a full range of engineering expertise, including civil, site, and transportation engineering; facilities engineering (mechanical, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, industrial, environmental, and data/communications), surveying; construction services; and landscape architecture.
Initially, Ash said, the vision for the firm was to provide high-quality professional engineering services, primarily civil-site, to central Illinois clients. "Our growth over the years has been the result of a broadened vision based on strategic snapshots that each framed what our state, the Midwest, and the nation was going to look like in the next three- to five-year period. Our current strategic plan will serve our firm well into this new century and will be centered on client service."
Ash said the company will never lose sight of the fact that its real staying power has been commitment to our clients. "More than 90 percent of our projects are for repeat clients-some of whom have been with us since the beginning. Although we’ve consistently adopted technology as the primary means to be responsive, our success still rests on our personal relationships with our clients."
Clark has expanded in many different ways over the years. In addition to its 144 staff members, Ash said the company has attempted to expand its services geographically and by expanding the markets it serves. "Both growth efforts have been driven by our vision for emerging markets and our clients’ needs."
There’s stiff competition for clients in the engineering industry, but Ash said Clark’s adoption of seven shared values sets the firm apart. "These values are the cornerstone of our company, and we take them very seriously. Values that are included are the expectation that we develop personal relationships with clients. There are many professional engineering firms that can provide satisfactory technical expertise. Our clients put their trust in us because we’ve come face to face with them many times and have committed to delivering on time and within budget, and then we do it. Additionally, we have an excellent staff committed to community (our fifth shared value). Clark works to support numerous civic and charitable organizations with our resources, our people, and our time."
In marketing its expertise, Ash said the company divides its concentration between two basic groups: current clients and new clients. "For our current clients, we stress our range of services, particularly as we add additional levels of expertise. Because we have personal relationships with our clients, most of this marketing effort is on a personal, social level. For new clients, we stress our multi-disciplined approach to projects and demonstrate how our work for others can benefit a new client. Our marketing efforts are national, regional, and local and include newsletters, articles, personal contact, and our Web site at www.clarkeng.com. In addition to information about the company, the site includes current information about many of our projects. We’re currently experimenting with real-time project photos for both clients and the general public."
Engineers are in great demand these days, so to attract the best and brightest, Ash said the company uses several approaches. "We tend to find our best employees by word of mouth and recommendations from clients and other employees. We also utilize professional organizations as a good source for new employees. To retain employees, we offer competitive salaries and good benefits. We realize our greatest asset is our staff-in fact, that’s shared value number three-and we have to provide benefits that are important to them and their families."
Ash said the greatest change in the industry in recent years has been technology, the way projects are delivered, and the speed in which the process moves. "Tasks that used to take hours or even days now can be done in minutes-all with more accuracy. Another advantage of current technology is the ability to team with other consultants to offer the client the best group of professionals possible to meet the specific need of the project. This teaming has no geographic boundaries as advancements in communications and document transfer allow us to move complex drawings and other documents quickly and efficiently. The downside is people have the misconception that even complex problems can be solved as quickly.
He said over the next five to 10 years, science, technology, and the emerging knowledge economy will continue to evolve. "They’ll provide our profession with the ability to deliver quicker and more accurate engineering solutions to our clients, and it’s clear the process of providing engineering service will continue to become even faster as we move further into the 21st century. Clark will continue to adapt to the changing needs of our clients. We foresee a continuing migration to electronic systems and the Internet to provide comprehensive project design and construction. We anticipate exciting project delivery concepts such as ’design-build’ with closer integration between architect and engineer and engineer to builder."
Ash said one of the greatest challenges at Clark Engineers is to maintain the exceptionally high quality of employees. "We’re very fortunate to currently have the most talented and dedicated staff we’ve had in the course of our 30-year history. However, we want to not only provide them with rewarding work in a premier workplace environment, but to also attract talented new staff to grow the organization."
One of the most rewarding parts of our business, he said, is seeing a project come to fruition that "raises the community bar" to a new level. "Fortunately, as a multi-disciplined engineering firm, we’re involved in many of these types of projects-such as O’Brien Field, Upgrade 74, and the Zoo. We’re blessed with a long list of these types of projects."
One misperception Ash said he encounters is the mistaken belief that because of their size and reputation, Clark only works on large projects. "The reality is that, consistently through our history, the majority of our projects have been small and local in nature. Although we’re fortunate to be involved in many of the significant area projects, the vast majority of our work is based on smaller ’on call’ projects."
Whether the job is big or small, Ash said the key to Clark Engineers’ longevity is the clients who’ve trusted the company with their projects over the past 30 years. "Without their confidence, trust, and friendship, none of this would have been possible." IBI