Clark Construction celebrated the completion of its 2019/2020 Seattle Strategic Partnership Program with a virtual graduation ceremony on July 21. The intensive, eight-month executive education course, is designed to increase the capacity, confidence, and capabilities of local small businesses and is offered at no cost to participants.
The graduating class heard from officials including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Port Commissioner Sam Cho and Washington State Convention Center Board Member Susana Gonzalez-Murillo.
“This great program provides business owners and leaders of color with the training and tools they deserve and need to thrive in our construction industry,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “We are in an unprecedented time here in Seattle and across our country. Graduates should know that what they have accomplished is important, and what they have in front of them can help determine the future of our city and country. I know that their work and leadership will make a difference in how Seattle recovers, and will help ensure we recover as a better, more just and equitable city, with a more just and equitable economy.”
For more than a decade, Clark has invested in the growth and development of small businesses nationwide through this program. Offered in seven cities, the MBA-style course has provided a solid platform for smart, sustainable growth for more than 900 entrepreneurs and business leaders across the country, opening the doors to greater economic opportunity while strengthening the industry and local communities. Thirty-five Seattle-based small business owners have completed the company’s local program since it launched three years ago with Lease Crutcher Lewis, Clark’s joint venture partner on the Washington State Convention Center.
The ceremony marked a long-awaited milestone for this year’s graduating class after COVID-19 forced the program to pivot to online classes this past Spring. Despite the uncertainty of a global pandemic and the pressures of an economic downtown, the participants remained focused on their professional development in hopes of better positioning themselves for increased business opportunities – not just with Clark, but with other general contractors in the region.
The Strategic Partnership Program’s curriculum covers a range of business and project management fundamentals, such as finance, accounting, estimating, purchasing, insurance and bonding, as well as softer business competencies, such as presentation skills, filling the gap between the experience they have and the skills they need to grow.
“We believed the program would impart knowledge, but I was amazed by the breadth of the topics and the level of expertise,” remarked Graduate C.J. Jones of Evergreen Commercial Cleaning. “It made each week extremely valuable. Our weekly online meetings became a tether to the normal world in a world that was no longer normal. The program has given us unparalleled experience and made us a more efficient and more effective subcontractor.”
Seattle Port Commissioner Sam Cho also joined in the celebration and relayed the Port’s commitment to creating a more equitable Seattle. “The Port of Seattle has resolved to enhance economic equity in our region, and I’ve made this a mission of mine as well. A critical part of our strategy is to connect women- and minority-owned businesses to public sector opportunities. We need programs like this in order to create the equity pipeline. The Port is the single largest economic driver in the region. Because of your partnership, we’ve been able to maintain our most critical operations, including our essential construction projects.”
Washington State Convention Center Board Member Susana Gonzalez-Murillo provided heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the Board and shared words of encouragement, telling graduates, “You persevered in times of great challenge. Small businesses have more agility. You’re far richer than you were nine months ago and now you have so many more skills to lean on. As part of its commitment to promoting diversity, the Convention Center Board has pledged $80 million to small and minority- and women-owned businesses on the Washington State Convention Center addition – a project which Clark and joint venture partner Lease Crutcher Lewis are leading. Construction is growth; it drives the economy and you guys are going to be a part of it.”
“We are absolutely committed to diverse business initiatives in our community,” said Brett Earnest, vice president for Clark Construction in Seattle. “And we also recognize the huge commitment our participants make to attend our weekly lunch and learns and three-hour classes each week. They are investing in themselves and in our industry.”
Earnest told the graduates, “We need all of you to grow in order for us to grow and we look forward to an opportunity to work together in the near future.”
To date, Clark has awarded nearly $400 million in contracts to diverse businesses on its Seattle projects in the past six years.
Applications for the 2020/2021 Seattle Strategic Partnership Program, which will be offered virtually, are open through August 21. For more information visit www.clarkconstruction.com/spp.