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2009’s Washingtonians of the Year: A. James Clark

Building a great company that gives back

Photograph by Matthew Worden

When Jim Clark moved to Bethesda at age ten, the tallest building was the two-story Bank of Bethesda. Now high-rises tower over the bank—and Clark had a hand in building many of them.

The construction firm he went to work for 60 years ago and that he bought 20 years later also played a big part in the expansion of the University of Maryland as well as other major projects across the area.

Clark Enterprises has grown nationwide, but Clark still believes he lives in the nation’s best city.

He’s tied to the area by more than brick and mortar. The University of Maryland’s School of Engineering, where he studied, bears his name. Clark personally donates $1 million a year for engineering scholarships, and he’s on the board of trustees of the College Park Foundation.

In 2008, Clark Enterprises contributed more than $10 million to charities that serve the Washington area. Jim Clark likes to use his company’s expertise and its resources to help community groups. Clark Enterprises helped renovate a warehouse in DC’s Petworth for the Spanish Education Development Center’s preschool. The center will now be able to accommodate 40 babies in its infant-daycare program and will have better facilities for adults who come for evening classes.

That spirit of giving inspires Clark staff. Last year, employees donated more than 3,300 hours to local projects—from blood drives for wounded soldiers to cleaning up trash in the Anacostia River. Fifteen women from the company’s Best Practices Forum peeled carrots, boxed salads, and washed dishes at DC Central Kitchen. Clark accountants worked on a condominium project with Habitat for Humanity. Employees swam, biked, and ran in an Autism Speaks triathlon.

Even kids of staff get into the act. Last spring’s Take Your Child to Work Day included decorating lunch bags for DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Returns program.

There’s no question that the company’s commitment to helping those in need comes straight from the top.

Says Clark: “I believe that if you make your money in a community, you have an obligation to give back to it.” 

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