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The Clark Construction Group, Inc.

 


Address:
7500 Old Georgetown Rd.
Bethesda, Maryland 20814-6195
U.S.A.

Telephone: (301) 657-7100
Fax: (301) 657-7263


Statistics:
Private Company
Incorporated: 1906 as The George Hyman Construction Company
Sales: $1.3 billion
Employees: 5,000
SICs: 1542 General Contractors--Nonresidential Buildings


Company History:

The Clark Construction Group, Inc. (CCG), is a billion-dollar, general building contractor of commercial buildings located in the Washington, D.C., area. Its twin pillars are its two principal subsidiaries, The George Hyman Construction Company, the oldest and largest component of CCG, and Omni Construction, Inc., established in 1977. CCG is an industry leader, the largest in the state of Maryland and one of the largest construction companies in the nation. The company has built or renovated many of the most important buildings in the nation's capital (including 17 of the city's subway stations). CCG also is constructing the country's largest waste water recycling facility, located in Los Angeles county. The firm has constructed more than 400 projects throughout the United States, and has won over 350 major awards for building excellence.

The present day Clark Construction Group evolved out of its biggest subsidiary, The George Hyman Construction Company. A. James Clark, current CEO of The Clark Construction Group, Inc., which he established in 1982, had become an employee of Hyman in 1950. The founder of the company, George Hyman, was at that time still president of the firm, which he had founded single-handedly in 1906.

George Hyman was a Lithuanian immigrant, arriving in the United States in 1899 at the age of 16, as much to escape anti-Semitism in his homeland as to make his own fortune. His was the typical rags to riches American immigrant story. Hyman started as a peddler hawking his wares from a cart. From there he established his first modest business as a grocer. Desiring a quicker route to riches, he headed West, to the "Indian territory," or Oklahoma. Newly opened to pioneers and land grabbers, the demand for construction materials and knowledge in Oklahoma was insatiable. There Hyman entered the construction business, building up a fortune, which he invested in turn in the exploration of the new oil fields of Texas, where he moved in 1901. Several years later he headed back east.

In 1906 Hyman launched the construction company bearing his name, headquartered in a back alley storage shed in Washington, D.C. There was much government construction work to be had, as the District of Columbia experienced a sudden spurt of growth under the dynamic leadership of worldly, cosmopolitan President Theodore Roosevelt. Hyman's "specialty" was excavation. This was an exceedingly cumbersome and slow process that utilized horses and mules as a central component of the work. Moreover, competition in the construction business was becoming increasingly fierce. Hyman got wind of an advanced new method for demolition and excavation work: the steam shovel. No one in the capital had one, and despite his friends' warnings about this untried, untested implement, Hyman staked a considerable investment in the steam shovel. It was an instant success, and positioned him well ahead of his competitors.

Until his marriage in 1914, Hyman was willing to re-locate to wherever his work demanded; dams were being built all over the country, and excavation was in high demand. But Hyman's bride refused to part with her husband for long or go trekking about the country with him, which persuaded him to stay in the Washington, D.C., area. The decision to remain in one place turned out to suit him, and from then on his company became identified closely with the nation's capital.

Business boomed during the prosperous years of the First World War. While recession hit afterwards, the capital was better off than elsewhere; victory in war and the peace settlement afterwards added to Washington's importance and prestige. The building boom never really stopped in the city until the Great Depression.

For four years, until 1926, Hyman was in a partnership with the head of a local building firm, James Parson, Jr., to establish the Parson and Hyman Co., Inc., of which Hyman became president. Hyman took this step to qualify to do general contracting work (Hyman was previously regarded as a subcontractor only). The combined forces worked well, and by 1923, the firm was handling over one million dollars in construction work. The 1920s coincided with an upsurge in the building of schools, and Hyman's company built many of the educational facilities still in use in the District of Columbia. In 1926, when Parson ended his business partnership with Hyman and the company was renamed The George Hyman Construction Company, the firm had just completed its first commercial office building. Hyman hired his nephew Benjamin T. Rome as his right hand man, and together they expanded the company's options, negotiating contracts with clients and bidding on government construction, the federal government's preferred way of doing business.

All construction ground to a halt with the onset of the Great Depression. Hyman no longer could afford to pay his office staff nor the rent on his office, located in a luxury commercial building that his firm had built. He and Benjamin Rome relocated into the back alley shed that had served as original company headquarters. There was not enough work to justify even an assistant, so Rome returned to graduate school. In 1933, however, construction work in the capital increased, in large part because of new government contracts. New federal buildings soon were popping up all over the Washington, D.C., area. Hyman quickly secured two major government building contracts, which led to others. By 1938 the worst was over and The George Hyman Construction Co. once again was housed in the luxury commercial building it had vacated years earlier, with Benjamin Rome and others back on the job.

There was a frenzy of government building projects during the World War II years, many of them couched in secrecy. Hyman's firm secured 20 major building contracts in this time, including the construction of the Naval torpedo factory in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, that manufactured every torpedo used by the United States during the Second World War.

Following the war, Hyman's firm was heavily involved in the expansion of the University of Maryland campus in College Park, receiving over the years a total of 17 building contracts. By 1950, when construction of the new chemistry building proceeded, there was a need for another engineer. The daughter of a friend of Rome's was engaged to an energetic young engineer, A. James Clark, who applied for the vacancy and got the job. The future founder of the Clark Construction Group worked as a field engineer during the day in College Park, Maryland, while also engaged in night courses in accounting at American University in order to qualify for more lucrative and responsible managerial positions in Hyman's firm. By the time of Hyman's death in 1959, Jim Clark had risen in rank to number two man in The George Hyman Construction Company: in 1960 he became general manager of the firm as well as vice president, while Benjamin Rome took the helm as the company's new president.

By then, the firm had prospered not only from the many University of Maryland building contracts, but from lucrative government building contracts as well. The World War II years had transformed the District of Columbia into the capital not only of the wealthy, powerful United States, but of the entire "free world." One monumental building after another went up in the 1950s, most of them engaging Hyman and others as contractors. The huge Senate office building, the District of Columbia's General Hospital, the six-story east wing of the Museum of Natural History, and many private commercial building contracts were executed by The George Hyman Construction Company. By the end of the 1960s, Jim Clark had succeeded Benjamin Rome as president of the firm, with Rome remaining as treasurer and chairman.

Jim Clark's business perspective reflected that of a younger generation, impatient with the traditional ways of doing things. At the Hyman firm, the way of doing business for over 60 years had been to keep the firm small, a philosophy that the founder felt ensured efficiency, and to limit its project area to the Washington, D.C., area. The nation's demographics, however, were changing rapidly, and the Sun Belt was becoming the up and coming growth area. Clark counseled expansion.

As president of Hyman, the youthful Clark set about realizing his new strategy. In 1970 the firm expanded into the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Later, branches were opened in Virginia, Florida, and California. By the late 1970s, Hyman was the largest construction company in the state of Maryland, and a national pacesetter in the construction industry. In 1969, the year Clark became president of Hyman, annual sales revenues were $57 million. A decade later, sales were ten times greater.

In 1977 Clark established the Omni Construction Company, Inc. Omni was established as a non-union or open shop, and almost immediately secured the lucrative contract to build the luxury Four Seasons Hotel in the capital. By Omni's first anniversary of operation, it had contracts totalling a hefty $43 million. Omni's incorporation as a subsidiary was followed in 1982 by the creation of a new parent company of both Omni and Hyman, The Clark Construction Group, Inc. (CCG).

The 1980s and 1990s saw Omni and Hyman involved in projects as diverse as the new addition to the Lincoln Center in New York, the vast LA Convention Center, the expansion of McCormick Place in Chicago, the Ronald Reagan office building in Los Angeles, and the Miami Beach convention center. Meanwhile, more projects were awarded to the Clark Construction Group in the Washington, D.C., area, including the new Canadian Chancery, the renovation of the building currently housing the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the restoration of the famous Willard Hotel, and the widely praised Orioles Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

CCG has weathered the recession extremely well thanks to a strategic plan that called for more geographic and product diversity. Prisons, hospitals, and waste water treatment plants joined with corporate build-to-suit projects to generate $1 billion in new contracts in 1991 and 1992.

CCG is expected to continue this strategy under the present generation of senior management that Clark has put in place over the past five or six years. These younger leaders include Hyman President Peter C. Forster and Omni President Dan T. Montgomery. They are joined by a number of key executives who are directing operations in a variety of markets and product areas.

Principal Subsidiaries: The George Hyman Construction Company; Omni Construction, Inc.





Further Reading:


Crenshaw, Albert B., "Hyman Gets Big Chicago Contract," Washington Post, September 28, 1991, p. C1.
The George Hyman Construction Company, Seventy Five Years of Building, 1906-1981, Bethesda, MD: G. Hyman Construction Co., 1982.
"Hyman Low Bidder on Courthouse: Greenbelt Project Was Hotly Pursued by Builders," Daily Record, May 22, 1992, p. 3.
Powers, Nan, "The Big Build Up (the Washington Development Scene, Jim Clark)," Warfield's, October 1989, pp. 69-73.
Samuel, Paul D., "OMNI Joint Venture Wins Contract for $14 Million Towson Jail Annex," Daily Record, May 29, 1992, p. A7.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 8. St. James Press, 1994.




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