Consultant is proof that Chester means business and jobs for locals first
SPIRIT staff report
Fred Clark wants you to know that he doesn’t have any time to waste but that he’s got lots of time to spare for people who are serious about doing business – big business – with the major companies responsible for building what ultimately will be a $500 million project along Chester’s waterfront. The new neighborhood that will be created there is called Rivertown and will also be home to the new major league soccer stadium, still set to open in early 2010.
Clark is a “diversity consultant” whose role is to help “minority and women” business owners get a significant piece of the economic action by navigating the complicated – and often frustrating -- process of doing business with big companies. The Harrisburg-based entrepreneur was approved by the partnership comprised of the City of Chester, Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC, (KSE) owners of the major league soccer team and the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG), owners of The Wharf at Rivertown and developers of the rest of the project. Clark’s mission is to help business owners “qualify” for the opportunities ahead and to help ensure that at least 25 percent of all money spent on building Rivertown is spent with businesses owned by women and non-whites.
Clark has similar experience with City Island, a family-oriented Harrisburg park that includes that city’s minor league baseball stadium and Presquele Downs Casino in Erie, PA. Clark is also a consultant for the State System of Higher Education. His business development company also owns a restaurant and upscale hair salon in the Capitol City.
Additionally, Clark hosts a weekly TV talk show seen in At a City Hall meeting last week attended by dozens of local business people, Clark, city officials and representatives of the companies involved stressed the local commitment. They said when it comes to doing big projects in Chester, “look to Chester first for the workers and subcontractors, then to Delaware County, then a 50-mile radius of the county.”
Robert Smith, of KSE, said the soccer team’s owners “are very clear that when it comes to doing business here, it’s Chester First – minority and women-owned businesses.” Rick Bernardini, of T.N. Ward construction company, said his company was chosen by Buccini/Pollin to build the project because Ward also built the Harrah’s Chester casino and has “a reputation for being fair.”
Clark also met with business owners at a session earlier the same week at Widener University. The essence of his message to both groups was, “There is a difference between ‘opportunity’ and ‘participation.’ I’m not here to give you an ‘opportunity.’ I’m here to get you through ‘participation.’ You will have to be ‘certified’ as a ‘minority or woman-owned business.’ Certification is a pain… it is not fun. It is grueling and there are so many stumbling blocks to keep you from going through the process smoothly. But if you hang in there and be persistent, you can be successful and that’s my job to help you get through that process.
Cutting through the politics of personality, Clark said, “I’m not concerned in hearing about who can’t do what.” He mocked an exchange: ‘I can paint, that other guy is no painter; he’s no good.’ “Everyone is capable of something and everyone has a chance to compete,” he said.
Clark said, “Mayor Butler, Sen. Pileggi and the owners of this project are committed to making this happen and they have every desire to see at least 25 percent of everything including workforce and contracting. Their hearts are right. They ‘get it’ and they want to do this.”
Sources both in and out of city government told the Chester Spirit that Clark’s involvement is designed to avoid a repeat of what many call “the Harrah’s Experience.”
When the $400 million racetrack and casino was built, 25 percent of jobs and contracting opportunities were promised but never actually realized. “They (government and casino officials) talked about people benefiting,” said one source who asked not to be identified, “but there was nothing put in place to ensure minority and women would get something... and for the most part, they didn’t” Another source said, “People felt screwed by the Harrah’s Experience so, naturally, there was skepticism when this soccer stadium project came up.”
Enter Fred Clark, a “certified minority business owner” with a track record of helping big and small business partner with each other for compliance with inclusion mandates and goals.
James E. Turner, director of economic development for the Chester Economic Development Authority, told the gathering, “This project is here but it’s up to you to be competitive and ready. (A guarantee to be included) won’t be (automatically) handed to you. You have to do your part and bring your ‘A’ game to the table. If you’ll do that, we’ll do our part and push for you to be included.”
Meet Fred Clark
Fredrick A. Clark is president/CEO of Clark Resources, a government relations and consulting firm. He has worked in government and private sectors and received numerous awards for his ingenuity and performance as it relates to Minority Business Enterprise/Woman Business Enterprise diversity programs and is certified at the PA Department of General Services.
His client base has included corporations and government agencies such as Reynolds Construction, PHEAA, Hershey Corporation, PHFA, Penn State University and many others. He currently serves on the Harrisburg Authority and was appointed by the past three Pennsylvania governors to serve on boards and commissions such as the Governor’s Private Industry Council and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs.
He produces a weekly TV talk show, “One On One With Fred Clark,” on Harrisburg-area cable TV featuring national, state and local celebrity interviews and a popular bi-weekly email newsletter, “Urban Affairs with Fred Clark,” with a circulation of 5,000.
As former executive director of the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District Authority, Clark is credited for playing a key role in the revitalization of Center City Harrisburg and is also known for philanthropic work with non-profit organizations and charitable events that help raise funds for disenfranchised communities throughout the nation.
Clark has led, organized and financed many African American Leadership Conferences through the state and region and an Urban Leadership Institute that helps young people enhance their leadership skills.
Locally, he has lectured as part of the Governor’s School of Business and Industry during “Pennsylvania Enterprise Week.
Clark is a former vice president at Mellon Bank in the Commonwealth Region of Government Banking in Harrisburg. He also served as a member of the Harrisburg School Board and president of the African American Chamber of Commerce. He is the current chairman of the National African American Cultural Center, the acting president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Harrisburg and he’s written, published and implemented many Diversity and MBE/ WBE programs for the private and public sectors. Clark is a Penn State University graduate who has received many awards including: the Council of Public Education Business Partnership of the Year Award. His other awards include: Central Penn Business Journal Top 40 under 40 Businesspersons Award, the Central Pennsylvania Leader of the Year Award, and the Harrisburg Young Professionals’ Person of the Year Award, all in 1999.
Clark was named Susquehanna Style Magazine’s Visionary of the Year in 2002.