When you're in the precast concrete business, you have to think big big as in making and transporting house-size panels of concrete weighing up to 100,000 pounds.
Clark Pacific in West Sacramento has done that, and last month, the company landed a decidedly big project a deal to supply 20,000 tons of concrete for steps, risers and other elements of the San Francisco 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara.
The contract for the 68,500-seat stadium, set to open in 2014, is valued at $15 million to $20 million or about five times the average project for Clark Pacific. The company outbid two competitors for the contract.
Brothers Donald and Robert Clark, who together run the privately held company, said the stadium deal represents a renaissance for the nearly 50-year-old company and the local construction business in general.
"We took a step back (during the recession), but now we've doubled in size for the past year or two," said Robert Clark, president of operations. "Things are definitely improving now."
"Things are looking up in the construction business all around," adds Donald Clark, president of business development. " And it's nice to say that what we're contributing to the (stadium) is made in Yolo."
The stadium work put Clark Pacific in the headlines, but the firm's handiwork can be found throughout the area.
Clark Pacific materials have been used in the 800 J Lofts and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California in Sacramento, the Red Hawk Casino parking structure in Single Springs, the Roseville Galleria parking garage and the Caltrans District 3 headquarters in Marysville.
Statewide, Clark Pacific has contributed to the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, the 26-story Carlyle luxury condominium tower in Los Angeles, the Ontario Event Center in Southern California and the sprawling San Jose International Airport parking center and rental car facility, which Donald Clark says is still the company's biggest project.
The company is a logical choice for parking structures producing, transporting and fitting concrete panels in a generally square pattern.
The 49ers stadium, however, has a twist.
In May, Clark Pacific will begin producing hundreds of panels that are terraced. On those panels, stadium seats will be installed, leaving aisles for spectators to climb and descend concrete steps.
Clark Pacific workers will make the terraced panels with a special form, or mold, in which the concrete will harden. But it's not just a matter of whipping up a giant batch of concrete mix and pouring it into a mold.
The concrete has to have specific strength and density. The color of the panels has to be uniform.
Once the 2,000 concrete panels are made ranging from 20 to 40 feet long and up to 35,000 pounds they must be carefully loaded onto specially reinforced flatbeds, trucked the 90 or so miles to Santa Clara and then put into place by crane at the Santa Clara stadium site all without a crack or a bobble.
Logistically speaking, trucking the heavy panels from Woodland or West Sacramento down to Santa Clara might seem like an unnecessarily risky, difficult chore. But the Clarks said making the precast panels at their facilities has advantages.
For starters, the panels can be cured in a controlled environment, one in which engineers and concrete specialists can observe the process on a daily basis.
Also, panel production is done at ground level, a safer process. Another bonus: Forms at a precast plant can be reused, with a substantial cost savings.
Architects also like precast concrete for aesthetic reasons. Precast cladding gives them options to shape a building's exterior appearance, adding colors, surface variations and geometric shapes.
At its West Sacramento yard, Clark Pacific has outdoor "showrooms" of precast possibilities, including panels with inlaid brick, stuccolike surfaces, elaborate carvings and even concrete panels melded with insulation on the back.
Most of the precast panels for the 49ers stadium will be made at Clark Pacific's facility in a flat, rural setting outside downtown Woodland, site of the old Spreckels sugar beet processing plant. Most of the expected 100 new jobs to be added will be at the Woodland site.
The Clark brothers also see the 49ers stadium project as the fulfillment of hopes expressed during Clark Pacific's effort to open the Woodland plant. That battle, against some rural Yolo residents who bitterly opposed the plant, was won four years ago this month when the Yolo County Board of Supervisors gave Clark Pacific the go-ahead.
At the time, Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad, who remains a supervisor, said the facility and its expected economic benefits were "good for Woodland" and "good for Yolo County." However, approval came right when the recession was slamming the region's construction industry hard.
"We're very happy that we can fill some jobs there now," Donald Clark said.
The stadium work is expected to wrap up in January 2013 a fast track for a project of this size. Yet the Clark brothers are quick to say they're up for more challenges.
They say they have a long-view perspective forged by their father, James Clark, who nurtured the company from a small business in the 1960s to what it is today. James Clark made sure his boys knew what it was like to work their way up from the bottom.
"Yeah, we began here as janitors," Donald Clark said with a grin. "And we worked out in the (precast) yard, doing all those jobs we had to know."
Robert Clark added: "That taught us something that we still believe today. This is a family business, and we try to treat our (workers) like family."
Donald Clark said the best part for him remains the building process, regardless of project size: "Construction is a wonderful business where you build something and see the tangible end. You can look up and say I helped build that building."
CLARK PACIFIC AT A GLANCE
Headquarters: 1980 South River Road in West Sacramento; the company also has facilities in Woodland and Fontana. Employees: About 300, with nearly two-thirds of that workforce in Yolo County.
Origins: Founded as Tecon Pacific in 1963, the company started with 15 employees. In 1966, James Clark joined the small firm as general manager. New methods of casting concrete and modern construction techniques fostered expansion, and the firm became Clark Pacific in 1995. Today, the privately owned, unionized business is operated under equal partnership by Clark's sons, Donald and Robert.
Business niche: Designer and producer of architectural and structural precast concrete, with a wide-ranging network of developer, architect and contractor contacts on the West Coast. It competes against nine other precast concrete companies in the state.
Annual revenue: More than $80 million.
Latest coup: The company will furnish the 20,000 tons of precast concrete for the steps, risers and other elements of the San Francisco 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara.
Stadiums R Us: In 1980, the company landed its first contract to produce a precast sports stadium for the San Jose State University Spartans.
Other projects of note: 800 J Lofts in Sacramento, Sacramento International Airport Terminal B, the Red Hawk Casino parking structure in Shingle Springs, Caltrans District 3 headquarters in Marysville, the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, the federal courthouse in Fresno and 26-story Carlyle luxury condominium tower in Los Angeles.
Fast fact: Over 40 years, Clark Pacific has developed numerous innovations in precast concrete panel designs, including thin-shell panels, brick-clad panels, glass fiber-reinforced panels, stone-clad panels, multiple-colored architectural panels, insulation-backed panels and hybrid, seismic-safe frames to name just a few.
Branching out: Last fall, the Clark brothers partnered with others to launch the Elevation Ten Winery in Clarksburg.
More information: www.clarkpacific.com or (916) 371-0305.