CEO Clark: Harmony keys future
Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., set aside his wicked wit Thursday to give a serious message on the need for continued cooperation in his final address to the group he has led the past 12 years.
Clark, who came to work for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce in 1985 from Illinois, is credited with pushing a message of economic diversification during the dark days of the oil bust and creating a model of regional cooperation that other areas across the country have either envied or copied.
“I hope we will remember that this union of cooperation is always fragile. And that fragility is born from the No. 1 of the seven deadly sins, and that is pride. When we begin to think we have all the answers, we are doomed. Humility is our greatest strength. It is not who gets the credit that matters, but it is the quality of the outcome,” he told more than 600 people gathered in the Seawell Grand Ballroom in Denver for the group’s annual meeting.
Clark headed economic development efforts in Boulder and Jefferson County
before circling back to take the job leading the Metro Denver EDC. Clark’s fingerprints are on about every major deal the region has seen the past three decades, including the construction of Denver International Airport, FasTracks, Coors and Sports Authority fields, and multiple corporate relocations.
“All the goals set in 1985 have been met,” he told the audience.
Although spending more time family is a common reason executives give when they resign, Clark, who turns 68 in May, said he truly wants to be more involved in the lives of his four grandchildren.
“I sucked as a father, but I think I can be a pretty good grandfather,” he said.
Recent annual meetings have featured a video parody starring Clark. He has been the economic development guru, the godfather of regional cooperation, and metro Denver’s most interesting man. His last video took a humorous look at how retirement might go.
Clark’s day starts with a late breakfast of Cocoa Puffs, several loops around the cul-de-sac in his golf cart, coloring in an adult coloring book, playing guitar, and a Nutella sandwich for lunch. He makes a presentation to his grandchildren’s stuffed animals on limiting migration from New York and Texas, leaves a bogus tip on a reporter’s voicemail in hopes of getting a call back and pounds away on an old typewriter.
In reality, Clark plans to take a road trip in April with his wife, something they haven’t done in 20 years. He has a few tell-all books in the works. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who earlier had declared March 23 Tom Clark Day, jumped in to announce that Clark would also serve on the Colorado Economic Development Commission. J.J. Ament, who is replacing Clark on April 5, is chairman of that group.
“I truly am Jimmy Stewart’s character in my favorite Christmas movie. I am George Bailey. And yes, I did have a wonderful life,” Clark said in his final words to the crowd.
Also during the lunch, three “Deal of the Year Award” recipients were recognized. They include life science firm Agilent Technologies, which purchased 20 acres in Frederick where it is making a $120 million investment in a 130,000square-foot plant that will employ 200 people making cancer drugs.
Another drugmaker, London-based AstraZeneca, was recognized for stepping into the former Amgen manufacturing facility in Boulder, where it plans to employ 250 highly paid workers. AstraZeneca also has reserved rights to Amgen’s Longmont facility to allow for a future expansion.
BP Lower 48, which will relocate its corporate headquarters from Houston to Denver, also received recognition for its plans to bring 200 employees to an 86,000 square foot building under construction in the 1700 block of Platte River Drive in Denver.