Will Englehart, project development executive, Nadine Ngouabe Dlodo, founder of Women’s Home Preservation LLC and SPP graduate, Kelvin Caple, MWBE program manager.

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

Clark Construction Group (Clark) has long been considered one of the largest, most experienced general contractors in the country. Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, the firm works in 12 markets and is known for its intricate and complex projects, such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards. 

In spite of its mass and impact, Clark has consistently maintained a commitment to supporting small contractors, which are integral to strengthening industry and communities. 

Launched in 2006, Clark’s Strategic Partnership Program is an executive MBA-style course designed to give small business owners, particularly women, veterans and minorities, a solid foundation so they can grow and scale their businesses sustainably and smartly. 

“For those that enroll in the program, they are getting a wealth of knowledge, and it’s not just on how to do business with Clark,” said Kelvin Caple, MWBE program manager at Clark. “It’s how to do business with truly any large general contractor or any government state or local jurisdiction.” 

The free program runs for 10 months, and participants meet weekly for three hours. The course curriculum, taught by industry professionals, covers a broad range of business and construction management topics, including financial statements and accounting; insurance and bonding; project management fundamentals; scheduling; drawings and specifications; and safety. 

At the end of the course, participants compete in a capstone construction project in which they submit proposals and prepare presentations that are judged by a panel of Clark executives and clients. 

Since the launch of the program, more than $1 billion dollars in construction contracts have been awarded to its graduates. 

Recently, Clark Construction celebrated the graduation of its 2022 graduates at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. There, program participant Nadine Ngouabe Dlodlo learned her team won the capstone competition. 

Dlodlo is the owner of Women’s Home Preservation LLC, a development firm that’s currently working with communities in Southwest Baltimore to rehabilitate vacant properties and restore neighborhoods’ social and cultural environment. The firm places special emphasis on creating affordable housing opportunities for women who are heads of households and in particular, single mothers. 

She discovered Clark’s Strategic Partnership Program through her participation in a small business program at Johns Hopkins. 

As an owner of a development firm, Dlodlo received indispensable insights into how contractors approach construction projects. One of the curriculums’ modules she found most interesting explained how to read architectural drawings. 

“Everybody approached the program with a desire to help and to make sure that they pass on their knowledge so that it’s transparent,” said Dlodlo. “I felt that every [instructor] really had that genuine desire to make sure that you got the point.” 

Applications for this year’s program are now open, and business owners will be notified in August if they are accepted.

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