TAMPA, Fla. — Florida’s oldest steel company is celebrating its 75th anniversary. However, if you ask the man in charge of Tampa Steel Erecting Company, the celebration is really all about the community.
Bob Clark is a hands-on business owner, it’s one of the reasons Tampa Steel Erecting Company has lasted three-quarters of a century.
“From '75 to '90 we were doing the major projects around this state like Spaceship Earth at the main entrance to Epcot,” said Clark.
Currently, they're in the process of building a 480-foot-long bridge, but it’s the bridges he’s built within the community that Clark is most proud of.
“We’re all promoting one another here in Tampa,” said Clark.
Inside his office, Clark flips through photos dating back 20 years. They are all taken around the same table, inside the same restaurant, The Columbia.
“Somebody was talking about how they felt like since they were invited to a Friday lunch they have arrived, they finally arrived in Tampa,” said Clark.
Bob makes sure he is the first to sit down every Friday. By noon the table is filled with different invited guests from various industries and backgrounds. Let the networking begin.
“The city and God and everybody has been good to me and so whenever I see my friends excel I feel like I’m accomplishing something if I can help,” said Clark.
Kari Goetz credits her entire career to the time she has spent around the table with Clark.
“People I have met have become my bosses, people I have met have become my mentors,” said Goetz, with United Way Suncoast.
While Dana Nafe, of Brown and Brown Insurance, said the lunch may only last an hour but the partnerships that are built can last a lifetime.
“Bob is truly selfless, I mean he truly does try to just connect people and try to help everybody get to where they want to go,” said Nafe. “Almost anything that you think of there is a stack of cards on my desk from these Bob lunches and usually they are somebody that I can connect with.”
Clark picks up every check. The only thing he asks for in return is for the city to keep moving in the right direction.
“The people that you meet at this lunch were all dedicated to making the Tampa Bay area a better place and that’s what you get out of a Bob Clark lunch,” said Goetz.