Garry Clark was genuinely surprised when he found out he was going to be honored as one of the Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award winners on Friday.
“It was really humbling to win an award like that, especially because I wasn’t really aware I was nominated,” he said.
By the time Clark, who serves as executive director of the Greater Fremont Development Council, found out several colleagues at the Greater Omaha Chamber had nominated him – he had already won the award.
“I really didn’t find out until I had won, that I was going to receive it,” he said.
The Midlands Business Journal’s annual award honors 40 entrepreneurs, executives and business professionals under the age of 40, with this year’s winners being recognized at the awards ceremony last Friday in La Vista.
Clark has served as executive director of GFDC since September 2017 and previously worked as opportunity fund manager at the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority as well as served as the Cuming County Economic Development Director for five years. Clark is Treasurer/Secretary of the National Rural Economic Developers Association and served as Northeast Development Network Chair.
Prior to his work in Nebraska, Clark started out as a City Planner-Mainstreet Manager and Economic Development Specialist in Florida and in Washington, D.C.
In his first year in Fremont, Clark started the Dodge County Investment Fund (DCIF) which brought in $1.03 million in local money that was used as a match for the Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing Grant, which awarded an additional $850,000 to the DCIF.
“I started out with an organization that had already success landing a large project but in my year here we were able to turn the page a little bit to housing and make sure that we added that component to the equation,” Clark said. “Our board, staff and partners really supported us and we went out and raised this money in a short period of time and we already have a project underway.”
The first property to receive funds from DCIF was the Morningside Crossing mixed-use development which broke ground on a $12 million apartment complex on Nov. 1. Morningside Crossing received a $1 million loan from the recently created revolving loan fund.
“We’ve been doing economic development in kind of a one-pronged approach for quite some time—we’ve been focused on retention, recruitment and expansion,” Clark said. “We realize now that we have to sustain that other prong of developing a workforce and housing, which is all a part of the quality of life.”
During his first year at GFDC, Clark also helped bring the Infinite 8 Institute drone school to Downtown Fremont.
Infinite 8 Institue is an education organization that was founded in 2013, and with help from a $200,000 LB840 loan approved by City Council in September, will be opening its fourth location in Fremont late this year—or early next year—at 544 N Main Street.
Clark has also just finished a memoir of his journey from a childhood spent in the inner city of Washington, D.C. to now living with his family in the Midwest via a college scholarship to Dana College— where he has been inducted into the Dana College Hall of Fame for Track and Field.
The memoir will be released this December and is called Unlikely Viking.
“To just be honored in the same breath as some of the folks recognized there-doctors, CEO’s of companies, and stuff like that—it’s humbling for a kid who grew up in public housing, and food stamps and homelessness,” he said. “To come to that is just a full circle type of thing that I am really proud of.”