Can-do attitude — Novelis chief technical officer recalls path to engineering
by Sheri Kell
business@mdjonline.com
April 21, 2013 12:00 AM | 2504 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Above: Jack Clark, vice president and chief technical officer for Kennesaw-based Novelis Inc. in Kennesaw, stands in front of a map of global operations of the company created by recycled aluminum cans. <br>Staff/Laura Moon
Above: Jack Clark, vice president and chief technical officer for Kennesaw-based Novelis Inc. in Kennesaw, stands in front of a map of global operations of the company created by recycled aluminum cans.
Staff/Laura Moon
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KENNESAW — Jack Clark, vice president and chief technical officer for Kennesaw-based Novelis Inc., was immersed in both engineering and aluminum from early childhood. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native grew up building sailboats as a hobby with his engineer father.

“He made every part on the boat himself,” recalls Clark. The family sailed each summer on Lake Erie. “Of course, the boats were all made out of aluminum.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Clark graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering and went to work with the same company, Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America), the world’s third largest producer of aluminum.

“I think there is no doubt the countless hours I spent fixing and building things with my father influenced me,” he said. “I imagine part of it is in the DNA, too.”

Clark began working at the company as an intern between his junior and senior years of college.

“I figured if it was good for Dad, it had to be good for me,” he said.

His initial eight years with Alcoa were spent in Davenport, Iowa. During that time, Clark started a homebuilding business in his spare time because he was fascinated with the mechanics of homebuilding. In total, he built 26 houses while working full time and rearing young children.

Clark moved his family eight times while with Alcoa — including a three-year stint in Venice, Italy, after the company purchased the aluminum industry from the Italian government.

“Every day was a new adventure both professionally and personally,” he said. “It was our job to figure out how to make the plants profitable.”

Next, in Louisville, Ky., Clark became the plant manager for Alcoa’s Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil plant.

“That was a different part of the business,” he said. “It was the first time I was in charge, as the CEO of the location.”

Clark moved a final time to Shanghai, China, as vice president of operations for Alcoa China Rolled Products. All three of his children graduated from Shanghai American School.

“Moving was good for our family. ... People need to be mobile in this day and age,” he said.

In 2010, after 29 years with Alcoa, Clark left to join Novelis, the world’s largest producer of rolled aluminum, as director of global engineering in the company’s Atlanta office.

“It was time to go,” he said.

In June of 2012, Novelis opened its $30 million, 160,000-square-foot global research and technology headquarters at 1950 Vaughn Road, near Barrett Parkway and Cobb Parkway in Kennesaw. Clark was promoted to the top spot at the new center.

Novelis supplies rolled aluminum for the automotive, beverage-can, consumer electronics and architecture markets. Its top customers include Coca-Cola, Jaguar, BMW and Samsung. The company reported fiscal 2012 revenues of $11 billion.

The Kennesaw center contains office space, an aluminum testing lab and a beverage can-making line where customers, like Coca-Cola, can test advanced can designs in a simulated manufacturing environment.

Currently, the company has 100 employees in Kennesaw. Clark says the company’s top goal is to increase the amount of recycled metal in its products to 80 percent by the year 2020. It is currently at 42 percent, and the company is the world’s leading aluminum recycler.

“The big winner is the environment,” said Clark. “We are really a technology company that at the end of the day produces aluminum.”

Greg Koch, who was Clark’s supervisor at Alcoa, says it was his work ethic that separated him from his peers. “When there was a tough job to do, Jack was often asked to do it, because we knew it would get done,” he said. “Jack demonstrated an ability to work across cultures, with increasingly responsible assignments in Europe and Asia. These traits, along with excellent judgment and professional knowledge, have given Jack a foundation for executive positions in a multinational company.”
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