This year holds special meaning for Clark Material Handling Co. The Lexington, Ky.-based designer and manufacturer of internal combustion and electric forklifts turns 100 this year, and it's celebrating its centennial with a number of special initiatives and events.
In April, at the ProMat trade show in Chicago, Clark displayed a special "Centennial Edition" C20/C35 series of lift trucks with new features, new styling, and a commemorative paint and decal package. In May, employees and 425 dealers from the U.S. and 29 other countries gathered in Lexington for a week of looking back and planning for the future, as well as the introduction of new products and technologies. A centennial gala on May 16 featured presentations by Jim Gary, mayor of Lexington, and Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, recognizing Clark's economic and charitable contributions to the city and state.
Clark has long been known for giving back to the communities where employees work and live. In addition to the company's ongoing support of more than 30 community organizations, Clark employees, suppliers, and dealers raised $30,000 this year to fund construction of a Habitat for Humanity house for a family in Lexington. An additional $5,000 was raised to help at-risk youth at a Louisville, Ky., school.
The company boasts an interesting and influential heritage. When it was founded in 1917, the Clark Equipment Co. manufactured drill bits, axles, wheels, and steel casings. That year, employees built a shop buggy to haul materials between buildings at a plant. A version of that vehicle soon launched as the "Tructractor," which led to the development of the first gasoline-powered lift truck, the "Truclift," in 1920. The first production forklift truck with hydraulic lift, the "Tructier," was released in 1928. During World War II, Clark supplied nearly 90 percent of the Allied forces' requirements for material handling equipment. And in 1964, it became the first lift truck manufacturer to install load backrests and overhead guards as standard equipment on all of its trucks. (For a look at those and other pioneering products, see the illustrated timeline.)