With new sources of revenue identified and multiple phases of trail work moving toward “shovel-ready” status, it is an exciting but busy time for the procurement team, which is responsible for managing the bidding process for the work. Subrena Clark recently celebrated her 5th anniversary as the Procurement Manager for the Atlanta BeltLine, and this month, we learn more about her story and her important contributions to the project.
Subrena is an Atlanta native who grew up on the southwest side of town with parents who taught her the value of hard work and having an appreciation for history. Her parents were involved in local ministry and the Civil Rights movement and always told her, “You have to know your history because it is going to shape your future.”
A great influence on Subrena growing up was a woman from her church community that encouraged her to speak in public to overcome her natural shyness. As she started high school, Subrena became a motivational speaker, writing speeches and talking in front of community groups and church gatherings, often with adults who were much older. She attended Benjamin E. Mays High School and drew inspiration from quotes by Dr. Mays that adorned the hallways. One in particular has stuck with her:
“Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive. And if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.”
That quote influences her to this day because she believes, “it reminds us we are all important and we all have something special to contribute, no matter who we are or what we do.”
Subrena attended the University of Georgia and received a speech communications degree. After college, she worked briefly for the legal department of Georgia Power and in communications at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. She then took a position with the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC), which introduced her to supplier diversity business development. Her role involved working with disadvantaged/minority business enterprises (DBEs) and helping them make business connections with public and private sector firms.
Her next two jobs were with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and Fulton County Schools (FCS), where she spent a combined 16 years. At APS, she was in the Contract Compliance and Procurement division, which procures and ensures diversity in business practices, and there was a particular focus on increasing diversity with technology and construction vendors. She says, “at the time, the minority business enterprise (MBE) percentage for APS was approximately 1%. I was hired to help increase that percentage, and I was very proud that we took it from 1% to 30%.”
During this time, Subrena also completed an MBA and received certification from the National Institute for Government Procurement. She enjoyed working in this space for the school systems because of what she calls the “A-Z” range of needs, noting, “When I say A to Z, I mean every category. I procured everything from fuel for buses to goats for facilities management to guns for school resource officers.”
Subrena joined the Atlanta BeltLine as a procurement manager in 2017 and loves being part of such a great opportunity. “From day one, it was like a breath of fresh air. It’s such a special place to work because everyone is so passionate about the project. It is so impactful for our city and the region. People from around the world come to learn about this project and the work we are doing to make it happen.”
A lot of the procurement needs are in real estate, architectural, construction, and professional services, and engagement with DBE/MBE firms is a point of emphasis in BeltLine procurement standards and practices. Subrena draws on her past experience, saying, “we focus on partnering with DBE/MBE firms and making the process as equitable as possible.” Subrena works closely with partner DBE professional organizations to encourage DBE participation with ABI. These outreach efforts encourage DBE/MBE to be part of the ABI vision to implement the trail and for future bidding. Subrena stresses that qualifications are always the priority. “We procure services to help build out the project at the best value possible, while still maintaining our high standards for service and quality.”
Subrena is excited about what’s ahead for the project. “A lot of the design work has been done and we are shovel-ready for a lot of trail segments. In the next 12 to 18 months, there will be a lot of bidding for construction work.” She says she loves almost everything about her job, but says, “the toughest part is having to tell someone they didn’t get selected. The bidding process is a lot of work (for applicants) and it is highly competitive.”
When asked which part of her work has been most rewarding, Subrena points to the recent completion of the Southside Trail segment at Pittsburgh Yards. “That was a very technical project. To see the final result at the ribbon cutting was so rewarding, and I came back from PTO to be there for it. A lot of that work happened during Covid, so it also provided an opportunity for us to see one another in person.” She is especially excited about how well-received it is by people living nearby. “I’ve heard so many people say, ‘nothing like this has ever happened in this part of town.’ To be from the area and to see the result and how it impacts people is so rewarding, personally and professionally.”
Subrena is married with three young adult children and remains a history buff. She and her husband live in Douglasville, and she says she enjoys being a Mary Kay consultant and a matchmaker/connector in her free time. Subrena claims to be responsible for at least 10 long-term relationships!