Burns & McDonnell Unveils New Operating Unit

By Dennis Boone

Chris Underwood, left, and Ray Kowalik

In a sign of how digital architecture and engineering have become as important as the physical aspects of design, Burns & McDonnell has formally introduced the first new brand in the firm’s history: 1898 & Co.

The new brand will focus on client challenges with consulting and technology solutions that flow from more than 120 years of Burns & McDonnell’s expertise in engineering, architecture and construction,  chairman and CEO Ray Kowalik said in unveiling the brand Tuesday.

He was joined by Chris Underwood, vice president and general manager of Burns & McDonnell’s Business Solutions Group, along with principal Grant Chapin and Luke McIntosh. Underwood will serve as general manager for 1898 & Co., and the brand will continue as an operating unit within the company. Its name is a hat-tip to the year that Clinton Burns & Robert McDonnell founded the company.

Services provided by 1898 & Co. will complement the firm’s engineering, architecture and construction lines by providing business strategies for clients to help them prioritize their capital-expenditure needs, streamline processes and manage costs.

“The big focus,” Kowalik said, “is on up-front planning and decision-making on how to deploy capital, where the industry going, and how they get to market to maximize their success as company,” Kowalik said. Among those consulting functions would be skills that traditionally have been outside the parent’s expertise, he said, including cyber-security, technology development, and software-as-a-service. “We’ve added that talent into the organization to help customers come up with good solutions,” he said.

Development of 1898 & Co. began in 2017, and the group already has 250 employees, adding 100 over the past year. Underwood projects it to grow by 80 percent over the next five years.