Burns & McDonnell’s Kowalik to Retire at Year-End

Burns & McDonnell, the Kansas City region’s biggest engineering/construction company, announced this morning that chairman and CEO Ray Kowalik would retire at the end of 2023.

Kowalik succeeded Greg Graves in that role in 2017, becoming just the seventh CEO for Burns & McDonnell in the firm’s 125-year history. He’s leaving on a high note: Last year, the firm’s sales and revenue soared by nearly 50 percent, with revenues hitting a record $7 billion and sales of $8.2 billion. In a news release announcing the coming change, the firm said it had supported 19,000 projects worldwide and hired 2,400 people in 2022.

“Our firm’s employee-owned culture is the key to our growth, and that will continue for the future,” Kowalik said. “This is bittersweet as I prepare to leave the Burns & Mac family, our clients and our community partners, but I know it is healthy for our firm to have new thought and vision for the future. I have been honored and humbled to lead this firm for the last seven years.”

It’s the only employer Kowalik has ever known; he started there as a structural engineer in the firm’s Energy Group 1987 after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering.  In 2015, he become the firm’s first executive vice president and president of global practices, then led the firm’s business groups until taking over as CEO in 2017.

The selection process for the next CEO has already begun, the firm said, and the CEO-elect will be announced this spring.

The transformation under Kowalik’s watch has been impressive at the employee-owned firm, more than doubling in employee size, from 6,300 employees to 13,500.  Also during his tenure:

  • The firm reached No. 8 on Engineering News-Record’s ranking of the Top 500 Design Firms, with revenue growth of nearly 200 percent.
  • Construction revenue accounted for a large part of that, up nearly 300 percent.
  • And the number of office locations has grown from 30 to 70 worldwide.