Our company got its start in 1898. Two new Stanford University engineering graduates — Clinton S. Burns and Robert E. McDonnell — sought a professional home base teeming with opportunity, a place to continue the partnership they forged while working for the city of Palo Alto, California. They chose Kansas City because it provided the most potential clients in a 200-mile radius — cities and towns in need of water and power systems to support growth.

They pressed on through the typical struggles of a fledgling engineering firm. McDonnell was the firm’s front man, pitching solutions to municipalities across the country. Burns put his technical skills into practice, building a reputation for precision. By the time Burns died on April 1, 1924 — 26 years to the day after he and McDonnell embarked on their journey — they had served 313 clients and designed 232 waterworks, 115 sewer systems and 87 lighting plants. 

The firm continued on a successful path, building a client-first culture — working to make our clients successful — that would see us through the Great Depression and to a pivotal moment in 1985. That’s when a small band of Burns & McDonnell employees risked their personal finances to secure a loan to buy the firm from Armco Steel, which had purchased the company in 1971. 

Today, our employee-owners draw strength from this sense of perseverance, dedication and ownership. Many of our original clients remain, a testament to our work ethic and commitment. We evolve with the world around us, knowing that seemingly ordinary projects lead to extraordinary opportunities to Create Amazing.