In 1989, Burns & McDonnell handed Kansas City business development director Bob Berry a one-way ticket to St. Louis, along with the challenge of establishing a regional office there.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, the price of a first-class stamp rose to 25 cents, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average passed the 2,500 mark for the first time. It was also the year Burns & McDonnell handed Kansas City business development director Bob Berry a one-way ticket to St. Louis, along with the challenge of establishing a regional office there.
With a staff of three, the fledgling office opened that summer without a single job on its books. It wasn't long, however, before a persistent sales effort yielded the office's first project: an environmental study in Puerto Rico for Chicken of the Sea Tuna, then part of St. Louis-based Ralston Purina Co.
Buoyed by that success, Berry and his team were soon booking a steady stream of water, transportation and municipal projects, growing in size as the firm's reputation in the St. Louis region developed. Monsanto was among the office's first industrial clients; Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District were early clients as well.
That Was Then; This Is Now
Today, 25 years later, the office has grown to be the second-largest engineering firm in the St. Louis area and was named second on the list of Top Workplaces among midsize firms in 2014 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. With 190 employees and operations in St. Louis and Fenton, Mo., and O'Fallon, Ill., it is also the fourth largest of Burns & McDonnell's regional offices. Ten of the firm's 11 divisions are represented in these offices.
"We still have many of the same clients we had back in the early years, while adding the capabilities to deliver just about any project the region has to offer," says Breck Washam, who returned to his hometown of St. Louis from Kansas City in 1992 to become the office's 22nd employee-owner. Washam has overseen much of the office's recent growth, serving as its vice president and general manager since 2007.
The office's portfolio has come a long way as well. For example, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District recently selected Burns & McDonnell as consultant for the district's Lemay watershed. In this role, the St. Louis office is providing design and engineering services for more than 100 projects over the next decade as part of the district's $6 billion, 23-year program to eliminate combined and sanitary sewer overflows.
The office's current projects also include the $125 million Daniel Boone Bridge now under construction over the Missouri River between St. Louis and St. Charles counties. Burns & McDonnell is the engineer of record for the design-build project, which replaces a deteriorating 1930s-era bridge; a Walsh-Alberici joint venture is the builder.
"We are fortunate to have talented employee-owners here who have stepped up as the doors to large project opportunities opened to us," Washam says. "With that said, one of the great things about our company is that we have the bench strength needed around the country to fill in any gaps in experience. It enables us to take on the greatest challenges our clients have to offer."
Greg Graves, president and CEO, adds, "Our St. Louis operation was Burns & McDonnell's first truly successful regional office and became the model by which we grew our other regional offices. Twenty-five years later, they continue to remind us of what is possible when you set the bar high."
For more information, contact Breck Washam, 314-682-1525.