Evolving Beyond the Borders
Evolving Beyond the Borders
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Evolving Beyond the Borders
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Burns & McDonnell is seeking additional opportunities abroad to build on its already long-standing work in other countries.

Burns & McDonnell is surveying the world for additional opportunities and building on more than a century of work abroad by forming a new international division.

While the firm has a long history abroad — it landed its first project in Mexico in 1908, 10 years after its founding — the new initiative led by Mike Brown establishes a more strategic approach to international growth.

The goal is to continue building on keys to the domestic success of Burns & McDonnell: diversity of professional services and geographic reach, and motivated employee-owners who take exceptional pride in their work.

"This is a continuing evolution of the great work Burns & McDonnell has done for decades," says Brown, president of Burns & McDonnell International. "This is the time to take advantage of our strength domestically and across the market. Five years from now, if we don't have 750 people working for us outside the U.S., I'd be disappointed."

Evolving Beyond the Borders

The firm opened a 45-employee office in Calgary, Alberta, two years ago. Burns & McDonnell Canada now has a $600 million backlog in projects, a significant portion involving work in transmission and distribution.

In 2012, Burns & McDonnell bought the India operations of Chemtex, renaming it Burns McDonnell Engineering India Private Ltd. That venture, which now employs 250 professionals, is in Mumbai. It provides technical assistance supporting the firm's domestic projects.

In addition to those permanent locations, Burns & McDonnell has worked in 60 countries over the years and currently has active projects in more than 30.

The most prominent location of those is Doha, Qatar, where the firm has a portfolio of projects valued at $6 billion. The projects include an advanced technology research center; a LEED Platinum-certified student housing complex; and the new Hamad International Airport.

Much of the overseas work to date has been reacting to opportunities on a case-by-case basis. Now that's changing.

Burns & McDonnell International heralds the introduction of a more measured and proactive approach to seeking new business overseas, says Greg Graves, chairman and CEO.

While leading the growing Canadian and Indian operations is Brown's primary mission, he also has been tasked with identifying a location for a third, permanent international office.

"Mike's unique background makes him the ideal person to provide a unified strategic vision to our international operations," Graves says. "I can't think of a better man to lead this effort. Mike is a master of detail, like the lawyer he is; sees opportunity everywhere, like the marketer he is; and, absolutely, is a born leader."

Brown, who has been at Burns & McDonnell for 12 years, was vice president of the firm's Global Facilities Group before being named president of the new international operation. Before coming to Burns & McDonnell, Brown had seven years of international experience, primarily working on power plant and large infrastructure projects.

Brown started at Burns & McDonnell as a senior attorney, handling international work and helping develop protocols for evaluating risk. And he's kept his passport active, traveling on work assignments to 45 countries on six continents. He considers such skills being essential to success in his new role.

"I can see the deals and know how to evaluate the opportunities from having done international work," he says. "I know the legal side and I have the internal relationships, knowing the diverse experience of all our groups at Burns & McDonnell."

Brown also brings a sense of mission to his new position.

"We want to make a difference and provide opportunities for our people," he says. "We have a phenomenal talent base. We provide water, power and infrastructure that make lives better. We want to replicate our heart and soul beyond our borders by bringing the Burns & McDonnell ‘secret sauce' to other countries."

"Our employee ownership culture has been the driver of our success. Our challenge is to maintain that same kind of culture overseas."

Brown also knows how to evaluate opportunities to maximize the value to Burns & McDonnell while minimizing the risk.

That's one reason why Canada will continue to be a major focus for additional opportunities. The huge country with its vast natural resources is an excellent fit for the diverse menu of professional services Burns & McDonnell offers.

Other regions of the world where Brown sees potential for growth include Latin America and Southeast Asia.

"Southeast Asia is the long-term place to be because of its large middle-class growth," Brown says. "Latin America is developing and they need infrastructure, and that's what we do.

"Where there are opportunities around the world, that's where we'll be."

For more information, contact Mike Brown, 816-822-4245.

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