Burns & McDonnell CEO Ray Kowalik Announces Retirement After 37 Years at 100% Employee-Owned Firm
Burns & McDonnell CEO Ray Kowalik Announces Retirement After 37 Years at 100% Employee-Owned Firm
03/09/2023 3 minute read

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Burns & McDonnell Chairman and CEO Ray Kowalik has announced his retirement at the end of 2023, coming off of a record-breaking year for the firm. Kowalik took the reins in 2017 and was the seventh CEO for Burns & McDonnell in the firm’s 125-year history.

In 2022, Burns & McDonnell grew sales and revenue by nearly 50%, producing $7 billion (up from $4.8 billion in 2021) in revenue and $8.2 billion (up from $5.7 billion in 2021) in sales. The firm also supported 19,000 projects 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 says. “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.”

Kowalik came to Burns & McDonnell in 1987 as a structural engineer after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in civil engineering. He began his career in the firm’s Energy Group, where he led transformational advances in power generation and served as general manager for 11 years. In 2015, Kowalik transitioned from the Energy Group to become the firm's first executive vice president and president of global practices, where he led the firm’s business groups until taking over as CEO in 2017.

The selection process for the next CEO is underway and the CEO-elect will be announced this spring.

Growing the Firm

During Kowalik’s tenure, the firm experienced rapid growth and job creation, growing more than 110%, from 6,300 employees to 13,500.  

Additionally, since 2017:

  • The firm has moved up to No. 8 on the list of Top 500 Design Firms, ranked by Engineering News-Record, growing revenue by nearly 200%.
  • Construction revenue has grown by nearly 300%. Kowalik was instrumental in developing relationships and leading teams for the firm’s engineer-procure-construct (EPC) project delivery method, introducing it to utility companies across the U.S.
  • Kowalik integrated direct hire construction into the firm to take EPC services to the next level.
  • The number of office locations has grown from 30 to 70 global locations.

Impacting the Community

Kowalik has driven a strong focus on STEM education, investing time, resources and money into K-12 outreach efforts to build the pipeline for future interest in STEM careers. 
Additionally, since 2017:

  • After having collaborated for a decade, the firm solidified a partnership in 2018 with Science City at Union Station, Kansas City’s science center. At Science City Powered by Burns & McDonnell, half the square footage in the interactive exhibit space has been designed by students through Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains, a K-12 STEM competition.
  • Launched in 2011 with a goal of sparking greater interest in STEM education and careers, Burns & McDonnell has distributed nearly $1 million in grants through the Battle of the Brains, and the schools use that grant money to invest in programs and resources to promote STEM education. Former Battle of the Brains participants are entering the STEM workforce.
  • Burns & McDonnell has surpassed $1 million in its Matching Gifts program, giving to causes employee-owners are passionate about.
  • The firm has committed to giving $1.5 million over three years to support Project Lead the Way, as announced in 2022; 100% of this donation will go directly to schools in our communities across the U.S., encouraging students to discover STEM.
  • Employee-owners raised a record-breaking $4.4 million in 2022 for local United Way chapters.

Out of the office, Kowalik invests time and energy into organizations that support education, health and economic development. He supports organizations including:

  • United Way of Greater Kansas City, former board chair
  • Kansas City Area Development Council, board co-chair
  • Kansas City Union Station, board vice chair
  • Notre Dame de Sion, board member
  • Kansas City Market Board of U.S. Bank, member
  • University of Missouri College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council, member
  • St. Luke’s Health System, board member

Building an Inclusive and Healthy Workplace

Kowalik has striven to cultivate an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued, respected and engaged. He has served as CEO throughout the pandemic, making decisions to protect employees, their families and communities while committing to stay productive and help clients.

Additionally, since 2017:

  • Kowalik signed the CEO Action for Change Pledge, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
  • Burns & McDonnell won best places to work and healthiest employer awards locally and nationally.
  • Nearly 30% of new employee-owner hires have been female, and minority new employee-owner hires have increased by 45%. He appointed Renita Mollman and Alissa Schuessler to the board of directors, the first two female board members.
  • Kowalik hired the firm’s first DE&I strategy manager, Leon Harden, who works closely with executive leaders and business diversity teams. Harden coordinates the firm’s Employee Resource Groups, which now have active involvement from more than 3,000 employee-owners.
  • Burns & McDonnell has worked with more than 2,700 small and diverse suppliers in 50 states plus Canada, Mexico, India and the United Kingdom, with a business diversity spend of $2.2 billion; 25% of total expenditures have been awarded to small and diverse businesses.

About Burns & McDonnell

Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies bringing together an unmatched team of more than 13,500 engineers, construction and craft professionals, architects, planners, technologists, and scientists to design and build our critical infrastructure. With an integrated construction and design mindset, we offer full-service capabilities. Founded in 1898 and working from 70 offices globally, Burns & McDonnell is 100% employee-owned. Learn how we are designed to build.