Written by Phineas Upham
Burns and McDonnell is an engineering and design firm that is based out of Kansas City, Missouri. The company is 100 percent owned by employees, and is one of the leading design firms in the continental US. Burns and McDonnell cater primarily to government and utility markets, handling construction and consulting for organizations in industries like aviation or defense.
The company was founded in 1898 by Clinton Burns and Robert McDonnell, who were both graduates of engineering from Stanford. They began with the name Burns and McDonnell, Consulting Engineers. The company was built to provide clean water systems, sewage and reliable power grids to the growing municipalities of the Midwest. Its first major project was to build a water and light plant in Iola Kansas.
At the age of 53, after designing countless water systems and railroad lines, Clinton Burns passed away in 1924. McDonnell changed the name of the firm to Burns and McDonnell Engineering Company, and stayed on as leader until his death in 1960 at the age of 82.
In 1942, the company switched to aviation projects with its first major undertaking in Salina Kansas. The base they constructed was Smoky Hill Army Airfield, which would become the home of the B-29 Bomber.
The company has been ranked in the top 50 of Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For in 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The company also runs its own foundation, where it nourishes communities through educational outreach and human services.