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Burns & McDonnell CEO Kowalik Announces Retirement After 37 Years at the Firm

Ray Kowalik
Ray Kowalik
KANSAS CITY, MO — Burns & McDonnell Chairman and CEO Ray Kowalik announces 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 percent, 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 said. “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 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.

Growing the Firm
During Kowalik’s tenure, the firm experienced rapid growth and job creation, growing more than 110 percent, from 6,300 employees to 13,500. Additionally, since 2017:

  • Construction revenue has grown by nearly 300 percent. 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.
  • The firm has committed to giving $1.5 million over three years to support Project Lead the Way, as announced in 2022. The donation will go directly to schools in communities across the U.S.
  • 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. 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 percent of new employee-owner hires have been female, and minority new employee-owner hires have increased by 45 percent. He also appointed the first two female board members.
  • Kowalik hired the firm’s first DE&I Strategy Manager, who works closely with executive leaders and business diversity teams.
  • 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 percent of total expenditures have been awarded to small and diverse businesses.
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