Then & Now: Steven Beam leads NWA office for Burns & McDonnell

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 289 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Feb. 18 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s  Forty Under 40 class.

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Landing that first job after college can sometimes be challenging. For Steven Beam, he couldn’t have done much better.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2002 with a degree in civil engineering, Beam started working in the Rogers office of Crafton Tull, one of state’s leading professional design firms specializing in architecture, engineering, surveying, planning and landscape architecture.

He spent 11 years with the company, rising through the ranks to eventually become a vice president, leading the civil engineering and survey group.

Along the way, he completed the coursework to earn an MBA in leadership and ethics from John Brown University in 2010. The following year, at the age of 31, Beam was recognized as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40.

Recalling that time in his life during a recent interview, Beam said it would have taken a special opportunity to leave Crafton Tull. Such an opportunity presented itself in 2013.

That year, Burns & McDonnell, a powerhouse firm based in Kansas City, Mo., hired Beam to open the company’s first Arkansas office in Springdale.

Known in the industry as “Burns & Mac,” the company is made up of 7,000 engineers, architects, construction professionals, scientists, consultants and entrepreneurs with offices across the country and throughout the world. The company got its start in 1898, and since 1986 has been 100% owned by its employees.

The history, size and scope of Burns & Mac were among the factors that were attractive to Beam when considering the decision to leave Crafton Tull. Especially attractive was the company’s ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) status. In his nearly six years with Burns & Mac, Beam said he has come to appreciate being employee-owned as central to the firm’s successful culture.

“It’s who we are and how we treat our people and how we view our work,” he said. “It drives our culture and the client service mindset that we have. It’s a willingness to go the extra mile for the client but also make sure our employee-owners are successful.”

Burns & Mac now has eight employees at its Springdale office, and Beam said that by the end of 2019 that number should increase by 50%.

Beam said the company’s largest practice area overall is in the energy and power sector. In the Springdale office, the niche is public sector and municipal infrastructure work. He said Burns & Mac has also worked on several projects along Interstate 49 under the $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program (CAP), approved by Arkansas voters in November 2012 and one of the largest highway construction programs ever undertaken by the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

“[Burns & Mac] had been doing municipal work on and off for 20 years in Fort Smith and Springdale and Bentonville, but the CAP provided that consistent stream of work that allowed us to make a move and open an office in Northwest Arkansas,” Beam said.

In addition to the CAP work, the Springdale office is supporting a number of projects in several cities throughout the region including street improvements, water distribution systems, sewer collection systems and water/wastewater plants. Beam is also part of the management team involved in the design of a nearly $1 billion project in central Arkansas called 30 Crossing, which will improve nearly 7 miles of Interstate 30 over the Arkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Beam said he chose engineering as a career not because of the technical aspects of the job, but because of the potential impact his work could make.

“The infrastructure we work on improves people’s lives and spurs economic development within the communities where we work,” he said. “That’s what drives me.”

Beam is an engaged member of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, and he’s also been a chairman of the infrastructure work group of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Beam is married and has two sons, ages 11 and 9.

“As most parents can attest who have kids in middle school and late elementary school, they occupy the vast majority of our free time with their sports and extracurricular activities,” Beam said.

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