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Member Perspective: Dan Kerr

Posted Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Member News, Member Submitted, Action Teams, Middle Market

Guest Commentator: Dan Kerr, P.E., President, Burns Mechanical

Describe the strategic growth strategy around your recently completed private acquisition. What long-term opportunities do you foresee as a result of this acquisition?

On May 17 our firm, Burns Mechanical, joined forces with Harrisburg-based McClure Company in a management-led private acquisition from Talen Energy. Our companies will retain their strong brands and management teams and are committed to cooperating fully to achieve mutual success. Our combined revenues in 2016 were $175 million.

Burns and McClure are longtime sister firms, initially linking up through common ownership 19-years ago. Before transitioning to Burns as president in 2013, I spent 16-years at McClure Company, leading and growing a robust division focused on self-engineered, design-build, and energy services projects. Our management teams can boast more than 500 combined years of experience just within the two companies.

Our decision to make an aggressive attempt to acquire ourselves is based on the fundamental belief in the growing demand for more creative and collaborative approaches to designing, constructing, and servicing buildings. Our firms share a common vision, delivering a unique value-added, engineering-centric approach to comprehensive mechanical and energy services. We will better achieve this vision through local, private ownership than by answering to a large corporate parent.

Construction industry thought leaders are proving that collaboration can improve performance and perception of the building trades. A recent study by the Charles Pankow Foundation and spearheaded by Penn State University pointed to three critical success factors presently lacking on most Philadelphia region capital projects:

  • Early involvement of specialty contractors, engaging them early in the design process, prior to advancing beyond schematic design.
  • Qualifications-based selection of core project team members to enable high-quality interactions as early in the design process as possible.
  • Cost transparency through the use of open-book accounting methods and creative contract terms to build trust and align team member interests with desired outcomes.

While gaining some traction, this method of delivering building projects is still far outside the norm in and around Philadelphia. As a result, we have an under-developed contracting industry, and those owners seeking new methods of delivering capital upgrades are often reaching outside of our region to find desired skill sets. As a local industry, we have to up our game.

Our business plan is based on a proven track record rather than a blind leap of faith. The 76ers trusted the process, enabling us to cut HVAC costs by 15% for their new practice facility, while simultaneously improving their energy efficiency for New Jersey Pay-for-Performance Clean Energy compliance. Doylestown Health hired us to create and lead an integrated design-build team for a creative central energy plant upgrade. Their investment is outperforming pro forma expectations of a 16% Internal Rate of Return. Early involvement on the new Comcast tower gave us an opportunity to design new methods of fabricating and shipping 4,500 chilled beam assemblies, significantly reducing installation cycle times, eliminating the need for twenty-four (24) 40-yard waste dumpsters, and cutting our peak on-site labor requirement by 25%.

Through local, private ownership we’re “all in” on our journey to discover what’s possible in the Philadelphia region’s built environment. We look forward to a long future of creating high-performance outcomes for our clients.


The Chamber is actively working to expand economic opportunity for our middle market businesses through our Middle Market Action Team (MMAT), which convenes a cross-functional group of top executives and stakeholders with a shared vision and agenda to amplify business growth and security, provide access to existing regional resources, and identify opportunities to coordinate activities and services for the middle market. If you are interested in being a part of the Middle Market Action Team, contact Erin Plawecki.

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