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John Burns Construction Co.


John Burns Construction Co. draws on more than 100 years of experience to complete high-quality projects in the safest manner possible. “Safety is our No. 1 priority, without a doubt, and has always been a focus of ours,” says Shane Higgins, a program manager with the Orland Park, Ill.-based company. “I started with the company in 1993 and have since seen the industry continue to evolve to have more of a focus on safety and quality, and I think we have successfully changed with the times.”

The company’s safety director and his staff monitor every construction site to ensure employees are conducting themselves in the safest manner possible. Their duties include pre-construction planning, completing and discussing safe work plans for every job, and conducting and documenting site safety meetings. “Our safety department is involved in our projects from day one and sees every project through,” Higgins says.

Safety is also at the core of John Burns Construction’s training efforts. All employees attend an annual two-day safety meeting, and new employees are required to attend a 10-hour OSHA course as well as in-house classes. “We keep everyone up to date with industry standards,” he adds.

As a result of these efforts, the company reports an EMR rating of .90 and is regularly recognized by industry peers including the Underground Contractors Association (UCA) and Illinois Road Builders Association. The company has received an “Outstanding Prime Contractor” award from the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, numerous UCA yearly safety awards, commuter rail provider Metra’s “General Contractor of the Year Award,” and The Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s “Chairman’s Award.”

Building Trust

The company, founded in 1906 by John Burns and today led by and owned by the family of his nephew William J. O’Malley, is skilled in underground utility construction and excavation, telecommunications projects, electrical infrastructure and general contracting. “Our history is one of consistently meeting new challenges, both in the marketplace and in new technology,” the company says. “We work closely with our customers to look for ways to provide them with solutions. 

“During our many years in the construction field, we have accumulated first-hand experience solving more complex situations than most companies would even attempt.”

The company’s clients include municipalities, community colleges, public utility companies and transportation agencies. Many of these clients, such as the Illinois Department of Transportation and commuter rail agency Metra, have become repeat customers.

John Burns Construction Co. maintains two offices: an office in Lewisville, Texas, that focuses exclusively on utility and infrastructure work; and an office in Orland Park, which offers both infrastructure and general contracting services. General contracting projects include train stations, wastewater treatment facilities and water pumping stations. “We’ve expanded our horizons a bit over the last couple of years,” Higgins notes. “We’re bidding different kinds of municipal work, expanding our market base and bidding projects we weren’t accustomed to bidding before the recession.”

The company prides itself on providing exceptional service to clients regardless of project type. “Over time, our motto has been that our customers not only like us, they trust us,” the company says. “What sets us apart from our competition is that we have always and continue to put our customers first and that pledge is carried throughout our business.”

John Burns Construction Co. draws on the experience of its management team and project managers to successfully complete projects of various  sizes and scopes. This experience gives the company the ability to submit bids on short notice, operate multiple projects at a time, quickly mobilize a crew and work in remote areas, among other advantages. “We have a great owner and great management who support everyone in the company on all levels,” Higgins says. “Our project managers come from different backgrounds in the industry, which allows us to perform a diverse range of projects.”

Subcontractors and vendors also play a large role in the company’s success. “Over the years we’ve formed relationships with certain subcontractors and vendors, and know we can’t do our jobs without them,” Higgins notes, adding that at least half of the duties on his projects are contracted out. “We make it a priority to establish these relationships and nourish them; our subcontractors are not there to work for us, they’re working with us.”

Current Projects

John Burns Construction Co. is applying its general contracting talents to a number of public projects in the Chicago metropolitan area.

In Fall 2012, the company began work on the 18,000-square-foot Jeanine Nicarico Children’s Advocacy Center and DuPage County Family Center in Wheaton, Ill. The center, located on the county’s government complex, is named in memory of Nicarico, a young girl who was abducted from her home and murdered in 1983. 

The $4.5 million center, which will open in August 2013, houses agencies that help abused children and families going through divorce and separation. The building will be LEED Silver certified, Higgins says. Features such as green screens, photovoltaic panels, automated window openers, sun shades and light shelves, porous pavers and daylight harvesting contributed to reaching the project’s design goal of LEED Silver.

Other recent projects include the $6.7 million Joliet Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center in Joliet, Ill., which will include new train platforms for commuter trains and high-speed rail trains. Work on the project started this summer and is slated for completion in January 2014.

John Burns just completed a $24 million electrical subcontract for James McHugh Construction on the Wacker Drive Viaduct Reconstruction in the City of Chicago.  The electrical infrastructure work on this project included new construction and modifications to 20 City of Chicago electrical rooms, installation of over 200,000 feet of electrical cable, installation of submarine cable in the Chicago River, and installation of all traffic signals and street lighting.

The company is also nearing the final stages of a $4.1 million commuter train station in Cicero, Ill. The project includes construction of a new warming house, new train platforms and a ramp between two live rails, Higgins says.

Construction began in spring 2012 and will conclude in November, he adds.