It's difficult to encapsulate a legacy of over 95 years. It may rest in the skyline of hometown Kansas City or in other communities across the country where JE Dunn cranes reach skyward. Maybe it's in the ability to survive and grow as a family and employee-owned business, or in the way we have fostered loyalty among generations of employees. One thing is certain: the JE Dunn legacy can be found in its spirit of excellence, of giving and growing into the 21st century, and its continued commitment to core values.
John Ernest Dunn (Ernie) founded JE Dunn Construction Company in Kansas City, Missouri in 1924. The years following its founding were interesting times that saw the company building for the war effort, weathering economic ups and downs, and maintaining level-headedness while labor unions formed and civil rights struggles ensued.
Still, throughout these periods of turmoil, the construction company grew. From the Police Municipal Courts building in downtown Kansas City to the Quartermaster Depot that served as a wartime supply dept for the country’s World War Two efforts, it was landmark projects such as these that put the company on the map. Ernie’s insistence on payment only to cover the company’s cost for the Depot earned him praise from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who personally thanked him to his wartime sacrifice.
Over the next several decades, JE Dunn weathered economic ups and downs, maintained level-headedness while labor unions formed and civil rights struggles ensued, and in 1964 said goodbye to its founder and namesake. When Ernie Dunn passed away, the company's net worth was $1.4 million and it employed 35 people. Today, John Ernest Dunn is recognized as a pioneer in the industry. At the end of the century, Engineering News Record named Ernie as one of 125 most important people in construction history, alongside names like Thomas Edison, and Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.
Ernie’s son, William Dunn Sr. took over the company in the early 1970s. In the intervening years, projects grew larger and more prominent. Bill remained true to his father’s advice – making sure clients, employees, and project teams were treated the way we all want to be treated. Living by this golden rule helped build strong relationships, which led to more projects.
As business grew, so did Mr. Dunn's reputation for giving back. An honest, transparent businessman and leader in the community, his name is synonymous with generosity. Bill Dunn is often referred to as the heart and soul of JE Dunn, spending more than 70 years working to make it the great company it is today. His leadership, faith and drive to succeed while also honoring the employees and clients of JE Dunn and always putting them first, has set the standard of operations for the company for decades and into the future.
In 1981, a core value of the company — giving to and meeting community needs — was recognized and formally structured through establishment of the Dunn Family Foundation. The Foundation's emphasis then was the same as it is today: education, health and human services, youth, the disabled, the elderly, ethnic minorities, and community development. To this day, corporate and personal involvement in the communities in which we work is encouraged. In 2010, employees donated well over $700,000 to charities. On a national level, JE Dunn annually commits more than 10 percent of its pre-tax earnings to charities, a time-honored tradition of giving back to the community.
Terry Dunn served as President and CEO from 1989 to 2013, with an ongoing priority of growth and expansion. Through acquisition of other companies and building momentum on larger, high-profile projects, JE Dunn grew its presence around the country — by almost 400 percent in the 1990s. Today, we have offices in four geographic regions, working on projects in nearly all 50 states.
In 2010, JE Dunn ushered in its Employee Stock Ownership Plan, going from a family-owned company to family and employee-owned. Employee-ownership fits the Dunn family’s long-term philosophy of sharing rewards with the company’s most valued asset: its people. In 2014, Gordon Lansford was named the first non-Dunn family member to lead the company as President and CEO. Prior to this role, he served as Chief Financial Officer for 15 years at JE Dunn and was instrumental in implementing the ESOP. Under Gordon’s leadership, the company continues to experience growth and success, while staying true to its guiding principles.
As we approach our centennial, we celebrate our past and founder's vision while evolving as a leading provider of construction management services, design-build, and client-centered project delivery.