2017 Metal Construction Hall of Fame
Kelly Burk’s contribution to the metal building industry is his life-long involvement in the industry.
He has worked hard and tirelessly building his company from the ground up, starting with one truck, one forklift, one trailer and six men; to grow and advance the successful business (Burk Erectors Inc.) he is president of today. Kelly and his wife have worked together for years on the business end of the company. His expertise is respected in the industry.
From Vietnam to Iowa
Kelly started working in the metal building erection business as a 14-year-old from Iowa, working with his older brothers during the summer. In 1966, Kelly enlisted in the military as a Navy Seabee (Naval Construction Battalion), and during a deployment in Vietnam he erected metal buildings there.
“I was going to get drafted, but my brother [Duane Burk] led me into Seabees in the middle of the 1960s in Vietnam,” Burk says. “The U.S. government has all the money in the world and they shipped these buildings over there and we put them together. I went in as an E4 and ever since then I’ve been working in metal.”
Upon discharge from the military in 1968, he worked at Midwest Steel Erection Inc., Griswold, Iowa, with Duane. This led Kelly into business with his brothers as Burk Bros. Inc., Griswold.
“Meeting other people, like me, in the metal construction industry at shows is what I really like. I’ve got good friends. I’ve met people from almost every state. If I need help, I can call some of these guys and they can help me. They’ve called me and I’ve helped them on huge projects. It works out really well.”
Kelly Burk, Burk Erectors Inc.
In 1981, Kelly formed his own metal building erection company under the name of Universal Erectors, with Mark Dorsey, who later moved to Oklahoma to branch out on his own. Then, seeing a good opportunity, Kelly moved to Springfield, Mo., and Burk Erectors Inc. was launched in 1985. It is still going strong today with the help of his son, Kelly Jr., who is carrying on his father’s legacy.
Camaraderie and Challenges
Kelly has erected metal buildings all over the U.S., and even put up a building in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. He likes to travel and was anxious to put his erecting skills to the test in the Caribbean. But, Kelly confesses, “Once we got to St. Croix, it seemed they had a national holiday every day of the week for something and work would shut down. Guys couldn’t work because they couldn’t get certain things they needed.” The project turned out to be a real success.
Presently, Kelly still successfully faces industry challenges. “The challenge today is finding employees,” he says. “We’ve had huge projects putting up a lot of product. Finding employees is a problem and we fight it every day. Everyone else in the industry has the exact same problem. We are a tight-knit group.” It’s the camaraderie between Kelly and his industry colleagues that has given him his greatest satisfaction. “I’ve been fortunate to make a living in the metal construction industry as an erector,” he says. “Meeting other people, like me, in this industry at shows is what I really like. I’ve got good friends. I’ve met people from almost every state. If I need help I can call some of these guys and they can help me. They’ve called me and I’ve helped them on huge projects. It works out really well.”
Repeat Business = Success
Today, Burk Erectors is recognized nationwide for its quality service and well-built structures. It is utilized by several of the area’s most well-known general contractors. The largest structures erected by Kelly’s company have been up to 435-feet clear span, 122 feet tall and up to 800,000 square feet.
Kelly claims one of the main reasons for his company’s success and reputation is repeat business. “If you do a good job and treat the customer right, you’re going to be busy the rest of your life,” he says. “If you don’t and try to get over them, they’ll figure it out. We give them a little extra once in a while. I’m just an erector, I work for general contractors and I give them a decent price. And if they need help, I’ll help them or help them with the price. For a long time, I didn’t even sign a contract for 20 years. We just had a handshake, and away we went and it was good.”
Kelly has always strived to erect the best metal building, within a good time frame, training his foremen to do excellent work, encouraging those men working under the foremen to work efficiently and safely, to put together a well-built project so the owner is a happy customer. Over the years, Kelly has won several “Building of the Year” awards, as well as many “Awards of Excellence” in different categories like recreational, specialty, warehouse and manufacturing.
Kelly was inducted into the Pioneers club of the Metal Building Contractor Erectors Association (MBCEA) in 2008; and he served as MBCEA national board member/director from 2012 to 2015. “At MBCEA events, a lot of erectors from California to Florida to out East all get together, have programs and talk about things. It’s a good organization. They have training videos and this helps new employees.” Kelly is married to wife, Vicki, is father to seven children and grandfather to 17 grandchildren